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Evidence matters to the public

Join us on 1st November at Parliament to make the case

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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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Proposed registration of herbal medicine practitioners

Do you remember how people thought burns should be treated? What happens to your hair if you don't eat your crusts? If you think you can answer questions like these and your hands are clean, why not become a registered practitioner of Old Wives' Traditional Medicine?

VoYS DH1On 8th September 2010 the Voice of Young Science School of Old Wives’ Traditional Medicine hit the streets of London, handing out diplomas for people to practice in the medical tradition of Old Wives’ Tales. Young medics and researchers in lab coats registered members of the public who correctly answered questions about traditional advice and cures.

The VoYS Network launched its Old Wives’ Traditional Medicine Accreditation Scheme to draw attention to the Department of Health’s proposed professional registration scheme for practitioners of traditional medicine, which will regulate everything except whether a practitioner has medical training or is practicing an evidence-based discipline. The VoYS Network released a statement arguing that 'medical practitioners should have medical training' and also released a document explaining why they were objecting to the proposals.

In October 2009 a joint response objecting to the proposed professional registration scheme was submitted to the Department of Health’s Consultation by Sense About Science, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Institute of Biomedical Science, the Medical Research Society, the Medical Schools Council, the Physiological Society and the Royal College of Pathologists.

Old Wives 


Tamlyn Peel, Voice of Young Science: “The assessment is free of charge, and just like the Department of Health’s proposed registration scheme, our diploma does not require medical training.”

Tracey Brown, Managing Director, Sense About Science: “The proposed professional accreditation scheme will give the impression that the practitioners have the knowledge, skills and attributes of qualified medical practitioners and will be misleading to the public.”

Dr Tom Nolan, Junior medic: “The scheme would do the opposite of protect the public. We are confronted with the possibility of misdiagnosis, the failure to provide suitable medical treatment and dangerous drug interactions.”

Julia Wilson, VoYS coordinator, Sense About Science: “A professional registration scheme for medical practitioners should not be offered simply to flatter tradition, and should always require medical training and evidence-based practice. This proposed scheme formalises the very practices and shoddy use of evidence that we are trying to drive out of medicine.”

Dr Oliver Fenwick, Voice of Young Science: “The proposed scheme is being justified on the basis of concerns about hygiene, English fluency and criminal records, despite the fact that schemes already exist to assess these.”VoYS DH2

Professor David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology, University College London: “An information tribunal recently judged that accreditation of university courses in alternative medicine was worthless. That is because courses in voodoo are accredited by believers in voodoo. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act we now know that these courses teach things that are not only nonsensical pseudo-science, but also pose a positive danger to patients. Such qualifications aren’t worth the paper they are written on.”

Professor Jeremy Ward, King’s College London & Trustee of The Physiological Society: “The protective umbrella of robust medical qualifications linked to evidence based medicine is vital for the health and safety of the public. Attempts to include practitioners of alternative medicine under this umbrella poses significant risks to potential patients and is viewed with great concern by The Physiological Society”.

See all the photos we took during the day and those taken by Andrew West. See videos from the day and listen to what Dr Evan Harris and some of the young doctors and researchers who came along had to say.

VoYS pinboard

  • Top tip 1: Ask for Evidence. If you’re being sold a product or asked to believe a claim then you deserve to know whether it’s based on evidence – or imagination.

  • Top tip 2: Detox. It’s a marketing myth – our body does it without pricey potions and detox diets.

  • Top tip 3: Superfood. There is no such thing, just foods that are high in some nutrients.

  • Top tip 4: Cleansing. You shouldn’t be trying to cleanse anything other than your skin or hair.

  • Top tip 5: If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.

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