David B. Allison

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David Bradley Allison
David B. Allison, September 2014.jpg
David B. Allison speaking at an awards presentation
Born 1963
New York City[1]
Fields Biostatistics
Institutions University of Alabama, Birmingham
Alma mater Vassar College, Hofstra University
Thesis Toward an empirically derived typology of obese persons (1990)
Notable awards Lilly Scientific Achievement Award from the Obesity Society (2002), Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring[1]

David Bradley Allison (born 1963) is an American obesity researcher, biostatistician, and psychologist. He is Distinguished Professor, Quetelet Endowed Professor of Public Health, and Associate Dean for Science of the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).



According to data analyzed by the journal Nature, Allison has ranked in the top 10 for most federally funded grants.[2] Allison has been described as one of the leading skeptics regarding commonly issued nutrition advice.[3] Author Judith Stern wrote "He is also known for challenging conventional ideas, exploring novel hypotheses, and holding himself and others to rigorous standards of evidence."[1] Although Allison has had some critics regarding his stance on questioning the link between consuming any one particular food and obesity, he has been defended by others and praised for his strong adherence to solid scientific practice. [4][5][6][7]

Allison is the founding Field Chief Editor of Frontiers in Genetics.[8] He also serves as a frequent consultant and expert witness in the legal setting.[9]

Promotion of Rigor[edit]

The New England Journal of Medicine published an article by Allison's group that details myths and presumptions about obesity, and that the scientific community must be open and honest with the public regarding the state of knowledge and should rigorously evaluate unproved strategies.[10] In a 2016 article in the journal Nature, Allison and his colleagues found that mistakes in peer-reviewed papers are easy to find, but hard to fix.[11] Allison has been funded by the National Institutes of Health to teach courses on identifying causal relations in the study of obesity, and exploring traditional and non-traditional techniques that give investigators a broad spectrum of approaches for intervention and preventative treatment of obesity. [12] The National Institutes of Health is currently funding Allison to explore statistical tools to improve research reproducibility, replicability, and generalizability so as to contribute broadly to fostering fundamental creative discoveries, innovative research strategies, and promoting the highest level of scientific integrity in the conduct of science. [13] Allison will be an invited speaker on the Reproducibility of Research and Issues of Analysis at the Arthur M. Sackler COLLOQUIA of the National Academy of Sciences on March 8, 2017.[14]

Skepticism and Counter Skepticism[edit]

In 2008, Allison resigned as president-elect of the Obesity Society after signing an affidavit (expert report) stating that there was insufficient scientific evidence available to determine whether a proposed a law to require calorie counts to be listed on restaurant menus would be effective in reducing obesity levels. The New York Times reported that Allison's affidavit "ran counter to the conventional thinking in his field" and provoked criticism from some members of the Society.[9] In 2011, ABC News ran a story about Allison. The story quoted him as saying there was too little "solid evidence" to support a link between soft drink consumption and obesity. The article noted that "...critics say his skepticism stems from his financial ties to entities such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and the American Beverage Association..."[15]

Allison was featured in the 2014 documentary film Fed Up, produced and hosted by Katie Couric, which criticized him for being funded by food companies. Allison responded that "the film-makers' behavior seems counter to thoughtful dialogue," and the film's producers have since been approached and investigated for deceptive editing practices. [16][17][18]


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