Friday, January 29, 2010

A Quick Note

As I write this, I'm at the 17th Annual CARD Conference in Lake Mary, Florida, waiting for the poster sessions to open. I brought a copy of Ioannidis, 2008 for leisure reading, and was struck by the following quote:

On the other hand, research in a field with small studies, strong conflicts of interest, intense competition for generating 'positive' results and prior documentation of publication bias should have high prior odds of bias before doing the meta-analysis [25]. Even if no signal is shown in statistical tests for bias, the odds of bias remain high.

This description seems... awfully familiar. <sarcasm>I wonder just what field I'm thinking of.</sarcasm>

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Highly Misleading News Articles

Catching up on a newsfeed, I came across this article. Suffice it to say I wasn't impressed -- at all.
In essence, the article reports data from the National Birth Defect Registry and notes that "over 60%" of autistic children entered into their database had some form of structural birth defect as well as an autism diagnosis. I was pretty surprised at this news -- just not by the fact that the number was so high.

My surprise was at two things: One, that they considered this news... and, two, that the number was so low.

You see, the registry relies on parents to input data on their children. Specifically, it requires parents to register their children with birth defects.

Obviously, this means that not every child with a birth defect gets entered. More importantly, parents will only enter their children if they believe that said children have birth defects.

Now... how many parents of autistic children consider autism a birth defect?

The news story suggests that the answer is higher than I thought. Of course, it may just be that some of the remaining 40% have other issues. I don't know -- I haven't seen the data.

This, of course, is what is known as selection bias. More specifically, it's a blatant case of sampling bias.

In other words -- why the heck is this news?

The answer: media sensationalism. Frankly, publication of this article fails pretty much any accepted standard of journalistic ethics, specifically because of accuracy standards and the harm limitation principle. On the other hand, that's never stopped the publication of countless other sensationalized articles...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Restraint & Seclusion Legislation National Call-In Day

Today is Restraint & Seclusion Legislation National Call-In Day. Lacking the energy to do a proper write-up, I'm just going to copy ASAN's announcement on the topic.

I've made one minor alteration, by removing a text-based spelling out of a URL and replacing it with a link.

Dear Friends, Advocates and Community Members,

In one week, Congress will come back in session. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), in conjunction with the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), is asking you to join us in a National Call-In Day on Thursday, January 21st to tell your members of Congress to support the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (H.R. 4247/S.2860) introduced last month by Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). This legislation would provide students with and without disabilities vital protections against abuse in schools. We are providing details on how to contact your members of Congress -- please distribute this announcement widely.


Please call this coming Thursday and encourage your friends, family and coworkers to participate by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking for your Congressional representative to Co-Sponsor H.R. 4247, and your senators to Co-Sponsor S. 2860.

• To find out the names of your US Senators and Representative, click here
• Ask for the offices of your US Senators and Representative
• Ask to speak to the person working on education issues
• Identify yourself as a constituent and the organization that you represent (if any)

Message: " I am calling to urge (Senator y) to cosponsor S.2860, legislation preventing harmful use of restraint and seclusion in schools."

Message: "I am calling to urge (Representative z) to cosponsor HR 4247, legislation preventing harmful use of restraint and seclusion in schools."

Thanks for your advocacy. Increasing congressional support for these bills will help move them through the legislative process towards enactment. Please call on January 21, 2010 and tell your friends and family to join you. If you are interested in doing more, please e-mail us at for information about how you can arrange a meeting with your representatives to explain why this bill is essential or visit to learn more.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the APRAIS Coalition

Saturday, January 9, 2010

On Exhaustion, Part Two

I have memory issues -- pretty significant ones, at that. Without the extensive use of mnemonic devices and various external memory aids, I wouldn't be able to make it through the day. Despite this, my memory significantly outperforms most people's in many respects. It's one of the many ironic aspects of my life.

When I'm especially tired, however, another aspect of this pops up. My memory issues get worse and worse as I sink into exhaustion. As if this wasn't bad enough, however, when my exhaustion passes a certain point, I start to actually misremember various things. While this starts with minor details, it progresses if I don't get some desperately-needed rest.

I passed that point yesterday.

This is very much not a good thing. Fortunately, I detected what was going on pretty early and excused myself from an ongoing advocacy case to get the rest I needed. I won't be doing any direct work in that for a while.