Speaking at TAM London, October 2009
Ben Michael Goldacre
20 May 1974
London, United Kingdom
|Education||Magdalen College School, Oxford|
|Occupation||Author, journalist, physician, science writer and scientist|
Susan Goldacre (née Traynor)
Ben Michael Goldacre  is a British physician, academic, and science writer. As of March 2015, he is a senior clinical research fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, part of the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. He is a founder of the AllTrials campaign and OpenTrials to require open science practices in clinical trials.(born 20 May 1974)
Goldacre is known in particular for his Bad Science column in The Guardian, which he wrote between 2003 and 2011, and is the author of four books: Bad Science (2008), a critique of irrationality and certain forms of alternative medicine; Bad Pharma (2012), an examination of the pharmaceutical industry, its publishing and marketing practices, and its relationship with the medical profession; I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That, a collection of his journalism; and Statins, about evidence-based medicine. Goldacre frequently delivers free talks about bad science—he describes himself as a "nerd evangelist".
Early life and education
Goldacre is the son of Michael Goldacre, a professor of public health at the University of Oxford, and Susan Traynor (stage name Noosha Fox) lead singer of 1970s pop band Fox, both of whom are Australian. He is the nephew of Robyn Williams, a science journalist, and the great-great-grandson of Sir Henry Parkes, politician and journalist who is considered the father of the Australian Federation. He has three children.
Goldacre was educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford. He studied medicine at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he obtained a first-class Bachelor of Arts honours degree during his preclinical studies in 1995 in Physiological Sciences. He edited the Oxford student magazine, Isis.
Goldacre was a visiting researcher in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Milan, working on fMRI brain scans of language and executive function. Following his studies at the Universities of Oxford and Milan, Goldacre studied clinical medicine at UCL Medical School, qualifying as a medical doctor in 2000 with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB, BS) degree. He also received a Master of Arts degree in philosophy from King's College London in 1997.
Career and research
Goldacre passed the Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) Part II examinations in December 2005 and became a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He was made a research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry in London in 2008, and a Guardian research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, in 2009.
In 2015, Goldacre moved to the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, joining a project funded by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
As of 2016, according to Scopus and Google Scholar his most cited articles have been published in NeuroReport, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, and PLOS ONE.
In 2020, Goldacre was, with Liam Smeeth, the principal investigator of the OpenSAFELY collaboration which created a software platform to analyse the records of 24 million NHS patients to provide detailed risk factors for hospital deaths from COVID-19.
"Bad Science" Guardian column and blog
Goldacre was known for his weekly column, "Bad Science", which ran in the Saturday edition of The Guardian from 2003  until November 2011. The column focused on pseudoscience and the misuse of science. Topics discussed included marketing, the media, quackery, problems with the pharmaceutical industry, and its relationship with medical journals.
Goldacre has criticised anti-immunisation campaigners (particularly followers of Andrew Wakefield such as Melanie Phillips and Jeni Barnett), Brain Gym, bogus positive MRSA swab stories in tabloid newspapers, publication bias, and the makers of the product Penta Water.
He has been a particularly hardline critic of the nutritionist Gillian McKeith. While investigating McKeith's membership of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, Goldacre purchased a "certified professional membership" on behalf of his late cat, Henrietta, from the same institution for $60. In February 2007, McKeith agreed to stop using the title "Doctor" in her advertising, following a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority by a "Bad Science" reader. In an interview with Richard Saunders of the podcast Skeptic Zone, Goldacre said, "Nutritionists are particularly toxic because they are the alternative therapists who, more than any other, misrepresent themselves as being men and women of science."
In 2008, Matthias Rath, a vitamin entrepreneur, sued Goldacre and The Guardian over three articles, in which Goldacre criticised Rath's promotion of vitamin pills to AIDS sufferers in South African townships. Rath dropped his action in September 2008 and was ordered to pay initial costs of £220,000 to The Guardian. The paper is[when?] seeking full costs of £500,000, and Goldacre has expressed an interest in writing a book about Rath and South Africa, as a chapter on the subject had to be cut from his book while the litigation proceeded. The chapter was reinstated in a later edition of the book, and also published online. Goldacre continues to cite Rath as a proponent of harmful pseudoscience.
Bad Science (2008)
Goldacre's first book, Bad Science, was published by Fourth Estate in September 2008. The book contains extended and revised versions of many of his Guardian columns. It was positively reviewed by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and The Daily Telegraph, and reached the Top 10 bestseller list for Amazon Books. It was nominated for the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize. In an interview in 2008, Goldacre said that "one of the central themes" of his book [Bad Science] was "that there are no real differences between the $600 billion pharmaceutical industry and the $50 billion food supplement pill industry."
Bad Pharma (2012)
His second book, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, was published in the UK in September 2012 and in the United States and Canada in February 2013. In the book he argues that:
Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don't like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug's true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug's life, and even then they don't give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies – often undisclosed – and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure.
Other journalism and writing
Goldacre contributed to The Atheist's Guide to Christmas (2009), a charity book featuring essays and anecdotes from 42 well-known atheists and apatheists, on the subject of "the power of ideas". He describes himself as an apatheist. He also wrote the foreword to a reissue of Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare by Imogen Evans, Hazel Thornton, Iain Chalmers and Paul Glasziou, published by Pinter & Martin in March 2010. He has had several articles published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on the MMR vaccine, science journalism, and related topics.
In June 2012, he collaborated with the Behavioural Insights Team of the UK government on a policy paper on the use of randomised controlled trials, and in May 2013, he wrote the foreword to the 'Official Guidebook' of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. In March 2014, he worked on a systematic review of the side effects of statins compared with placebos, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Although many newspapers that covered the review said that it found that statins have "virtually no side effects", Goldacre criticized this coverage as inaccurate. For example, he noted that the study relied on data from trial reports, which are likely to be incomplete.
Awards and honours
Goldacre has won several awards including:
- Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) award for Best Feature 2003 for his article "Never mind the facts".
- Association of British Science Writers award for Best Feature 2005 for his article "Don't dumb me down".
- Freelance of 2006 at the Medical Journalism Awards.
- The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSICOP) presented in 2006 the Balles Prize in Critical Thinking award for his column in The Guardian U.K. newspaper, Bad Science Columns include "Dyslexia 'cure' fails to pass the tests", "Bring me a God helmet, and bring it now", "Kick the habit with wacky wave energy", "Brain Gym exercises do pupils no favors" and "Magnetic attraction? Shhhh. It's a secret"
- The inaugural Statistical Excellence In Journalism Award of the Royal Statistical Society for his article "When the facts get in the way of a story".
- The HealthWatch Award from HealthWatch.
- Honorary Doctor of Science at Heriot-Watt University (June 2009).
- Honorary Doctor of Science at Loughborough University (July 2010).
- Member of the Order of the British Empire (New Year's Honours List 2018).
- Anon (2015). "Goldacre, Dr Ben Michael". Who's Who. ukwhoswho.com (Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
- Ben Goldacre at Library of Congress Authorities
- Anon (2016). "Ben Michael GOLDACRE, Date of birth May 1974". London: Companies House. Archived from the original on 11 August 2016.
- Goldacre, Ben; Gray, Jonathan (2016). "OpenTrials: towards a collaborative open database of all available information on all clinical trials". Trials. 17 (1): 164. doi:10.1186/s13063-016-1290-8. PMC 4825083. PMID 27056367.
- Anon (2007). "2007 Award for statistical excellence in journalism". rss.org.uk. Royal Statistical Society. Archived from the original on 24 April 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
- Anon (2015). "Ben Goldacre joins Oxford University". ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 24 March 2016.
- Goldacre, Ben (2016). "Make journals report clinical trials properly". Nature. 530 (7588): 7. doi:10.1038/530007a. PMID 26842021.
- Slade, Eirion; Drysdale, Henry; Goldacre, Ben (2015). "Discrepancies Between Prespecified and Reported Outcomes". Annals of Internal Medicine. 164 (5): 374. doi:10.7326/L15-0614. PMID 26720309. S2CID 207537735.
- "Pick your pill out of a hat", economist.com, 29 September 2012.
- Goldacre, Ben (2014). I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That. ISBN 978-0007462483.
- "Statins | Ben Goldacre | Macmillan". US Macmillan. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
- "About Dr Ben Goldacre". badscience.net.
- Ben Goldacre at TED
- "Event - Ben Goldacre: I Think You'll Find it's a Bit More Complicated Than That".
- Ian Fairlie (2009). "Book Reviews: Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre". Medicine, Conflict and Survival. 25 (3): 255–257. doi:10.1080/13623690902943552. S2CID 220378364.
- Petridis, Alexis (29 May 2011). "Was 1976 pop's worst year? Yes – and this singer was one of the culprits". The Guardian.
- "The Science Show". ABC Radio National. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
- "We blew a car tire in remote bit of Cheddar Gorge last week when a drongo drove at us on the wrong side of the road. Couldn't repair. No phone signal. 3 young kids. Covid. Lovely family stopped and spent an hour driving to signal, phoning AA for us, etc. Lovely people are lovely". Twitter. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Famous Old Waynfletes". Magdalen College School. 2009. Archived from the original on 6 March 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
- "Ben Goldacre profile at". Peters Fraser Dunlop. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007.
- Goldacre, Ben. "About Dr Ben Goldacre". Archived from the original on 25 September 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
- Finegold, J. A.; Manisty, C.H.; Goldacre, B.; Barron, A.J.; Francis, D.P. (12 March 2014). "What proportion of symptomatic side effects in patients taking statins are genuinely caused by the drug? Systematic review of randomized placebo-controlled trials to aid individual patient choice". European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 21 (4): 464–474. doi:10.1177/2047487314525531. PMID 24623264. S2CID 21064267.
- "List of Registered Medical Practitioners (The online Register)". General Medical Council. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- "Ben Goldacre profile". Peters Fraser Dunlop. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007.
- Baggini, Julian (19 May 2010). "My philosophy: Ben Goldacre". TPM: The Philosophers’ Magazine. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010.
- "MRCPsych part II examination – Autumn 2005". The Royal College of Psychiatrists. 15 December 2005. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011.
- "Staff list". Institute of Psychiatry. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
- Nuffield College Annual Report: Academic Report 2008–2009 (PDF) (Report). Nuffield College, Oxford. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2011.
- Kmietowicz, Z. (2012). "Health minister agrees to meet academics to discuss access to clinical trial data". BMJ. 345 (oct23 4): e7168. doi:10.1136/bmj.e7168. PMID 23093027. S2CID 32288096.
- Staa, T. P.; Goldacre, B; Gulliford, M; Cassell, J; Pirmohamed, M; Taweel, A; Delaney, B; Smeeth, L (2012). "Pragmatic randomised trials using routine electronic health records: Putting them to the test". BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.). 344: e55. doi:10.1136/bmj.e55. PMC 3934788. PMID 22315246.
- Haynes, Laura; Service, Owain; Goldacre, Ben; Torgerson, David. "Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials", cabinetoffice.gov.uk, Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team (UK), June 2012.
- Laura and John Arnold Foundation announces funding support to create open online database clinical trials Archived 19 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, arnoldfoundation.org; accessed 27 July 2015.
- Ben Goldacre's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
- Ben Goldacre publications indexed by Google Scholar
- Ben Goldacre's ORCID 0000-0002-5127-4728
- Paulesu, Eraldo; Goldacre, Ben; Scifo, Paola; Cappa, Stefano F.; Gilardi, Maria Carla; Castiglioni, Isabella; Perani, Daniela; Fazio, Ferruccio (1997). "Functional heterogeneity of left inferior frontal cortex as revealed by fMRI". NeuroReport. 8 (8): 2011–2016. doi:10.1097/00001756-199705260-00042. PMID 9223094. S2CID 36743764.
- Staa, T.-P. v.; Goldacre, B.; Gulliford, M.; Cassell, J.; Pirmohamed, M.; Taweel, A.; Delaney, B.; Smeeth, L. (2012). "Pragmatic randomised trials using routine electronic health records: putting them to the test". BMJ. 344 (feb07 1): e55. doi:10.1136/bmj.e55. ISSN 0959-8138. PMC 3934788. PMID 22315246.
- Goldacre, Ben (2007). "Benefits and risks of homoeopathy". The Lancet. 370 (9600): 1672–1673. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61706-1. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 18022024. S2CID 43588927.
- van der Brug, Marcel P.; Rooney, James; Byrne, Susan; Heverin, Mark; Corr, Bernie; Elamin, Marwa; Staines, Anthony; Goldacre, Ben; Hardiman, Orla (2013). "Survival Analysis of Irish Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Patients Diagnosed from 1995–2010". PLOS ONE. 8 (9): e74733. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074733. PMC 3786977. PMID 24098664.
- "The pandemic has spawned a new way to study medical records", The Economist, 14 May 2020
- Goldacre, Ben; Smeeth, Liam; Bhaskaran, Krishnan; Bacon, Seb; Bates, Chris; Morton, Caroline E.; Curtis, Helen J.; Mehrkar, Amir; Evans, David; Inglesby, Peter; Cockburn, Jonathan; Williamson, Elizabeth J.; Walker, Alex J. (8 July 2020), "OpenSAFELY: factors associated with COVID-19 death in 17 million patients", Nature, 584 (7821): 430–436, doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2521-4, ISSN 1476-4687, PMID 32640463
- Goldacre, Ben (27 July 2007). "Bad Science (weekly column)". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (24 February 2015). "What eight years of writing the Bad Science column have taught me". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben. (2008). A quick fix would stop drug firms bending the truth, The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben. (2008). The danger of drugs … and data. The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (8 September 2005). "Don't dumb me down". The Guardian.
- "The MMR sceptic who just doesn't understand science". Badscience.net. 2 November 2005. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- Goldacre, Ben (3 February 2009). "Bad Science Bingo, with Jeni Barnett". Bad Science.
- Goldacre, Ben (25 March 2006). "Exercise the brain without this transparent nonsense". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (19 November 2005). "How many microbiologists does it take to change a tabloid story?". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (2008). Missing in action: the trials that did not make the news. The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (10 February 2005). "Troubled water". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (7 February 2007). "Brought to book: the poo lady's PhD". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (30 September 2004). "Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD) continued". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- Gibson, Owen (12 February 2007). "TV dietician to stop using title "Dr" in adverts". The Guardian.
- Saunders, Richard (6 February 2009). "The Skeptic Zone #16". The Skeptic Zone. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- No way to treat an Aids hero, The Guardian, 20 January 2007
- 'Gambia's president may be weird, but Aids superstitions strike closer to home’, The Guardian, 27 January 2007.
- 'How money is not the only barrier to Aids patients getting hold of drugs’, The Guardian, 17 February 2007.
- Boseley, Sarah (13 September 2008). "Fall of the doctor who said his vitamins would cure Aids". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (12 September 2008). "Matthias Rath drops his million pound legal case against me and the Guardian". badscience.net. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
- Goldacre, Ben. Matthias Rath – steal this chapter, badscience.net, 9 April 2009.
- Saunders, Richard. "The Skeptic Zone #16 – 06.Feb.2009". The Skeptic Zone. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
There are bad things happening in medicine and academia but people talk about them, people criticize them, you know, and in the world of alternative therapies, you can be as far out as Matthias Rath and nobody will say a word.
- Goldacre, Ben (2008). Bad Science. Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-724019-7. OCLC 259713114.
- Smith, Richard (1 October 2008). "Becoming Ben". BMJ. 337 (337): a1856. doi:10.1136/bmj.a1856. S2CID 220115523.
- Goldacre, Ben. "Bad Science (Fourth Estate)". Samuel Johnson Prize. Archived from the original on 16 July 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- Lake, Ed (26 September 2008). "Review: Bad Science by Ben Goldacre". The Daily Telegraph.
- Ben Goldacre interviewed, The Science Show, Part 2, Australian Broadcasting Company.
- "The drugs don't work: a modern medical scandal", The Guardian, 21 September 2012.
- Bad Pharma, p. xi.
- Atheist Bus – Official Website » The Atheist's Guide To Christmas (AKA The Atheist Book Campaign) Archived 8 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, atheistbus.org.uk; accessed 27 July 2015.
- "Five Minutes With: Ben Goldacre". BBC (Interview). Retrieved 8 September 2012.
- Goldacre, B. (2007). "MMR: The scare stories are back". BMJ. 335 (7611): 126–127. doi:10.1136/bmj.39280.447419.59. PMC 1925159. PMID 17634177.
- Goldacre, B. (2007). "How doctors can get behind the headlines". BMJ. 334 (7594): 613. doi:10.1136/bmj.39160.566285.47. PMC 1832019. PMID 17379907.
- Goldacre, B. (2007). "Journalists: Anything to declare?". BMJ. 335 (7618): 480. doi:10.1136/bmj.39328.450000.59. PMC 1971144. PMID 17823189.
- Goldacre, B. (2007). "Behold the Christmas miracle of antioxidants". BMJ. 335 (7630): 1124. doi:10.1136/bmj.39413.403750.59. PMC 2099529. PMID 18048537.
- Goldacre, B. (2007). "Beware of mentioning psychosocial factors". BMJ. 335 (7624): 801. doi:10.1136/bmj.39370.657130.59. PMC 2034685. PMID 17947783.
- Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials
- "Here's my… foreword to the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway guidebook – Bad Science".
- Knapton, Sarah (13 March 2014). "Statins have virtually no side-effects, study finds". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- Goldacre, Ben (13 March 2014). "Statins have no side effects? What our study really found, its fixable flaws, and why trials transparency matters (again)". Badscience.net. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- Belluz, Julia (2014). "Meet the anti-Dr. Oz: Ben Goldacre". vox.com.
- "Hancock sets up multiskilled HealthTech Advisory Board chaired by Ben Goldacre". National Health Executive. 7 September 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Goldacre, Ben (11 December 2003). "Never mind the facts". The Guardian.
- Goldacre, Ben (8 September 2005). "Don't dumb me down". The Guardian.
- "MJA News October/November 2006" (PDF). Medical Journalists Association. 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
- "CSI's Robert P. Balles Award Goes to 'Guardian 'Bad Science' Columnist Ben Goldacre". Skeptical Inquirer. 31 (5): 13. 2007.
- Goldacre, Ben (1 April 2006). "When the facts get in the way of a story". The Guardian.
- Heriot-Watt University Graduations: Honorary Graduates Archived 22 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine, hw.ac.uk; accessed 27 July 2015.
- Loughborough University News and Events: Honorary Graduates, lboro.ac.uk; accessed 27 July 2015.
- "New Year 2018 - Queens List - Final" (PDF). gov.uk. UK Government. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
- "Bad Science", Goldacre's column for The Guardian
- Ben Goldacre part 1 on ABC Radio National's The Science Show], 1 November 2008 (with audio and transcript)
- Pulse Project podcast, 12 May 2009, Skeptics in the Pub Oxford (radio show with Goldacre)
- Standup on the placebo effect at Nerdstock, December 2009 (video)
- Ben Goldacre biography, phc.ox.ac.uk; accessed 27 July 2015.
- Ben Goldacre publications indexed by Google Scholar