Two members of the Food for the Brain (FFTB) Scientific Advisory Board were asked about the FFTB child survey we’ve been analysing here, and they gave a very interesting response. The SAB Chair – Prof David Smith – replied that “the report is more hypothesis-generating for future research than a rigorous scientific study….Find us some money and we will do a proper job.” Here at HolfordWatch, we’re pleased that Prof Smith acknowledges that this report was neither “rigorous scientific study” nor “a proper job”: this entirely concurs with our own analyses of this work. We also agree with SAB-member Prof Cowen’s statement that the Survey is “not informative about causality”. However, we’re disappointed that – if the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) knew that this report was not done properly, and does not provide useful information about policy – they allowed it to be represented as something on which dietary and policy decisions could be based. We would also note that – even as an exercise in hypothesis-generation – the Survey is quite woefully inadequate.
The Survey’s literature review is riddled with errors and wholly inadequate: the authors thus fail to give due consideration to the work of other researchers when developing their hypothesis. The methodology is deeply flawed: significant compounding factors are largely ignored, and the questionnaire used has not been validated and is extremely hard to interpret.
The reporting of results is also inadequate: this is partial, and the representation and statistical analysis of the results is also full of errors. Basic statistical and mathematical errors are also not a helpful addition to an exercise in hypothesis generation. All of these problems means that the Survey does not support the conclusions drawn from it (and it is hard to see how such poor quality work could lead to any useful conclusions).
The literature review is riddled with flaws; the data interpretation and summary is flawed and there is something seriously amiss with the claims made for the data. With this in mind, we can only wonder what it would take to convince FFTB that it is time to withdraw this report and issue some corrections, or to convince the SAB to withdraw their support from this report.
At HolfordWatch, we are happy to accept that hypotheses can be generated from this survey: this has already taken place. However, the quality of this work is such that we fail to see how it is any more useful for hypothesis generation than, for example, fairy tales or dice-throwing; we suspect that you would get a much more sensible response if you simply asked your Gran what you should eat. We’re therefore surprised that Professors Cowen, Holford, and Smith all appear to see this report as useful.
To conclude, we were also struck by Prof Smith’s novel approach to research funding applications: he appears to be arguing that failing to do the initial research properly is a valid reason to be given more money for additional research. This does not fit with our knowledge of how research funding works. We believe that many would view such inadequate preliminary research as a good reason not to provide an organisation with additional research funding, at least until funding bodies can be assured that a competent Principle Investigator and appropriate Supervision have been put in place.
On the other hand, if Prof Holford’s less-than-stellar research record lead to him being awarded a Chair at Teesside University, and one sees the nominally peer-reviewed Nutrition Journal publishing such dubious research, perhaps we are lagging behind the times… We watch with interest to see whether any bona fide peer-reviewed journal is prepared to lower its standards sufficiently to publish an article based on the Survey.
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: The Promotion
Holford Watch looks at the literature review:
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 1
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 2
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 3
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 4
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 5
Holford Watch appeals for help to Professor Holford and two members of the Scientific Advisory Board who approved this report and then looks at the data and analyses:
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 7
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 8
Why Don’t Food for the Brain Report Their Survey Results on Supplement Pills Survey: Review Part 9
Food for the Brain Child Survey 2007: Review Part 10