Posted by: Kash Farooq | September 8, 2010

Quack Busting Resources

To help you with various quack busting activities, here is a list of the skeptical activism resources I’ve come across.

Let me know if anything else should be added to the list.

Note: the government-based agencies listed below are UK based (for sending complaints) – however, the research resources are applicable anywhere.

Doing Research

The Alt-Med Encyclopaedia

http://www.ebm-first.com

The tag line sums this website up perfectly:

“What alternative health practitioners might not tell you”

The website is maintained by @blue_wode.

It is fast becoming the first port of call for references and links to useful articles and posts about everything alt-med, from Applied Kinesiology to Magnetic Therapy. (Plus many you will not have even heard of!)

An excellent resource.

Checking Medical Efficacy

http://www.nelm.nhs.uk

Need to check if, say, a spray based on coconut oil can really treat head lice? Visit the excellent National electronic Library for Medicines.

For my example I picked the keyword “coconut” randomly to see if anything came up. It did!

[coconut oil based product] cannot be recommended at this time, due to the lack of adequate evidence relating to its safety and efficacy for head lice treatment.

Homeopathy Papers Debunked

If you blog about homeopathy, at some point Nancy Malik will do a drive-by spamming and post links to papers proving that homeopathy works. Apparently, you’ve made it as a blogger if this happens.😉

You know that the papers will be crap, but can’t be bothered to read and refute them. Well you don’t have to any more.

Here are the papers that homeopaths use as evidence debunked in one handy blog post.

And here is an even bigger post by @xtaldave. He has specifically looked at the papers that Nancy Malik cites in her Google Knol page.

Urban Myths Debunked

http://snopes.com

If you receive an email such as “Drinking cold water after meals will lead to cancer” or “Red Bull causes brain tumours”, go straight to this website.

Snopes does not deal exclusively with medical myths, but it is well worth checking out.

[Thanks to Roy Grubb for reminding me about this website]

Capturing and Finding Information

http://skepticmedia.wikispaces.com

Thanks to @JoBrodie for this. A similar project to what I’m doing with this blog post – lots of useful links to resources.

Also, there is a great list of tools at this website – from creating PDFs from web pages, to using FreezePage to record a page before someone takes it down or changes it!

Sending Complaints

See also The Nightingale Collaboration’s “Making a complaint” articles.

Complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority

Note: from March 1st 2011, the ASA can now look at claims and adverts on websites.

For your first complaint, head over to Simon Perry‘s blog. He has posted a step-by-step example of a complaint he recently made.

@zeno001 has produced a handy ASA complaint template word document.

@bengoldacre has also produced a “How To” guide on the Bad Science website.

You can post your complaint on-line at the ASA website, or email it to new.complaint@asa.org.uk.

For hundreds of examples of ASA complaints, check out the Sceptical Letter Writer blog@ScepticLetters is practically a professional at ASA complaints. Note, however, that your complaint does not need to be as formal as these examples.

Your complaint can contain very little extra information. Just a list of the claims that you believe are misleading will do. You don’t have to provide any references, etc. It is up to the ASA to decide if the claims are breaking any rules.

Complaining to Trading Standards

Complaints need to go to the appropriate region, so go to the Consumer Direct Contact Us form, select a region and start your complaint.

Complaining to the MHRA

This is the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Another “How To” Guide from the Bad Science website:

If people want to report suspected dodgy medicines, their first port of call is the MHRA Central Enquiry Point who can put them through to the relevant expert.

Freedom of Information requests

An excellent starting point (again) can be found at the Bad Science website: “How To” Guide – FOI Requests FAQ.


Responses

  1. Snopes http://www.snopes.com/ should be included! It’s not all medical, but it does expose many “medical” myths.

    Roy

    • Of course!

  2. This is another great post, compiling all the useful links, relating to a particular topic, all in one place. Your blog is becoming quite the resource bank and, I’m sure, it will receive many credits in the “HT/via” circuit on twitter. Great work Kash😀

  3. Fantastic and helpful post, for newbies and pros. Now I’ll have to link to it from skepticmedia and will probably break the internet or something😉

  4. Great post, and guess what, you are right by saying “If you blog about homeopathy, at some point Nancy Malik will do a drive-by spamming and post links to papers proving that homeopathy works.” See this: http://contusio-cordis.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-am-galileo-argument.html?showComment=1283973550913#c5360174238011678539

    Brilliant. Does this mean I “made it?”

    • Congratulations!
      She loves the “Real is scientific homeopathy” quote.
      Uses it all the time. A classic oxymoron.


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