An account of the QED meeting that was held in Manchester in October 2018 has now appeared in the Observer newspaper. This includes interviews with Michael Marshall, Chris French, Jonathan Jarry, and Deborah Hyde.
The latest Newsletter of the British False Memory Society (see link) conveys the sad news of the death of Roger Scotford. Roger founded the BFMS in 1993 amidst concern about the growing number of families in North America, Europe, Australasia and elsewhere who had been torn apart by accusations of historical sexual abuse against a parent and sometimes other relatives and even neighbours. These accusations, sincerely held to be true by the those making them, were solely based on ‘memories’ of the alleged events uncovered during psychotherapy. Often the information thus elicited was extensive and elaborately detailed, and would become increasingly so as the therapy proceeded. Roger had his own personal experience of this and with his colleagues at the BFMS he worked tirelessly to bring this dreadful scandal into public awareness and to provide help and guidance to many people in the UK whose lives had been ruined by such allegations.
Despite there being no other evidence to back up the accusations, and even contrary evidence, the accused persons were sometimes charged, tried, convicted and sentenced. It may come as a surprise to some readers that miscarriages of justice are still happening, as the November 2018 BFMS Newsletter reveals. So let us remember Roger and continue to support his fight for justice and reparation for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in these terrible events.
Dr Ben Goldacre, author and head of the Evidence-Based Medicine DataLab in Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, has been appointed chair of the UK government’s new HealthTech Advisory Board. The appointment was announced in a speech by the health secretary at the NHS Expo in Manchester setting out ‘plans to make the NHS an ecosystem for the best available technology, including innovations in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning’. The HealthTech Advisory Board will report directly to the Secretary of State and ‘will highlight where change needs to happen, where best practice isn’t being followed, and be an ideas hub for how to transform the NHS to improve patient outcomes, patient experience, and to make the lives of NHS staff easier’.
A UK parliamentary committee has published a preliminary report highlighting what it describes as ‘significant concerns’ over the risks to ‘shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions’. It calls for ‘urgent action’ from government and regulatory bodies to ‘build resilience against misinformation and disinformation into our democratic system’: “People are increasingly finding out about what is happening in this country, in their local communities, and across the wider world, through social media, rather than through more traditional forms of communication, such as television, print media, or the radio. Social media has become hugely influential in our lives. Research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shown that not only are huge numbers of people accessing news and information worldwide through Facebook, in particular, but also through social messaging software such as WhatsApp. When such media are used to spread rumours and ‘fake news’, the consequences can be devastating.”
The UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has issued its latest report on Research Integrity (Sixth Report of Session 2017–19). “This inquiry looks at trends and developments in fraud, misconduct and mistakes in research and the publication of research results. Research by Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology indicates the trend in misconduct/mistakes in publishing is still upwards. There has also been a so-called ‘crisis in reproducibility’ of research. The Committee continues the previous Committee’s inquiry, taking forward the evidence it had received before the General Election.”