David Robert Grimes

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David Robert Grimes, 2018

David Robert Grimes (born 1985) is an Irish physicist, cancer researcher and science writer, who contributes to several media outlets on questions of science and society. He has a diverse range of research interests, and is a vocal advocate for increased public understanding of science. He is also a recipient of the Sense About Science / Nature Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science in the face of Adversity.

Early life[edit]

Born in Dublin, from Skerries, Grimes spent over a decade in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.[1] As a student he was a keen musician and actor, with an interest in science.[2] He undertook his undergraduate degree in applied physics at DCU, serving on the Student Union as faculty-wide Science and Health Convenor 2005–2006,[3] and on DCU drama committee,[4] graduating in 2007 with the Lyman medal in physics.[5] Grimes then undertook a doctorate, funded by an Irish Research Council award.[6]

Research interests[edit]

Grimes' doctoral work was in ultraviolet radiation physics.[7] His postdoctoral work, at the University of Oxford, focused on medical physics and oncology,[8] modelling tumour oxygen distribution and hypoxia,[9] oxygen-radiation interactions[10] and non-invasive imaging.[11] He has a number of other research interests, including critical pieces on homoeopathic claims from a physics perspective,[12] and a 2014 study on the physics of electric guitar playing,[13] covered extensively in world media.[14] In 2016, he published work analysing common scientific conspiracy claims using a Poisson statistical framework,[15] which suggested such massive conspiracies would quickly collapse, also widely covered worldwide.[16]

Science outreach[edit]

Grimes is best known for science journalism and outreach, and has contributed to numerous publications, including Irish Times,[17] The Guardian,[18] the BBC, and other outlets.[19] His pieces focus on aspects of science and society, as well as debunking pseudoscience on topics that can be controversial in the public mind, such as vaccination, climate-change, gun control, nuclear power, public health and scientific misconceptions.

Grimes has advocated secularism in the Irish education system.[20][21] He criticised Irish religious conservatives for misrepresenting the research on abortion and same-sex marriage for political purposes, acknowledging that, while they were entitled to ethical misgivings, their policy of .."misrepresenting research.. to bolster religious views is a transparently cynical exercise".[22][23][24][25] This prompted strong reactions from members of the Iona Institute.[26][27]

Fluoride and cannabis campaigns[edit]

Grimes has been critical of anti-fluoride campaigns, in particular a 2013 Sinn Féin bill to ban fluoride in water.[28] This stance made him the target of conspiracy theories, and prompted a campaign to have him removed from his university post. The bill was ultimately defeated.

Grimes has also been publicly critical of a medicinal cannabis campaign by People Before Profit, specifically cure-all claims made by representatives of the campaign. He has particularly criticised dubious claims linking cannabis to cures for cancer and autism,[29] saying that these positions are not supported by the evidence and could put patients at risk.

Criticism of anti-vaccine movement and false balance[edit]

Grimes has been particularly vocal against the anti-vaccine movement, focusing on assertions by anti-HPV vaccine groups whose arguments, Grimes says, consist of "anecdotes, emotive appeals and easily debunked assertions", opining that "lives of countless young men and women count on us being guided by evidence rather than rhetoric."[30] In 2016, following controversy around the film Vaxxed, Grimes was drawn into a debate with former doctor Andrew Wakefield on Irish radio. Grimes later wrote of his reluctance to take part in the debate, and how providing Wakefield with any platform is false balance.[31] He was extremely critical of the decision by Regent's University to host Wakefield, explaining that "Wakefield is a long-debunked fear merchant."[32]

Grimes was also part of a subsequent successful campaign to have screenings of the movie pulled in both London and at the European parliament.[33][34] In response, he has drawn the ire of anti-vaccine opponents and conspiracy theorists, including the Alliance for Natural Health, who labelled him a 'skeptic knight' alongside Brian Cox and Simon Singh.[35][36][37]

Advocating for evidence-based medicine[edit]

Grimes has drawn attention to charlatans who take advantage of vulnerable people using pseudoscience, particularly autistic people and cancer sufferers. Equally, he has been vocal about crowdfunding for dubious medical conditions and clinics, such as the Burzynkski clinic in Texas, US, stating that while emotive, "... raising money for such causes does not help sufferers one iota – it benefits only those with the audacity to push false hope at great expense.".[38]

Grimes has written at length about questionable treatments for conditions such as electromagnetic hypersensitivity which, the evidence suggests, is a psychological rather than physiological illness, criticising clinics who claim to offer cures for the ailment.[39][40] Grimes has been particularly critical of homoeopathy, both in academic work and in popular press, which has led to angry responses from homoeopaths.[41][42]

Public understanding of science[edit]

Grimes states that a major challenge in communicating about science is not strictly information deficit but rather ideological bias, and that motivated reasoning is a vital factor to acknowledge. To support this claim, he points to the evidence that political leanings influence whether one accepts the scientific consensus on climate-change.[43] Similarly, he has argued, both in popular media and academically, that acceptance of nuclear power, gun control and vaccination is strongly influenced by ideological beliefs.[44][45] Grimes argues that overcoming our implicit biases and gaining a better understanding of the scientific method would improve our decision making and benefit both society and individuals.[46][47]

Awards and honours[edit]

In recognition of his efforts to present science despite hostility, Grimes was joint recipient of the 2014 Sense About Science / Nature Maddox Prize for standing up for science in the face of adversary,[48] and was commended by Cancer Research UK for being "... an excellent media ambassador for CRUK, and for his efforts to dispel misconceptions in science and medicine".[49] In 2015, he was also induced into the Dublin City University Alumni Wall for his research and outreach work.[50]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Interview with Dr David Robert Grimes".
  2. ^ "Why I became . ." The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  3. ^ "DCU Alumni Wall – Our 2015 Awardees | DCU". www4.dcu.ie. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Committee Vice-Chair : Dcu Drama". redbrick.dcu.ie. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Awards | School of Physical Sciences | DCU". www.dcu.ie. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Research.ie awards 2007–2008".
  7. ^ Robert, Grimes, David (November 2011). "Development of a radiation computation dose model for use in ultraviolet phototherapy". doras.dcu.ie. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  8. ^ "David Robert Grimes". University of Oxford. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  9. ^ The Royal Society (25 September 2014), Oxygen dynamics in tumour models, retrieved 21 July 2017
  10. ^ "A breath of fresh air – Shedding light on oxygen, radiation and cancer treatment | University of Oxford". University of Oxford. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  11. ^ Grimes, David Robert; Warren, Daniel R; Warren, Samantha (25 May 2017). "Hypoxia imaging and radiotherapy: bridging the resolution gap". The British Journal of Radiology: 20160939. doi:10.1259/bjr.20160939. ISSN 0007-1285.
  12. ^ Grimes, David Robert (1 September 2012). "Proposed mechanisms for homeopathy are physically impossible". Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 17 (3): 149–155. doi:10.1111/j.2042-7166.2012.01162.x. ISSN 2042-7166.
  13. ^ "The physics of lead guitar playing | University of Oxford". University of Oxford. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  14. ^ Grimes, David Robert (23 July 2014). "String Theory – The Physics of String-Bending and Other Electric Guitar Techniques". PLOS ONE. 9 (7): e102088. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102088. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4108333. PMID 25054880.
  15. ^ Berezow, Alex (26 January 2016). "Maths study shows conspiracies 'prone to unravelling'". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  16. ^ Grimes, David Robert (26 January 2016). "On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs". PLOS ONE. 11 (1): e0147905. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147905. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4728076. PMID 26812482.
  17. ^ "Search". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  18. ^ "David Robert Grimes". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Dr David Robert Grimes: challenging claims and standing up for science". Which? Conversation. 12 November 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  20. ^ "Evil, militant anti-Christian secularism is simply a myth". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  21. ^ "Richard Dawkins is right: children need secular education, where all rights are respected". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  22. ^ "Facts still sacred despite Ireland's spectrum of conflicting views on abortion". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  23. ^ "Strong religious convictions are no excuse for misrepresenting research". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  24. ^ "A scientist weighs up the five main anti-abortion arguments". The Guardian. 12 August 2015. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  25. ^ "Why the bad science of the no campaign shouldn't sway Ireland's voters". The Guardian. 22 May 2015. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  26. ^ "There is no evidence to suggest we should abandon traditional marriage as basis of our society". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Drinks industry strategy relies on recruiting young drinkers to their brand". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  28. ^ Grimes, David Robert (4 April 2014). "Politicians should stop pandering to anti-fluoridation campaigners". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  29. ^ "The rise of the cannabis cult: don't believe the hype about medical marijuana | Spectator Health". Spectator Health. 15 May 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  30. ^ "We know it's effective. So why is there opposition to the HPV vaccine ?". The Guardian. 11 January 2016. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  31. ^ "Impartial journalism is laudable. But false balance is dangerous". The Guardian. 8 November 2016. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  32. ^ "Disgraced anti‑MMR vaccine doctor Andrew Wakefield gets invitation to university in London". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  33. ^ Chivers, Tom. "A Cinema in London Has Pulled A Documentary by a Disgraced Anti-Vaccine Activist". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  34. ^ Grimes, David Robert (1 February 2017). "Three men make a tiger: Letter to President Tajani regarding EU parliament screening of anti-vaccine documentary 'Vaxxed'". Three men make a tiger. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  35. ^ "Vaccines, media manipulation and open minds". Alliance for Natural Health International. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  36. ^ "The Richie Allen Show on Davidicke.com: Anna Cannon from 'Regret' – 'Hundreds Of Irish Girls Suffering Because Of HPV Vaccine' | David Icke". www.davidicke.com. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  37. ^ Grimes, David Robert (15 March 2017). "Why thank you, Alliance for Natural Health – I am young & hip, with cool hair. What, this was supposed to insult me?!pic.twitter.com/dx8jaCAzPj". @drg1985. Retrieved 26 July 2017.[non-primary source needed]
  38. ^ Grimes, David Robert (30 August 2016). "Fundraising appeals for the desperately ill are moving, but evidence is crucial". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  39. ^ Grimes, David Robert (17 February 2016). "Household electromagnetic radiation doesn't make you ill or give you cancer. Here's why". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  40. ^ Chivers, Tom. "A Charity Could Face Investigation Over Its Adverts That Claim W-iFi And Mobile Phones Make People Ill". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  41. ^ "Homeopathy does not work beyond a placebo effect". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  42. ^ "David Robert Grimes's ignorant "Opinion" in Irish Times – Stephen Blendell Homeopath". Stephen Blendell Homeopath. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  43. ^ "Denying climate change isn't scepticism – it's 'motivated reasoning'". The Guardian. 5 February 2014. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  44. ^ Grimes, David Robert (29 August 2014). "Libertarian ideology is the natural enemy of science". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  45. ^ Grimes, David Robert (26 January 2016). "On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs". PLOS ONE. 11 (1): e0147905. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147905. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4728076. PMID 26812482.
  46. ^ "The way we argue now". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  47. ^ "Society would benefit from a better understanding of what is and isn't science". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  48. ^ "2014 John Maddox Prize – Sense about Science". senseaboutscience.org. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  49. ^ "Cancer Research UK – Research Engagement Prizes" (PDF).
  50. ^ "DCU Alumni Wall – Our 2015 Awardees | DCU". www4.dcu.ie. Retrieved 21 July 2017.

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