domingo, 19 de junio de 2016

BioEdge: Hype and honours

BioEdge: Hype and honours

Hype and honours

Was a Queen’s birthday knighthood part of a publicity campaign?

Every year Queen Elizabeth doles out titles to her subjects in the Birthday Honours List. It’s always a moment of congratulation and controversy (and envy) as some of them become “Sirs” and “Dames”. This year the leading figure for congratulations is singer Rod Stewart, now Sir Roderick.

Amongst the controversies is Professor Doug Turnbull, now Sir Douglass, a director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research. The gong came very quickly after some unwelcome publicity for the three-parent embryo solution to mitochondrial disease. Although Wellcome spun Professor Sir Douglass’s recent Nature paper as a vindication of the procedure’s safety, some scientists expressed serious doubts.

From California, stem cell scientist Paul Knoepfler wrote:

For many of us in the broader scientific community the intensity of the hype surrounding this paper and the misleading narrative about safety was concerning. Why was there such a coordinated effort to spin this paper as good news?

On Friday only two days after the publication of this new paper, the BBC reported that Turnbull received a knighthood. Could this be part of the answer for the hype fest? What’s the scoop here? In reporting the news on the knighthood the BBC used the same meme noting incorrectly that the research by Turnbull and the others on the team had proven safety: “…recent study results showed the technique was safe.” The inaccurate text was bolded in the BBC article on the knighthood.
Although Dr Knoepfler acknowledged that Professor Sir Douglass was a distinguished scientist who probably deserved a knighthood, he wondered whether it was part of a publicity campaign:

Was the timing of the Nature paper’s publication coordinated with the knighthood announcement? In other words, did the editors of the UK-based Nature follow a certain timeline created by the UK government? It’s interesting that Nature itself as best I could tell did not do a news story on this new paper, which is unusual. Outside the UK this paper was not covered much and I did not see the same “feel good” label attached to it in the press that did pop up.

What was the motivation for the hype? What impact does this kind of playing politics have on science? Does it encourage the wider life sciences community to engage in hype as well?
- See more at:


I have no love for Donald Trump, but it does seem unfair that only he is being accused of being crazy in this year’s election for president. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any man (or woman) who hankers after high public office must be in need of a psychiatrist. In 2013 psychologists published an article asserting that most recent presidents have suffered from “grandiose narcissism, which comprises immodesty, boastfulness and interpersonal dominance”. Remember that Hillary Clinton has been accused of all these failings, not just Trump. Perhaps they are crafty, not crazy.
That’s why the Goldwater Rule is a good thing. As Xavier Symons mentions below, this is an informal rule of medical ethics for psychologists and psychiatrists which bans them from commenting on the mental state and stability of public figures. It’s very rash to predict that psychological flaws disqualify a person from holding public office. Winston Churchill was depressive and an alcoholic and became the most admired statesman of the 20th century. Abraham Lincoln probably suffered from depression but is the most revered of all American presidents. Mr Trump may be unsuited to the job of president, but I’d prefer to make up my own mind on the subject without airy speculation from psychiatrists who have never spoken to the man himself. 

Michael Cook



This week in BioEdge

by Xavier Symons | Jun 18, 2016
Professional associations ban comments on public figures

by Xavier Symons | Jun 18, 2016
Can a child ask for withdrawal of treatment?

by Michael Cook | Jun 18, 2016
The short answer is: don't hold your breath

by Xavier Symons | Jun 18, 2016
The American Medical Association has labelled gun violence a “public health crisis” and called on congress to fund research into gun related crime.

by Michael Cook | Jun 18, 2016
Ethicists have serious doubts about the procedure, even in China

by Michael Cook | Jun 18, 2016
But donation goes against strong cultural prejudices

by Michael Cook | Jun 18, 2016
"They become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis"

by Michael Cook | Jun 18, 2016
A pioneer in modern medical ethics broke some of the rules

by Michael Cook | Jun 18, 2016
Is a knighthood part of a publicity campaign for three-parent embryos?
Suite 12A, Level 2 | 5 George St | North Strathfield NSW 2137 | Australia
Phone: +61 2 8005 8605
Mobile: 0422-691-615
New Media Foundation | Level 2, 5 George St | North Strathfield NSW 2137 | AUSTRALIA | +61 2 8005 8605

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario