Thank you to everyone who attended journal club 1. The discussion was lively and very well thought through. I hope it stimulated further thought and showed that even the seemingly simplest of questions can provoke a range of thoughts and ideas. The quality of your ideas was exceptional, and remember on this subject we could only offer opinion and everyone’s opinion is equally valid. The next topic should be more straightforward and in the spirit of journal club it involves a journal. Give yourself plenty of time to work your way through and remember that at this stage the most important criteria is to stimulate thought and give you an insight into the workings of Science. You don’t have to understand everything.
Data is data and the numbers can’t lie. So produce a set of results, or better still a graph of them and you’ve just done Science and proved your hypothesis. That’s Science and everyone should be happy.
Take a look at the table below of approximately four and a half thousand people, that addressed the hypothesis that people who drink have a greater chance of getting lung cancer than those who don’t.
What does the data show? What conclusions can be made? Are you convinced by it? If not, what would you like to see in order to convince you? Try and answer this before looking at the next set of results.
If you take the same set of results shown in table 1 and add another filter to them to separate out the drinkers and non-drinkers into those who also smoke and those who don’t smoke, we get tables 2 & 3. (Remember that this is the same study group as table 1)
What does the data show? What conclusions can you make?
What is the odds ratio of smoking and lung cancer?
This correlation is not a surprise as it is also backed up with lots of other studies linking smoking to lung cancer, but imagine if no such correlation had every been considered, raw data could completely misrepresent the true facts.
This is taken from a comment article in The Guardian by Ben Goldacre and I suggest you follow the link to read the full version.
I now want you to look at another column by Ben, How far should we trust health reporting?
What was the hypothesis behind the study?
What methodology was used in this study?
What are the conclusions?
Are you surprised by the conclusions made and what impact does it have on the public’s perception and understanding of Science?
Read the following paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). It is very heavy on statistical evidence and confidence intervals which you can ignore if statistics is not your thing. At this stage I just want you to get a feel for the way the research was conducted and what their findings were. Those of you considering a Medical Career should also link to the bmj site and take a look around.
Questions to help guide you through the paper
- What is the point of the study?
- What methods were used in the study?
- What 3 main categories of reporting were looked at by the researchers?
- What did they find in each of these categories?
- What evaluation is made by the researchers on their own study?
- At the bottom of the main report (just before the references) there are a few paragraphs of ‘small print’ that start with, we thank our…. What is the purpose of this? Does it help in your judgement on the statements made in the paper?
- Finally, how much do you trust what you see, read or hear in the media about, ‘Scientists say…’
Remember that this is just to aid discussion and frame your thoughts. You can follow all, some or none of this list. The point of this is to stimulate thought and share ideas so PLEASE POST YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW prior to our next Journal Club meeting.