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The hidden side of clinical trials

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Evidence matters to the public

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Plant Science Panel

Insecticides, biofuels, GMOs …

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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June 2010

Annual Lecture

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the BMJ spoke at our Annual Lecture on Monday at the Royal Society of Medicine. It was a wonderful evening with so many of our friends and supporters there. In her lecture, Fiona talked about conflicts of interest in medical research and the dangers of pharmaceutical companies evaluating their own products. I was particularly interested in the point that if the public were more aware that all drugs have risks and benefits it would help discussions about their safety - there would be no need to hide the risks or over-hype the results. I've received many emails since from members of the audience wanting to continue the discussion.

I had a team of VoYS members volunteering on the night, helping me with the running of the event as well as speaking to the guests about their latest projects. This year, for the first time, they were joined by APEN members (the trainee network for members of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine). It was a great chance for APEN and VoYS to meet and share experiences and ideas. I think APEN members were inspired by the VoYS network's desire to respond to bad science. I hope we can set up a project that will bring the two groups together - perhaps looking into dodgy medical devices.

Alice left Sense About Science last week to start working at Cancer Research UK. I think we're still getting our heads around the fact that she's gone. We're like a little family in the office here and we're so used to Alice being around to answer our queries and keep us calm when the work piles up! It was sad to say goodbye to her. But we've got an exciting time ahead, and it will be interesting to have someone new in the office and develop our roles over the coming months.

Since the lecture the week has flown past. I've been busy preparing for me and Tracey's trip to Turin next week for ESOF2010. Information about our sessions can be found here. Lord Lester presented his libel reform bill at an event at the Free Word Centre on Tuesday. This was covered in the Evening Standard on Thursday and we were all excited to see Sile's photo in the paper! Sile was also in Reading this morning speaking to teachers about our work at the Berkshire Heads of Science Annual Conference. Many teachers came up to her afterwards amazed that they hadn't heard about us before and saying how relevant our work is for their '21st Century Science' classes.

Tracey and Ellen treated us to an early finish on Wednesday to watch England play in the World Cup. Leonor has set up an incredibly complicated football sweepstake where we have four teams each from different tiers and we get different points for different teams depending on their tier etc. I don't really understand it, but if Leonor's behind it I'm sure it's statistically sound, and anyway I'm winning!