Another evening well spent in the pub with my daughter. Such a pity these talks only come round once a month.
Tonight was Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, giving good advice on how to assess the different ways to treat dyslexia. Although a number of people were there for the dyslexia subject matter, this presentation was fundamentally ‘Sceptical 101’ training which everyone should have to learn, regardless of their field of interest. Despite the name, not every SITP talk is sceptical in nature – most are held because the content would be appealing to the group – but it is nice when you get a chance to refresh your skills.
The presentation was a delivery of a checklist Dorothy had blogged a couple of years ago:
- Who is behind the treatment and what are their credentials?
- Is there a credible scientific basis to the treatment?
- Who is the intervention recommended for?
- Is there evidence from controlled trials that the intervention is effective?
- What is the attitude of those promoting the intervention to conventional approaches?
- Are the costs transparent and reasonable?
[[I’m not going to copy the content here – go to the source. The comments section there is interesting too.]]
That set of half-dozen red flags should get you a long way through checking if any particular product is worth a second look.
A few highlights of the presentation, though:
- Being a Fellow of the Royal School of Medicine. It’s common to hear of quacks like Gillian McKeith using qualification gained by correspondence courses from non-accredited colleges to give their CV some fake credibility. Here, though, is a prestigious charity-status Society given Royal Charter in 1805 being used in a similar fashion. According to the RSM site, “those who hold a UK recognised medical, dental or veterinary qualification, or a higher scientific qualification in a healthcare related field.” can gain fellowship for the fee of £484. Fellowship, though, according to the Society, is not to be mentioned in an effort to add authority.
- Loved the “Cherry Fudge” approach where a quack will cherry pick the results and fudge the data.
- Hadn’t heard of Dore – The Miracle Cure For Dyslexia or Brain Gym before. Both seem a terrible waste of money in the hunt for easy fixes to complicated problems.
You can watch a 35-minute YouTube video of the presentation recorded back in 2011.