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UCL Bookshelf: ‘There Goes the Science Bit…’

12 October 2007

UCL PhD students were among the authors of a new booklet by young UK scientists that was released this week, which highlights bad science used in the marketing of products to consumers. 

There Goes the Science Bit

Published by Sense About Science, a charity that works to increase public engagement with science, ‘There Goes the Science Bit, A Guide to Standing up for Science for Early Career Researchers’ reveals a range of inaccurate scientific claims made by companies trying to persuade unwitting consumers into buying their products.

The group of authors, called Voice of Young Science, met through an online forum, hosted by Sense About Science, in which they discussed some of the ‘pseudo-science’ that is portrayed in marketing. After sharing their experiences of making enquiries about some products’ scientific claims, they decided to produce a publication aimed at encouraging people to question the everyday science they are sold.

Among the contributors was Jennifer Lardge, a PhD student at UCL Physics & Astronomy. Speaking about an enquiry she made into the apparent health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps, she said: “We wanted some evidence and clarification, but it was tough to get. I was passed from a UK distributor to a miner in Pakistan and back to a UK website, but ended up little wiser.”

Among the other claims to be debunked in the book were ‘detox patches’ that ‘draw out harmful toxins from the body overnight’, a liquid called ‘Aerobic Oxygen’ that is ‘stabilised’ and ‘does not have a formula’, and a product that uses your PC ‘to release over 34,000 different homeopathic type remedies’.

Professor Sir Paul Nurse, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has endorsed the booklet, saying: “’There Goes the Science Bit…’ is a refreshing and amusing look at the extraordinary claims being made by commercial producers and retailers to try and make us buy their products. Their lack of science is mercilessly exposed by intelligent young scientists prepared to spend their time unmasking the empty pseudo-science of so many of these claims.”

Tracey Brown, Director of Sense About Science, described the group of researchers as “a counterblast to cynicism in science”.

To obtain a copy of ‘There Goes the Science Bit…’, contact Aarathi Prasad at Sense About Science.