In response to a FOIA request, Durham has told us about another significant flaw in their fish oil (non)trial: the ‘treatment’ arm was students with more than 80% reported compliance with supplementation with Equazen fish oil pills; the ‘control groups was selected from any students with less than 80% reported compliance. This means that – while a student with 80% reported compliance could have counted as an example of the success of this ‘treatment’ – a student with 79% reported compliance could have been compared to them as part of the ‘control group’.
I am really not sure what to say. An earlier FOIA response gave the impression that Durham had mishandled their control group, but I wanted to check with Durham’s (very helpful) Freedom of Information Coordinator to confirm that this had really happened. I honestly found it hard to believe that Durham could have handled this research so badly.
Once again, it’s worth emphasising that this was a large research project, conducted in schools, on children. There is a responsibility – when people allow their time and their bodies to be used in research – to conduct the research competently. There are also particular ethical issues raised by research on children. The mishandling of Durham’s research on children in their schools is, frankly, shameful.