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Margaret McCartney, Andy Oxman & Tracey Brown

Science & Informing the Public
11:00 Tuesday June 19th


Margaret McCartney – 100% safe, 100% bull – why are the public still being misled?
It’s clear that despite the uprising of evidence based medicine,  the teaching of children about science, and the holding to account of newspapers and journalists has huge potential to ensure that the public get better information about what works and what doesn’t. But we need to look in the mirror. We know that the press releases sent out by researchers and research institutions can be as hyped and misleading as any commercial company. We know that our regulatory systems have large gaps allowing non evidence based medicine and interventions to be promoted to the public. But is the medical establishment part of the problem or capable of solving it?

Andy OxmanTeaching children to assess the trustworthiness of claims and make informed health choices
Claims about what might improve or harm our health are everywhere. Many of these claims are unreliable and many people are unable to distinguish reliable from unreliable claims. This leads to poorly informed choices, unnecessary suffering, and waste. The Informed Health Choices Project aims to address this problem by teaching children and adolescents to think critically about health claims and choices so that, as they grow older, they can make informed personal choices and contribute to informed health policy decisions. In this presentation I will describe work that we have done up to now and plans for future work.

Tracey Brown OBE – We don’t live in a post-truth society.
In 2016 the Oxford English Dictionary made ‘post-truth’ word of the year. Across Europe, conferences have sprung up among health research and regulatory bodies disturbed about how to operate in a world of Facebook filter bubbles and alternative facts. Despite all their appeals to greater public engagement, people in public life actually appear to be losing faith with the public. Amid this anxiety, we’re in danger of seeing only memes that reinforce the idea that people aren’t interested in evidence, that they just hear what they are already disposed to hear, that there is no scope for persuasion or challenge and factual credibility counts for nothing. This would be wrong. In fact, 2016, or 2017 or 2018, could just as easily be called the year of truth seeking – a year in which thousands of people sought truth about all manner of things in the natural and social world, from heart surgery outcomes to clinical trial reports and police statistics. Working with the public reminds us that scientific evidence is a tool of empowerment and accountability, not something people should swallow for their own good; and working with the public expands our social imagination about how to communicate and collaborate more effectively. It forces us to ask: Are we grappling alongside people, to ask testable questions, to define terms, to crunch the numbers? How can we truly embark on that together, with the public and in the public interest?


Margaret McCartney – 100% safe, 100% bull – why are the public still being misled?
Hello. I am a GP in Glasgow and write for various bits of the media mainly about evidence based medicine; I write regularly for the British Medical Journal, broadcast for Radio 4’s Inside Health, and often for other newspapers and journals. @mgtmccartney
Declarations of interest.

Andy Oxman

Tracey Brown OBE Director, Sense about Science
Tracey Brown has been the director of Sense about Science since 2002. Under her leadership, the charity has turned the case for sound science and evidence into popular campaigns to urge scientific thinking among the public and the people who answer to them. It has launched important initiatives including AllTrials, a global campaign for the reporting of all clinical trial outcomes; and the Ask for Evidence campaign, which engages the public in requesting evidence for claims. In 2010, the Times named Tracey as one of the ten most influential figures in science policy in Britain and in 2014 she was recognised by the Science Council for her work on evidence-based policy making. In June 2017 Tracey was made an OBE for services to science.


July 15 - 17 2019
Registration Open

2019 Call for Abstracts