Monday, March 09, 2009

March 3 Media Critique: “BMJ's Bad Medicine”

HR does its own research following the BMJ's attack.

Doesn’t it just. You know what’s coming right?

HR employs a deeply impartial doctor of its own to whip up some figures and prove the bias at
BMJ. This would be better titled 'HR’s Bad Faith'.It’s a sad and desperate attempt at diverting attention from HR’s bullying tactics.

HR’s resident scientific genius “
Dr Simon Fishman” works his statistical magic to prove again that there are ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’. That a bit of crude manipulation was applied to get the desired ‘proof’ could hardly be more obvious. But as I said in the last post, it’s all about cultivating outrage.

Fishman, scientifically combs the literature for articles on a range of conflicts: Bosnia Sudan, Palestine, Rwanda and then comes up with a self-serving measure that will deliver the result HR wants – deaths per citations / year. The lower the score the more attention , citations per death wise, the conflict has garnered. Naturally the result is awful, simply awful.

The poor Rwandans score only 40,000, Bosnians 2000. And the all important number- Palestinians – 13. Yes, thirteen. My god, can’t you just smell the
BMJ bias!!

HR can,

The evidence clearly shows that the BMJ has a disproportionate interest in Palestinian deaths over those from other conflict areas where the impact on public health is certainly as great and potentially greater….. This bias is consistent with its attacks on the so-called "Israel lobby".

What’s wrong with this? Well for a start, when I
searched BMJ I came up with more cites than HRs resident expert did. I suggest next time he try alternative search terms like “Kosovars” and “Albanian” on the Bosnia search and you’ll get quite a few more results.

But that’s a quibble. The whole deaths / citations /yrs measure is nonsense. HR even say so themselves,
articles in medical journals examining a whole range of genuine healthcare issues such as the psychological effects of war on….., HIV testing……….and other studies that are not necessarily focused on death tolls from such conflicts

So, why chose deaths?. Simple - it gives a lower score for Palestinians. And restricting it to just a 4 year period decreases that number further.

A far more revealing measure of attention would be in citations per year. Now a higher number indicates more ‘interest’.

You’ll see why HR
doesn’t use this more accurate gauge of ‘interest’.

Citations/year - Rwandans 20, Bosnians 4, Palestinians 7.


But even that is a little unfair as I used date range of
HRs ‘expert’. If you bother to look, you’ll see some Palestinian articles predate 2000 as the conflict obviously does. To be fair, the years should go from the starting date up to the present, as journal articles continue to appear after the conflicts themselves have ended. I’ll use 1989 as the year for the start of the I-P conflict though it would be perfectly reasonable to use 1967.

Citations /year - Rwandans 1.3, Bosnians 1.1, Palestinians 1.45 (using1967 – 0.725)

Hey, anybody seen where my bias went? Amazing how a ‘bias’ factor of over 3000 can just melt away when a little scrutiny is shone on it.

But it gets better. In testimony to the mathematical genius of HR, their Sudan figure of 0
BMJ cites for 188,000 deaths is expressed as “negligible”. Someone ask their primary school child to do the maths on that one for them. Morons. See it for yourself and have a good laugh.

HR opened this one with one of their favourite techniques for cultivating outrage, the misleading selective quote,

From HR,
Indeed, the BMJ has gone way beyond its own mission statement:
'To lead the debate on health, and to engage, inform, and stimulate doctors, researchers and other health professionals in ways that will improve outcomes for patients.
To achieve these aims we publish original scientific studies, review and educational articles, and papers commenting on the clinical, scientific, social, political, and economic factors affecting health'.

Wonder what else the
BMA (who owns the BMJ) has to say about its' publication,
The BMA grants editorial freedom to the editor of the BMJ. The views expressed in the journal are those of the authors and may not necessarily comply with BMJ policy. The BMJ follows guidelines on editorial independence produced by the World Association of Medical Editors and the code on good publication practice produced by the Committee on Publication Ethics.