Medical Journals and Pharmaceutical Companies

Freitag, 27. Mai 2011 20:05

Via a post on Crooked Timber aptly titled „Ghostwriters of Science“ I got to read a science article in the guardian, and googling around found an actual journal publication by Richard Smith, a long-time editor and chief executive with BMJ (the British Medical Journal, one of the high-impact medical journals), which criticizes the same mix-up under the title „Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies“ (May 2005 Issue of PLoS Medicine).

The picture that presents itself is shocking. A majority of randomized controlled trials of drugs is funded by the respective companies by now, they adhere to high scientific standards and are published in high-ranking peer-reviewed journals, and they still manage to be deceptive — for instance, being four times more likely to yield favorable results than independently funded studies in one comparison. How?


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Reflexive Economics — Freak-Freakonomics

Dienstag, 24. Mai 2011 19:56

Special thanks to Matze for pointing me to the first ever (even though humorous) example of something I have been asking and looking for for a long time: In allusion to the „Reflexive Social Psychology“ I had the pleasure to attend with Heiner Keupp in Munich I’d like to call it „Reflexive Economics“.

The idea is to, as a social scientist, be aware of the impact of one’s theorizing in the „object“ studied, and also of the fact that you are subject and object of your theories at the same time, because as a social (and in our times also unavoidably economical) being you are always also explaining your own behavior. Let’s have more of that, and more serious!

But this is a good start. The topic chosen as a humorous exercise in the article by Ariel Rubinstein titled „Freak-Freakonomics“, published in Economists’ Voice in 2006, is the hugely popular 2005 book „Freakonomics“ by Levitt and Dubner, which I partly read and (I think like Rubinstein) both enjoyed and felt a little uneasy about.

Let’s start with his definition of the problem of lacking reflexivity:


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The Meaning of Life — ahm, Monty Python

Dienstag, 24. Mai 2011 14:37

In introducing a friend here to my „Monty Python Sings!“ collection, I realize two things: First, the range of things they ridicule is immense — religion, philosophy, medicine, sexuality, … Second, it can be quite hard to explain what Monty Python is all about, with this mixture of offense and nonsense. And this brought me back to an incidence where they (John Cleese, that is) explained that themselves — in a formidable Eulogy at Graham Chapman’s funeral. Here’s what he said towards the end:


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Tanzania 7 — Ultimate Frisbee and more pictures

Samstag, 21. Mai 2011 21:26

I finally managed to take some pictures of my „Sports & Games“ afternoon highlight, playing Ultimate Frisbee with a bunch of students and some teachers, with the disc I brought from India. I will try to find one to leave here, but I would very much dislike to part with this one. Also, some more commented pictures from the school and life in general.


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Tanzania 6 — Economic Reflections

Samstag, 21. Mai 2011 19:03

One thing that living in a poor, rural part of Africa certainly does change is my perspective on economy. While I feel confident to say that the huge majority of things on sale in Germany, the US, or most of Europe don’t do much to improve people’s well-being or happiness (and many probably make it worse, at least if you take into account the work done to pay for them, and their effect on the environment) things are very obviously different here.


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Jesus and Mary (not his mother…)

Samstag, 21. Mai 2011 10:17

In a Catholic environment like this one, sooner or later I had to remember the scandalous theories of Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene, or at least fathering a child with her. While I have to admit that the claims to historical evidence for this marriage don’t really convince me, I found the spiritual-religious argument striking. And I think it does a pretty good job at explaining the shortcomings of institutionalized religion with the incompleteness of the Jesus it chooses to believe in:


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US politics in Israel and party donations

Samstag, 21. Mai 2011 9:59

One detail from a „Informed Comment“ discussion of Obama’s recent Middle East address (already briefly mentioned in a tweet of mine) stuck to me and got me thinking. It is the explanation of why Obamas (moderately) critical stance towards Israel and his push for pre-1967 borders as the basis for peace negotiations are politically daring:


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Tanzania 5 — home, politics, kwaya competition and amazing nature

Freitag, 20. Mai 2011 18:46

This will be a loosely connected narrative with a lot of pictures of what I did the last weeks apart from going to school. There is always something going on, especially in Justus‘ life, and even though it’s sad I sometimes don’t get to see him too much because of all his commitments, it is great how many doors are open for me in his company. But I’ll start with the place where I am spending most of my time right now — home (whatever that means this year).


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This I believe — my Constructivism explained

Donnerstag, 19. Mai 2011 21:32

It is a great pleasure to finally share publicly here parts of the book I loved most out of my final exams reading list (and, maybe surprisingly, I loved quite a few), and which I come back to over and over again, making it uncontestedly the most influential book for my thinking that I read during my whole studies. It is „Acts of Meaning“ by Jerome Bruner, published in 1990 as an elaboration of a series of lectures, and was assigned for the exam in Cultural Psychology (thank you, Gabriele!).

It has so many important things to say about science, culture, and psychology that I believe it should be on every psychologist’s and non-psychologist’s bookshelf, but one part I like to refer non-psychologists to most frequently is about „relativism“, or as I prefer to say: Constructivism.


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Tanzania 4 — My first ever exams from the other side

Donnerstag, 19. Mai 2011 18:10

I have taken exams of all sorts before, I have helped administer exams and have composed exercise questions for students in tutorials. But never before have I composed an exam that will result in actual grading of students. So here I am, after a mere three weeks of teaching Physics in grade 8 and 10, doing just that. Following the format of the national examinations that will be so important for the students‘ futures, because depending on the results they will be able to attend the advanced levels (A-levels), and go to college/university from there.

I am quite scared, to be honest, much more than when taking exams recently. Because in a way I’m giving myself an exam of my teaching success here, and also I hope to encourage and not discourage the students. A colleague who looked at them told me he liked them, and liked that they aren’t too easy… But then, this is what I taught, and very close to the priorities I had in the lessons.

Please cross fingers, and feel free to comment. In Form 3 (grade 10) I only taught reflection and refraction, but this is the final exam for the year, and they had electricity stuff earlier apparently. Well, here are the exams for Form 1 and Form 3.

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