Posts Tagged ‘VMBs’

Junk science and booze tax – a study in spin

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Let's find out what everybody is doing, and stop them doing it - A P Herbert
“Let’s find out what everybody is doing, and stop them doing it” – A P Herbert

Putting the price of alcohol up to a minimum of 40p a unit would keep 41,000 people a year out of hospital, save the NHS £116m a year, and avoid 12,400 cases of unemployment, a report from Sheffield University claimed last week. These appear to be remarkably precise predictions. The government used the report – widely quoted in the press – to justify higher duties and greater regulation of the sale of alcohol. Yet on close examination, the report appears to be a prime example of “policy-based evidence making”.

The blockbuster report, from Sheffield University’s Section of Public Health, is in two major parts: a review of evidence, and a statistical model, totalling over 500 pages. Researchers examined the effects of alcohol pricing and alcohol promotion (and advertising) on three areas: consumption, public health and crime. I won’t cover the latter, because these proposals were dropped before the Queen’s Speech, but it is evident from the amount of time the Sheffield researchers devoted to this, that this was a legislative priority. Academia marches in lockstep with its financial benefactor – in this case, of course, the Department of Health.

Read more at The Register

The dumb, dumb world of Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Have you ever had the nagging sense that there’s something not quite right with the adulation that follows Malcolm Gladwell – the author of Tipping Point? But you couldn’t quite put your finger on it? We’re here to help, dear reader.

Malcolm Gladwell: the awkward teenage years

Gladwell gave two vanity “performances” in the West End – prompting fevered adulation from the posh papers – the most amazing being this Guardian editorial, titled In Praise of Malcolm Gladwell.

It appears that we have a paradox here. A substantial subclass of white collar “knowledge workers” hails this successful nonfiction author as fantastically intelligent and full of insight – and yet he causes an outbreak of infantalisation. He’s better known for his Afro than any big idea, or bold conclusion – and his insights have all the depth and originality of Readers Digest or a Hallmark greeting card. That’s pretty odd.

So what’s really going on here? Who is Malcolm Gladwell? What’s he really saying? Who are these people who lap it all up? And what is it that he’s saying that hold so much appeal?

Let’s start with the first two first.

The Master at Work

Gladwell is a walking Readers Digest 2.0: a compendium of pop science anecdotes which boil down very simply to homespun homilies. Like the Digest, it promises more than it delivers, and like the Digest too, it’s reassuringly predictable.
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Management consultants on the march, powered by Junk Science

Friday, October 13th, 2006