What we’re reading 5 February 2010

blogsIn the BMJ editorial office, we often come across interesting articles, blogs, and web pages. We thought we would share these with you. Some are medical, some techie, and some just general.

Eureka’s Top 30 Science Blogs
The staff of Eureka, The Times’ weekly science supplement, have published a list of their top 30 science blogs.  Blogs that cover medicine include the Cancer Research UK Science Update, Effect Measure, Neuronculture, and NHS Choices.  My favourites from this list are the brilliant psychology blog Mind Hacks, written by clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell of King’s College London and friends, Respectful Insolence by the always vociferous surgeon “Orac”, and Not Exactly Rocket Science by Ed Yong.  Many of the top blogs on the Eureka list are hosted by Science Blogs, an umbrella site for more than 80 science bloggers that is well worth checking out.

From test-tube to tabloid: communicating cancer research
Last month the British Library and National Cancer Research Institute Informatics Initiative ran an event about communicating cancer research – to doctors, policymakers, the public, and other scientists.  I didn’t make it to the conference but the bloggers at Cancer Research UK did and have written a summary about it.
Helen Jaques, technical editor

Do you praise your children too much?
I love articles about parenting. I don’t know why. I don’t have kids. I first got interested in this stuff ten years ago when I worked for a dotcom start-up set up by Miriam Stoppard. In the Times last week, I stumbled across an article about NutureShock. Written by journalists Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson, the book says parents are wrong to praise children for their innate skills. So telling a child they are bright, a legacy of the 1970s self esteem movement, could actually result in them becoming risk averse and complacent under achievers, argue the authors. Ashley and Po base the book on the research of Stanford professor Carol Dweck. How many doctors, I wonder, were praised relentlessly as children?

Talking of praised children, I’m currently reading, Personality, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Personality-Andrew-OHagan/dp/0571217753) by Andrew O’Hagan. The novel is based on the life of child star Lena Zavaroni, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lena_Zavaroni) who died aged 35 in 1999 following a long battle with anorexia. Its hero Maria Tambini is catapulted to fame after winning Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks and is uprooted from her chip shop home in Scotland to the vast Primrose Hill villa of her London agent. Tambini is certainly praised, but only really from people with a pecuniary interest in her success, including a ruthlessly ambitious mother. I’m halfway through and Tambini’s eating disorder is taking hold. The most poignant passage to date is am epistolary chapter between Maria and her childhood friend, the daughter of the local (Indian) doctor. The friend talks of pop music, teenage crushes and exam subjects. Maria, who has never read a book in her life, has less and less to say, despite sharing a stage with Liberace and singing for Ronald and the pencil-thin Nancy Reagan (who tells her to watch her figure). All we get are make-up tips from a disengaged lonely teenager with an increasingly negative self-image.
David Payne, editor bmj.com

This commentary in JAMA suggests we should be cautious in urging universal sodium reduction. The author points out that the data in support of this strategy come from observational studies and are conflicting. He reminds us that the 1980 US government recommendations to decrease dietary fat are now suspected of contributing to the ensuing obesity epidemic and that “trans-fat consumption and postmenopausal hormone therapy are other examples of how well-meaning interventions, based on insufficient science, can have hazardous consequences.”

This commentary, also from JAMA, nicely summarizes the unanswered questions about the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on satiety.
Elizabeth Loder, research editor

I am going to become vegetarian for Lent, so I read about this initiative to persuade people to have “Meat free Mondays” with interest. The site explains the reasons why we should all eat less meat, as well as providing recipes and ideas to help stick to it. On a similar note, but with a more extreme message, the writer Jonathan Safran Foer, would like us all to become vegan. His new book, “Eating Animals” has not yet been released in the UK, but an excerpt is available here http://www.eatinganimals.com/site/book/
Juliet Walker, assistant web editor

Nine startup dreams and industries Google crushed in 2009
Unfashionable science matters
Eurosurveillance, Volume 15, Issue 4, 28 January 2010
Statistical question: Allocation concealment
Birte Twisselmann, deputy editor bmj.com