November 2, 2012

Back to Nederlog?

1.   To everything there is a season...
PS. My eye problems


Sometimes there is good news, and today the good news is that the British Medical Journal's editor has decided that it wants the raw data for its reviewers, rather than trust their honest faces and kind assurances that the summaries they offer are really real, and not faked, manipulated, biased, or selective... real reviewing reinstuted, one might say.

1. To everything there is a season...

I have had reasons to write a lot about corruption in modern medicine, psychiatry and psychology the last few years.

Most of what I wrote about these corruptions was related to ME/CFS, but some of it was more comprehensiive and touched upon or dealt with psychiatry and the DSM-5, and some of it also touched upon philosophy of science and psychology, the last - for example - november last year, when the Dutch social psychologist proofessor doctor Diederik Stapel was shown to be a scientific fraud on a very large scale, who cooked his own - claimed - raw data, and then used these cooked, completely made up, imaginary data to "support" politically correct fashionable nonsense, such as e.g. the Dutch Labour politicians love to hear, love to read and especially love to use to support their policies and to subsidize their kind.

Most of that writing about pseudoscience and the abuse of science thatI did was not really what I like to do, but then I do know a lot about
philosophy of science, methodology, logic and probability theory and statistics (*) because these have been, next to philosophy and mathematical logic and what relates to that, such as programming, my own dominant interests since over 40 years, and it also did touch on my own interests and illness as well.

Anyway... I've explained these things several times, and now there is a time for rejoicing, or so 1 Boring Old Man thinks, and I think he is right, though I do, perhaps,  not rejoice as much as he does. (See
(*) for part of my reasons.)

1 Boring Old Man is a psychiatrist in his seventies - mostly retired, I understood - who wrote and writes sensibly about the DSM-5, which is a pleasure to read for me, because I have read so many psychiatrists who wrote far from sensibly, indeed also about many things.

His reason to rejoice is that Fiona Godlee, who is the editor of the British Medical Journal, which is an important medical journal, has decided that, in 1 Boring Old Man's summary

to only publish Clinical Trials that have patient-level datasets available

Immediately under it he quotes Ms Godlee, and shows her picture:
… Why aren’t all clinical trial data routinely available for independent scrutiny once a regulatory decision has been made? How have commercial companies been allowed to evaluate their own products and then to keep large and unknown amounts of the data secret even from the regulators? Why should it be up to the companies to decide who looks at the data and for what purpose? Why should it take legal action (as in the case of GlaxoSmithKline’s paroxetine and rosiglitazone), strong arm tactics by national licensing bodies (Pfizer’s reboxetine), and the exceptional tenacity of individual researchers and investigative journalists (Roche’s oseltamivir) to try to piece together the evidence on individual drugs?
Quite so - and see my two Nederlogs written in June

DSM-5: Medicine is a very sick business in the US
       DSM-5: Medicine is a very sick business in the US - 2

also for explanations about GlaxoSmithKline (and with a really instructive video about medical morality).

What it means is that the BMJ
wants the raw statistical data for their peer reviewers, instead of the pre-cooked stew they seem to have to take on faith and have been taking on faith for decades, or so it seems. (How much rot that may have introduced?! No one will ever know, I fear.)

This is A Good Thing, at least for those who want real science, real medicine, and real rational and empirically based peer reviews. But it does not solve all problems, since the Dutch psychological fraud Stapel cooked his own raw data, as I explained in a series of Nederlogs that started a year ago:

The excellence of Dutch science & psychology: Diederik Stapel

This was directly followed by 3 more on the same subject, such as this one from exactly a year ago, in which I also provided 7 links to the opinions of others:

The excellence of Dutch science & psychology: Diederik Stapel - 2

1. Case of Massive Scientific Fraud - The Scientist
2. Diederik Stapel: Another World Class Psychology Fraud - Science 2.0
3. Five Questions about: Diederik Stapel -
4. Diederik Stapel: The Lying Dutchman - Washington Post

5. Massive Fraud Uncovered (..)  - Scientific American
6. Report finds massive fraud at Dutch universities - Nature
7. Report: Dutch 'Lord of the Data' Forged Dozens of Studies - Science

I also explained this was all about raw data, and that in real science researchers and reviewers one should have access to these, and should not have to take them on faith or on trust, as Stapels demanded from his colleagues and students.

I even quoted Edmund Burke:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
There are good women too, and Fiona Godlee has done the right thing, and it is much to be hoped that other leading scientific journals follow her lead, and indeed not only in medicine, but in general: Show the real data to the reviewer of a reputable and serious scientific journal, or take your unprovable moonshine elsewhere.

It's a good and important step forward but one should realize that it does not solve all problems:

If you know how to program, it
is remarkably easy, given a good programming language with a decent random number generator, to cook data that support any hypothesis to any desired extent, and if programmed well this is then very hard to prove, other than by (i) the intrinsic idiocy of what the - cleverly cooked - data are supporting, which is one part of what destroyed Diederik Stapel's fraudulent career, or (ii) by a sort of forensic proof: Diederik Stapel got into real problems because he could not prove that the data he had cooked up - that supported his papers, although these argued for intrinsically incredible though politically correct fashionable bullshit -  were actually gathered empirically, and indeed they were not: Professor doctor Diederik Stapel had  made them all up. And this forensic step was the other part, that definitely finished him as a scientist, as a professor, and as a doctor of science.

So this
certainly is a good idea and a good step in the right direction. In fact, the major scientifical journals must set good policies for the sort of papers + data they get and might want to publish, if good enough - at least if their editors do want to publish real science. (If they just want to get paid and play "let's pretend", then of course they need not change anything.)

So if this decision by the BMJ does start a fashion, as I hope it will, it will at least improve something about medicine, and it will make falsified data more difficult to produce, though it still can be done, and then needs a sort of forensic investigation to be proved.

With the raw data made available, as they should be, the reviewers can, in principle, judge how good the paper really is, statistically speaking, and indeed what it really is worth methodologically, and whether the experimenters should not have rather taken another test, statistic, or whatever.

And these kinds of judgments in turn are necessary to do good "peer reviewing", so 1 Boring Old Man is justified in being glad: It is a good step forward on the part of the BMJ.

To quote some from my favorite Book in the Bible, Ecclesiastes:

1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
4. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
16. And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
22. Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
In fact, I saw today that 1boringoldman writes about a French site, called that I meanwhile took a brief look at and found interesting and worthwile but very French.

As it happens, I can read the language, and so can 1 Boring Old Man, but his tastes in French literature is quite unlike mine:
I recently mentioned that I was an anglophile, but I’m a closet francophile too. I love reading Sartre, Camus, Foucault, Derida, Lacan.
I have read some of all of these, and like Camus best of those mentioned - but my tastes in French literature are quite different: Montaigne, La Rochefoucauld, Lafontaine, Voltaire, Diderot, Chamfortthat is really great French literature, for me at least, and indeed it is no accident most of it is from the 18th Century, and in fact I think that out of one Montaigne or Diderot, one can carve a thousand Sartres and De Beauvoirs, apat from at least a million Derridas.

Indeed, I should write some about Diderot, finding him so rarely appreciated: There is a fine English collection, entitled "The Amazing Diderot", that I have somewhere - but I can't locate it in my library nor on the internet.

Maarten Maartensz

P.S. My eye problems

I'll leave the  text on my eye problems for the moment as a P.S., to clarify why I use such colors as I do, and why I have, for the time being, mostly stopped editing my site.
Version October 15, 2012: My eye problems are the reason this page has the colors it does have: It is very difficult to look at white and light backgrounds with such eyes as I presently have. See also: Why are the colors as they are?

The diagnosis is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (possibly as a part of Sjoegren's syndrome). It is less than it was, for months, but not as I should like it to be.

The present settings of NOTEBOOK aka NB seem the best compromise between what my eyes can handle, and what most readers like to see.

And they have been changed repeatedly, as have the links below to change the background (but not the color of the text box).

As of October 13, 2012, the standard setting for the text box is white text on a darkslategrey background while the standard background is maroon.

Version October 28, 2012: Black text on #339999.
Version November 8, 2012: Changed background to picture. (Background colors work no more.) I may changes this again, depending on my eyes. I may even return to Nederlog!
Version November 10, 2012: Black text on #CCCCFF, changed background picture.

[*] In fact, most of what is read in Nederlog is written in Dutch and - as far as I can see - most of that got selected because I wrote about something my readers are interested in, which means, as is indeed true, that quite a lot of old Nederlogs are being read daily.
[**] Probably it will not be a constant background, but it is a nice view and a nice memory for me, and indeed I do intend to write some more about Dovre and Norway, and in such contexts it will probably reappear.

                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.