Mis establos!!!

None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained). Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

I work on the EPSRC-funded @CHI_MED project; all views are my own. I used to work at Diabetes UK (until 22 June 2012) as a Science Information Officer (effectively a science-specialist librarian but not quite a clinical librarian). Before that it was ScienceLine and back in the mists of time it was lipid chemistry & neuroscience.

Contact: @JoBrodie or reconfigure this email address me.meeeee @ gmail.com (replace me and meeeee with obvious letters, eg... jo.brodie@ etc).

Oh OK then it's jo dot brodie at gmail dot com

Monday, 1 September 2014

A collection of posts about livetweeting / liveblogging science and other conferences

by @JoBrodie brodiesnotes.blogspot.com

This is an update and a repost of an older post from 2010, copied in full below with redirect on old one.



EDIT: 8 July 2012 - this post has gone through several revisions and is now more generally about livetweeting events. There's a nod to practical aspects too as well as a little bit on the ethical aspects of livetweeting conferences, which was my original slant. I've attended (live, or virtually via hashtag) numerous medical research conferences and wince whenever anything is a bit overhyped or, as I say below if "unpublished pilot data is reported as more certain than it is."

A companion blog post to this one is Health charity conferences: policy thoughts on liveblogging and there's another one mentioned below, in relation to capturing tweets during and after the conference (see reference 9).

Added 1 September 2014
32. Ten simple rules of live tweeting at scientific conferences
PLOS Computational Biology

21 August 2014
http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1003789

10 tweetable (140 chars) rules with advice for science-conference tweeting.

Added 19 January 2014
31. Ten tips for tweeting at conferences
ProfHacker / Chronicle.com (Brian Croxall)
6 January 2013
http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/ten-tips-for-tweeting-at-conferences/54281

Added 6 April 2013
30. Healthcare social media: the return of #twittergate
Talking about speech and language blog
30 March 2013
http://slt2b.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/healthcare-social-media-return-of.html

29. Out of the ivory tower and into the crowds: how social media has transformed academic conferences
Evidently Cochrane blog
28 March 2013
http://evidentlycochrane.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/out-of-the-ivory-tower-and-into-the-crowds-how-social-media-has-transformed-academic-conferences/

Added 25 March 2013
28. Thwarting spammers on hashtag livetweeted events
My own blog
22 March 2013
http://brodiesnotes.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/thwarting-spammers-on-hashtag.html 
Type into Twitter's search, or smartphone Twitter apps' search boxes a keystring that tells Twitter to return tweets containing the hashtag but not the spam links, eg
#hashtag -x.co 
where x.co is the root of the spam addresses (Twitter will ignore x.co/abcd and x.co/efgh)

27. Twitter guidelines for #ukcc21 in 2013
Oxford2013, The Cochrane Collaboration
Date not given but assume March 2013-ish
http://oxford2013.cochrane.org/twitter-guidelines 
Encouragement to tweet at the conference with a useful reminder not to assume everyone following you knows what the hashtag you're tweeting with means, so tell them every now and then.

Added 20 July 2012
26: Using free tools to capture a handful of tweets or a bunch
My own blog
19 July 2012
http://brodiesnotes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/using-free-tools-to-capture-handful-of.html
Bit self-serving I suppose (given that I wrote it) but I have made quite a study of capturing event / hashtagged tweets and I think this is a pretty clear explanation of how to use some of the free tools while acknowledging that there are other paid-for options. 

Added 20 July 2012
25: Gender discrimination at CHI 2012
Oopsohno blog
19 July 2012
http://oopsohno.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/gender-discrimination-at-chi-2012/
Although my collection of posts is now more about some of the technical and social media aspects of running an event its original direction was more about the ethics of sharing (via social media) live comments from speakers at scientific events, in relation to unsettled science particularly in the area of medical health research. Sarah's post covers a different type of ethics - the way that gender  differences can be unwittingly reinforced if we don't watch out for it.

Added 20 July 2012
24: Reflections on events
Mark Braggins' blog
24 June 2012
http://markbraggins.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/reflections-on-events/

Themed checklists for different aspects of a conference and unconference events with some good advice and, as the title suggests, reflections on making an event run smoothly for those attending physically and virtually. 

Added; 8 July 2012
23: How to Live-tweet from an Event
Social Media Today
6 July 2012
http://socialmediatoday.com/node/586166
Very good advice for event tweeting, focusing on the three phases of an event: before, during and after (a lot of people post stuff a few days after an event so if you're trying to capture stuff about said event don't 'shut things down' too soon). Also useful pointers on tools you can use on laptop or smartphone to autotweet the hashtag, eg I use Tweetchat on my laptop - sign in with Twitter and whenever you tweet in that window it automatically appends the hashtag, saving valuable seconds ;)


Added: 29 December 2011
22. a4u expo London Agenda
a4u expo
Date unknown
I came across this because of the MoreNiche affiliate marketing website which I keep a keen eye on (as they're selling a variety of products but are a bit shy about publishing the evidence for them) and spotted that their people go off and speak at events, including this expo. What impressed me about this was the prominence given to hashtags at the event - each session has its own hashtag and the top of the agenda has a banner which explains what a tag is and reminds people to check the session tag for each event they go to. Pretty good.


Added: 4 December 2011
21. How Twitter enhanced my conference experience
Mark Ryan
3 December 2011
Less about blogging at events and more about the social benefits that can arise from Twitter and blogs making it really easy for people who haven't yet met one another in real life to do so. Obviously these tools are helpful in discovering likeminded folk online in the first place.


20. Say Hey to Hashtags and Handles
Susan Sawyer
25 October 2011
Good example of a conference getting everything nicely hooked up with the hashtag, delegates' twitter handles, good communication etc.

I think when I started this blog post back in Feb 2010 I was rather waiting for this sort of thing to become the norm. It probably has in the geekier / science-ier conferences, fingers crossed that this trickles to all the other conferences where delegates might like this sort of thing. Obviously I appreciate that some delegates don't give two hoots about tweeting and blogging etc :)


Added: 10 October 2011
19. Live tweeting an AGM: Lessons from @Campbel2412
28 September 2011
Practical advice for official events tweetists and how best to prepare and parcel up the workload. For example this particular hospital event had speakers whose photos were taken before their speech so that these could be sent out as they started, along with their name and job title. Good points made about linking to stuff on the organisational website (and a reminder to make sure in advance that pages you might want to link to are up to date). Also highlights practical things like being able to point to a page on parking information.

Also it is, as the blog curator has noted, rather well written - very clear. And it's written in precisely the sort of way that managers probably like the look of - what went well, what they'll do differently next time. Good template I should think.


Added: 9 June 2011
18. Wi-Fi checklist for unconference of hack-day organisers
Andy Mabbett aka @pigsonthewing
9 June 2011
How to make your delegates happy - pre-empt the most common conference Wi-Fi problems with this handy checklist. Repeatedly having to log in is no fun at all.


Added: 30 May 2011
17. Science Communication and Public Engagement: What Can Twitter Tell Us?
David Waldock
30 May 2011
Interesting look at the recording of tweets (by Storify in this case) and subsequent analysis of their content by Wordle.

"So, live Tweets, to me, represent the thinking of people as they are in the situation; there is no time to reflect, to consider meaning or to parse it into an alternate interpretation: a live Twitter feed can approximate being inside the mind of people present at an event, and you can bring a range of tools to bear on this record and use it to notice things which might not otherwise have been obvious."


Added: 1 August 2010
16. The Great ASCO Tweetup
Brian McGowan
1 July 2010
Examples of social media, including Twitter, use at a massive (30,000 attendees) cancer conference including guidance on slides from speakers who were happy for their output to be microblogged, and disucssions on setting up some 'best practice' guidelines for organisations. Mention is also made of the real-time tweetstream which might be available as an adjunct during someone's presentation - I am coming round to the idea that this can be more of a distraction than a benefit, although I do quite enjoy seeing them. I like his use of the terms intrasession tweeting (to describe tweeting from within a session), intersession (describing interaction with tweets from another session in some cases leading people to migrate to a seminar with more interesting content) and extrasession tweeting (describing general helpful information, shared via Twitter).


Added: 18 March 2010
15. 10 Ways Social Media Will Transform Events in 2010
Samuel J. Smith
12 January 2010
"Attendees will register for your event if their contacts are attending. In the future, knowing if friends or business associates are attending an event will become part of the attendee’s decision process. Social media tools that check to see if my Linkedin connections, Twitter followers or Facebook friends are attending an event already exist. Over time, I think that we will see more of these tools implemented in events."


14. News from Scientific Meetings
Mark Zweig and Emily DeVoto
Date not listed
Not about liveblogging but general information about news reports of conference presentations - "The current press coverage of scientific meetings may be characterized as 'too much, too soon.' Results are frequently presented to the public as scientifically sound evidence rather than as preliminary findings with still uncertain validity. With some effort on the part of meeting organizers, journalists, and scientists, it will be possible to better serve the public."

13. How and why should conference organisers use Twitter?
Cathy Aronson
30 November 2009
Perspective from a very different field - discussions on intellectual property, tweeting increasing the marketability of a conference and one of the commenters raises the idea that "obscurity is a bigger problem than piracy." That commenter also found benefit in reading back the tweets from his talk so he could see where he'd managed to get his point across, and where not.

12. spectacle at Web2.0 Expo... from my perspective
danah boyd
24 November 2009
Article on a particularly unpleasant experience at a conference where twitter took more of the centre stage than the presenter due to a combination of an unfamiliar set-up, dreadful lighting, fidgety crowd and misunderstandings. Basically, when liveblogging goes bad.

11. Should You Be Tweeting?
Laura Bonetta
30 October 2009
This is an article from the journal Cell - I put this in just to remind myself that not everyone can be bothered with Twitter etc ;)

10. Screencast: my unsuccessful hunt for the official EASD hashtag #EASD09
Andrew Spong
20 September 2009
Conference organisers might as well take the lead on the social media for their conference - deciding on a sensible conference hashtag (and if it's stupid, delegates will create their own ad hoc) and publicising this on conference material beforehand if at all possible - or at least posting a few tweets containing said hashtag, from their official channel. As the post above points out, it also helps with the social aspect of the meeting.


9. What! No event hashtag?
Brian Kelly
20 September 2009
Post considering the practical benefits of having a clear hashag - social aspects (meeting up, particularly at a smaller event) are important but the long term benefit is that any tweets containing hashtags can be aggregated and stored, as a record of the event and the links that were shared.


Edit: 8 July 2012 - since Twitter changed its terms of service in 2010 it's become much more like hard work to collect hashtagged tweets and unless you use a paid-for service, or have coding skills and a server you'll probably have to do it slightly manually.

For more on this have a look at GrabChat or SearchHash for hashtag storage - for watching tweets in real-time, have a look at things like Tweetdeck, Twitterfall and Monitter. Or see my post on this Watching conference tweets in real time - how best? and Following conference hashtag tweets in real time and saving them for later.


8. Amongst The Science Bloggers
Jack of Kent
23 August 2009
A very interesting take from the perspective of a presenter, who read the tweets afterwards. In this particular session attendees were asked not to tweet the substance of the talk because it may have been taken as legal advice (as a lawyer was speaking), this possibly meant that people found other things to tweet about, not all of it helpful.


7. Live-tweeting the World Conference of Science Journalists
Ed Yong
30 June 2009
Really positive post on the benefits of liveblogging a conference; the benefit being for the blogger as well as for any public audience. Ed tweeted from #wcsj (World Conf. Sci Journalists) and found it to be a useful experience for himself. Probably the content of the presentations put this type of conference in a very different category from the Cold Spring Harbor one, but this post provides a record of one person's enjoyment at being involved in this way.

This very much echoes my experience of livetweeting from both Science Online conferences in London, #wcsj and a couple of other science communication things I've been at.

6. All the conference stuff that's not fit to print
Isis the Scientist
17 June 2009
Very interesting post - scientists may prefer a forum in which they can discuss pilot data with their peers without the fear of having some, as one of the commenters puts it, 'blogdouche' tweeting everything. Some of the comments are... quite robust.


5. Creating a "blog-safe" icon for conference presentations: suggestions?
Daniel MacArthur
17 June 2009
Intriguing idea of having some sort of icon on presentations (or abstracts) which indicates that the speakers are happy that their talk can be liveblogged.
Comment 3 is a peach. Comment 5 raises an interesting issue. Comment 13 contains this eloquently brief summary - "Figure out the policy (I'd suggest that bloggers and media follow the same rules and it be the same rule for ALL sessions) state it up front, in the program, on the website and in the registration package. Done. Finished. Put it to rest."


4. To tweet or not to tweet – social media and the scientific meeting
Andrew Maynard
3 June 2009
Sensible consideration of the appropriateness, at different types of conferences, of tweeting or liveblogging. Plenty of comments adding additional perspectives and Ruth Seeley's (comment 1) makes very good points.

For me the take home message from all of these discussions is that it's probably important for conference organisers to at least have had a bit of a think about where they stand on liveblogging - I'd prefer that they weren't too restrictive though (however Commenter 8 disagrees with me). In the context of medical research charities (my perspective is from charities who are members of the AMRC - Association of Medical Research Charities) my concern is - perennially - that unpublished pilot data is reported as more certain than it is.

3. On the challenges of conference blogging
Daniel MacArthur
3 June 2009
Daniel MacArthur's own blog emphasising that he feels Genomeweb's complaint (see #2 below) was a valid one and that conference organisers can't really expect to hold news media and bloggers to different standards. In this case the result was that the conference organisers clarified their policy on liveblogging.

"As the number of scientists engaged in online media continues to grow, it is crucial that meeting attendees be aware in advance of what their responsibilities are regarding communication of results."

There are some really good points in this clearly written post on the wider themes of conference attendees engaging with the presentations - more positives than negatives.

Commenter 3 expresses concern that the CSHL guidelines were unduly restrictive in that they required anyone reporting to gain permission from the speakers (possibly impractical for tweeting purposes). There's perhaps something in the argument that blogged conferences get more publicity...

All other comments are worth reading, some very good points in there.

2. Cold Spring Harbor Wants Scientist Bloggers to Follow Media Rules
Elizabeth Pennisi
2 June 2009
News report from Science (magazine) on Daniel MacArthur's experience of liveblogging from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting. The news service Genomeweb was a bit puzzled that journalists had been asked to sign forms restricting what they could report whereas other attendees didn't have this restriction (they're not given a form to sign).


1. Advice for conference organisers
Adam Tinworth
4 April 2007
A plea from a blogger for conference organisers to provide free wifi. The conference organiser replied pointing out that the venue charged £20 for a wifi connection, although in the US the blogger has experienced conferences where each seat has a power socket and free wifi.

I certainly think free or very inexpensive wifi should be available if you want to encourage people to share content about and related to your conference. Possibly the building itself will dictate the number of sockets but no harm in finding out where they are and letting people know. See also #18 above, which has a checklist for conference organisers.

Workaround for manually retweeting (eg comment retweeting) a tweet with a Twitter picture in it

by @JoBrodie brodiestnotes.blogspot.com

This refers to using Twitter on twitter.com the website (ie on a browser) and may or may not be relevant to those using third party apps on tablets or phones.

When Twitter publishes a tweet that contains a pic.twitter-hosted image (not all images are affected, it depends if where it's hosted) it hides the picture's address (URL) and just presents the image within the tweet.

This means that if you want to retweet it and add a comment the method of copying and pasting the text doesn't work, because the text lacks the picture's URL. I just found this out.

This is what the tweet originally looked like...

  ...and here's what I ended up sending out...

...note lack of picture!

What you need to do is go to the original tweet and click on the picture, which will then look like the version below - you can see there's a tweet below it with the full pic.twitter.blah web address, you need to include that in your comment-retweet.  (This isn't necessary for tweets with instagram or similar links because Twitter doesn't automatically display the picture while hiding the URL).



Perhaps Twitter is gradually making it more of an uphill struggle for people to do anything other than press the RT button but I often prefer manual RTs for a variety of very good reasons. 

I don't especially like the ones where someone's just copied and pasted the text then stuck nothing but an "RT" in front of it and have seen other people comment that it's "stealing' the tweet (if that one gets RTed instead of the original you get all the glory). This can be true, however that's probably not the only reason people are doing it. While not forensic it traps a copy of the tweet in case later deleted, it also captures it into your own timeline making it easier to find again in future in your own archive.

But I'd still rather see the tactic done with at least a comment added.

More by me on this topic 
In praise of manual RTs (26 May 2014)




Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Home-made Pomodoro timings - a spreadsheet with hard sums pre-calculated :)

I've read positive and negative things about the Pomodoro technique (basically using a timer to restrict the time in which you work / break / work in the hope of reducing distraction and getting more stuff done in a shorter time-frame). I don't suffer from procrastination particularly (no more than the usual) but I do often find that (a) I think of something unrelated to the task and think 'well I'd better do that now' and / or (b) find that in order to do something I first need to do something else that is related to the task.

While I can't think of anything that will help with (b) I use Workflowy.com for (a) and just enter a one-line reminder and then forget about it until I next have a break / bit of time to deal with it. What I've found with Pomodoro is that it removes me from the equation. I am the rate-limiting step in getting stuff done because other stuff pops into my head, but a combination of 'dump it here and forget about it' and 'get on with what I started' seems to be productive. Of course I may acclimatise and will have to add in 5 minute beatings to motivate myself ;)

It's easy to do, just start a timer for 25 mins, do something useful. Stop for 5 mins, do it again and so on with longer breaks in between 'sets' of Pomodoros.

But I wanted to see how a day would look if it were full of Pomodoros (I'd never do as many as listed but did a big calculation just in case). One of my afternoon tasks today (that I gave myself when I'd finished other stuff, which I did woohoo), was to create a shareable Excel spreadsheet with the timings I'd worked out this morning.

Here it is, instructions are appended below but also embedded in the first tab of the sheet.

Jo's Pomodoro pre-calculated time wrangling spreadsheet:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4000104/Pomodoro%20pre-calculation%20spreadsheet%20by%20Jo.xlsx

and here's a better one from Alan Hennness, my new mortal enemy ;)
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4000104/Pomodoro%20time%20for%20Jo.xlsx 

Hope you find it useful. Tough luck if you don't (no need to tell me, it works fine for me and that is its primary* purpose) ;)

*sole, but I'm being polite.




Basic instructions
Go to tab marked 'Pomodoro calculations'. Leave the 9am example (the one on the left) and use the one on the right - enter your preferred start time and press enter. The table should populate itself with the suggested timings.

Obviously you still need to use some sort of timer device, but I made this for myself so that I could see how a day might look. Feel free to ignore it entirely :)

Ones in green are timings you may wish to change as these are the breaks. You can amend the calculation in Cells L10, L18 or L26 and the remaining calculations should update accordingly.

Use the guide in columns J and K to amend any timings - this is based on the fact that there are 288 x 5 minutes in 24 hours.

The formula for adding 25 minutes to the time in a cell (where the cell is C3) is
=SUM(C3+5/288)

The formula for adding 5 minutes to Cell C3 is
=SUM(C3+1/288)

If nothing else, and let alone whether or not Pomodoro is of any use, I'm delighted to have learned how to wrangle time formatting in Excel. 

The locked spare is in case anyone mucks up the first sheet - the password is jobrodie
 
Since I made this for me, and it seems to work, I imagine that's the end of it but if you need to contact me I'm on jo.brodie@gmail.com but I'm afraid I'm not going to be doing any more calculations. I'm certain there's a better way of doing this sort of thing but since I've found a solution to how to do this my interest in it has dropped back to zero ;)

Happy productivity, or time-wrangling,
Jo

This page was what pointed out to me the 5/288 style of calculation for 25 minutes:
http://www.excelforum.com/excel-general/750598-solved-adding-half-an-hour-to-a-time-value.html




Tuesday, 26 August 2014

What is a misleading homeopathy claim, and how to report it to the ASA

by @JoBrodie, brodiesnotes.blogspot.com

This post is written for people who might not have made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority before.

If you're irritated by homeopaths making misleading claims on Twitter, Facebook or on their websites (or in-shop leaflets or any other marketing) you can complain about those claims to the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA).

1. Make a complaint in the UK
This is the page on the ASA's website where you can make a complaint (you give your name and address but it isn't published): http://www.asa.org.uk/Consumers/How-to-complain.aspx

2. Make a complaint in other countries too
The ASA deals with claims made on UK websites or leaflets but, thanks to its cross-border agreements, it will liaise with the relevant advertising standards authority in the following countries too -
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and of course the United Kingdom.

And that's it.

There's some background information below too.



3. What happens next?
It used to be that any complaint to the ASA would result in them asking the homeopath for evidence and then considering each case. If the marketer agreed to amend their website then the case was closed and it appeared on the ASA's website as an 'informally resolved' case. If the marketer argued their case then the complaint went to the Board for an adjudication. Either the case was upheld against the marketer or it wasn't, and these were listed on the ASA's weekly adjudications. Persistent web marketing offenders find themselves on the non-compliant list of online advertisers.

4. Things changed in 2011
However after it became possible to complain about marketing material on websites too (from March 2011) the number of complaints about misleading homeopathy claims increased dramatically.

The ASA handled so many complaints about homeopathy in 2011 that it undertook a review of the evidence and, finding none of good quality, appears to have simplified the complaints procedure - it seems that the ASA no longer asks homeopaths for evidence for their claims but instead passes the complaint directly to the Compliance team (theyr'e the ones that ask the marketer to remove the claims for which there's no evidence).

Because the Compliance team don't report on their work directly you may not hear about the outcome of your complaint in quite the same way but you can follow @NightingaleC on Twitter to see published lists of adjudications / rulings and informally resolved cases.

5. What can you complain about?
It is perfectly legal to sell homeopathy pills or consultations / treatment. Most homeopaths comply with advertising regulations and their websites talk about how they support people's health (which is true). The Society of Homeopaths has worked with the ASA to encourage their members to ensure that their marketing material is acceptable, see their guidance document for more info: http://www.homeopathy-soh.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Mktg-Prom-guidance2014.pdf


However, if a homeopath is not medically trained and their website...

(a) claims that homeopathy is effective in treating various conditions for which there's no good evidence or
(b) refers to serious medical conditions

...then they may be in breach of the advertising recommendations. Following the 2011 review the Committee of Advertising Practice produced a set of guidelines for what is / isn't permitted in homeopathy marketing, it's worth a read. Note this sentence in particular:
"Those practitioners who are not medically qualified should not make claims about the efficacy of their treatments and should not refer to serious medical conditions..."
5a) for which conditions is homeopathy already known to lack evidence?
From a look at several adjudications in which complaints were upheld against homeopathy sites the following conditions were listed as being of concern. That is, the ASA asked a homeopath to remove reference to one or more of these conditions from their website after finding the evidence was insufficiently good.

acne, anxiety, arthritis, Candida, cataracts, cold flushes, dengue fever (prevention of), depression
diphtheria prevention, genital warts, hot flushes, exhaustion, heavy periods, influenza (prevention of)
irregular periods, irritability, Japanese encephalitis prevention ('homeoprophylaxis'), loss of libido, low mood, malaria prevention, menopausal symptoms, meningitis prevention, mood swings, mosquito bites, night sweats, other skin problems, PMS, PMT, polio prevention, psoriasis, serious medical conditions (this could include asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure etc), side-effects of the Pill, tetanus prevention, tick-borne encephalitis prevention, tiredness, typhoid prevention, vaginal dryness, yellow fever prevention.

It's not an exhaustive list.

5b) what are serious medical conditions?
Any condition where you'd reasonably expect someone to be under the care of a qualified medical doctor might include hypertension, asthma or diabetes and they're generally bit of a no-no on websites. Obviously there's no good evidence that homeopathy's of any use but the ASA is additionally concerned if, by mentioning serious conditions, consumers may be discouraged from seeking appropriately qualified advice.

5c. A note on cancer
In the UK it's actually illegal to make any claims to treat cancer - there is a separate act for this (the Cancer Act 1939) - very few homeopaths mention cancer on their website for obvious reasons.

6. What else can you do?
a) ask marketers to amend their website directly and / or
b) blog about misleading claims 

The ASA has to deal with a lot of enquiries, some of them much more problematic than minor misleading claims on homeopaths websites, so don't assume that your complaint will be a priority unless it's a seriously dodgy claim. So what else can you do?

a) Ask them yourself to amend their website
There's nothing to stop you from contacting a marketer directly and asking them for evidence for their claims or pointing out that you have concerns about what their website says. But go carefully. You are not there to tell people what they can and can't advertise (that's what the ASA is for) and it's a bad and unpleasant idea to go around threatening people and generally being a jerk. It's fine to contact people politely and express reservations about their adverts but let's not be mean-spirited about it. I've seen comments on some skeptic blogs that make me a little worried about people's motivation - it really comes down to the fact that people should be advertising their wares responsibly.

In general I'm not hugely in favour of contacting people directly though I do do it on occasion (politely) to see what happens (not much). You might think that discussing it informally (ie without involving regulatory bodies, saving everyone time) might be a positive thing but it can easily be misinterpreted and relations between skeptic bloggers / activists and homeopaths are at an all time low. So don't be surprised if your approach is not met with enthusiasm. Proceed with caution. I've written more on the 'ethics' of contacting misleading advertisers directly.

a) Blog about misleading claims and good evidence
Blogging is just a way of increasing the amount of information about a topic. You may not be able to remove bad information from the internet but you can slightly increase the amount of better information. When people search for a topic there' s a chance that they'll read your information instead of something worse. Blogging also raises awareness of a topic and connects you to a network of people who are trying to improve online information about health.




Sunday, 24 August 2014

How the pharmaceutical industry interacts with healthcare professionals, etc - consultation closes 5 Sep

Before we get going let's familiarise ourselves with some acronyms...

ABPI = Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
EFPIA =  European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations
MHRA = Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
PMCPA =  Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority 

This arrived in my inbox yesterday from the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) and is about a consultation that's currently taking place regarding several things including the way in which the pharmaceutical industry interacts with healthcare professionals.

Consultation on proposals to amend the 2014 ABPI Code of Practice (14 July 2014) ABPI

"Consultation launched on proposed changes to the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry and the Constitution and Procedure for the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority

Changes are proposed to the 2014 ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry and the PMCPA Constitution and Procedure.

There are a number of reasons for the changes including the work done by the group established by the ABPI Board to review the Code. Additional changes are also needed to implement fully the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA) Code on Disclosure of Transfers of Value from Pharmaceutical Companies to Healthcare Professionals and Healthcare Organisations. Updates to the EFPIA Disclosure Code and the EFPIA Code on the Promotion of Prescription-Only Medicines to, and Interactions with, Healthcare Professionals were agreed at the EFPIA General Assembly on 6 June 2014. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) consultation as part of the red tape challenge and the regular update of the Code and its operation have also resulted in proposals."
I'm not sure why it arrived by email yesterday when the consultation begain in July and ends in a couple of weeks - I've only found one mention of it on Twitter too.

Here are the documents, however the link for the "copy of the draft Code of Practice" which is given on the site doesn't work.
  1. Proposals to amend the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry
  2. Proposals to amend the PMCPA Constitution and Procedure
  3. EFPIA Disclosure Code
  4. EFPIA template
  5. EFPIA HCP Code
  6. Draft template (UK amendments to EFPIA version).  (Further work maybe required.  The differences between the EFPIA template and the UK template are limited to those changes necessary to reflect requirements of the ABPI Code and to provide the data in a form suitable for the ABPI searchable database.)
Visit the website for info on how to contribute to the consultation: Consultation on proposals to amend the 2014 ABPI Code of Practice (14 July 2014) ABPI.