Machine Evidence II: The Abstract Setting

A recent study by Gao et al. (2022) validates the warning of ‘Machine Evidence’ (Blunt, 2019) that language models would soon become capable of beating detection attempts by human peer reviewers. This piece looks at the near-term steps that journal editors and conference organisers can take to prevent AI-generated abstracts bypassing their screening processes, along with a warning for the long-term viability of those strategies.

The Pyramid Schema: The Origins and Impact of Evidence Pyramids

Evidence pyramids are amongst the most recognisable artefacts of the Evidence-Based Medicine movement. Yet no study has established the origins of evidence pyramids, or analysed whether they offer any information beyond simple lists or tables. In this paper, I establish the origins of the first evidence pyramid and argue that the pyramidal turn is a retrograde step in evidence appraisal.

Lumping and splitting: brain tumours in white Britons

A much-publicised report suggests that white Britons’ brain tumour survival rates are lower than other ethnicities. But analysing the ethnicities categories used, and considering the diversity of the “brain tumour” label, complicates the picture, as the ‘Dismal Disease’ of Glioblastoma continues to confound.

On the Global Summit: do critiques of evidence hierarchies favour chiropractic?

The Global Summit systematic review claims that spinal manipulation therapy is not effective in preventing any non-musculoskeletal disorders. But a breakaway group has challenged their findings, in part based on my arguments regarding evidence hierarchies. Are they correct? Does my critique undermine the Global Summit review? If so, does the evidence base favour chiropractic?

Minding the Gaps: Statistical Misrepresentation in Attainment Gap Research

Political interests configure the stories we tell with data. Closing the gap in attainment between disadvantaged students and their advantaged contemporaries is pivotal to an agenda to use education as a positive social force. But both the measurement and representation of this gap is politicised, skewed and open to manipulation. This paper shows how two organisations with inverse aims represent—and misrepresent—their measure of the attainment gap to portray diametric trajectories in the pursuit of equal attainment.

Conversion Therapy: Evidence is Irrelevant

Pressure mounts upon equalities minister Kemi Badenoch to resign over the UK government’s failure to ban conversion therapies. Attention has focused on the government’s failure to publish research commissioned in 2018. But evidence about whether conversion therapy works is irrelevant: conversion therapy is not a medical intervention.

A Ghost of Progress – How Hierarchies Become Fixtures

I have written extensively on hierarchies of evidence in evidence-based medicine. The origin story of hierarchies of evidence is a little contentious. Several sources in EBM cite Campbell and Stanley’s 1963 classic “Experimental and Quasi-experimental Designs for Research” as containing the first hierarchy, or at least the germ of the …