Science: So What? campaign modifies claims about childhood nutrition

We’ve previously pointed out that the Science: So What? campaign overplayed the evidence on childhood nutrition. They claimed that

long-running research involving hundreds of children has now decisively proven, for the first time, the direct link between infant diet and later obesity. It’s a fact: babies who eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable have a significantly reduced risk of obesity in later life.

While we are all in favour of eating plenty of fruit and veg, we aren’t aware of research decisively proves this type of link. We were therefore pleased to see that Science: So What? have modified their claims. They now state that:

Research, looking at the diet of hundreds of children, suggests a strong link between infant diet and later obesity and eating habits in later life

This is a definite improvement, though it is still a shame that they do not link the articles they are referring to.

We are not sure whether these changes were in response to our blog post and e-mail querying the earlier claims – we have not had a reply – or were made independently. In terms of science communication, this absence of the ability to comment on the site – and failure to reply to an e-mail – does leave something to be desired.



Filed under patrick holford

15 responses to “Science: So What? campaign modifies claims about childhood nutrition

  1. not sure about the link between kids’ diet and future obesity, but Prof. Jane Wardle @ UCL ( has done a lot of excellent work on the link between nutrition, calorie intake, genetic variations and obesity in children – just look at the plethora of publications!

  2. Wulfstan

    It’s odd what Science: So What? chooses to link to or not. Their blog has an unimpressively long list of US blogs and sites. Their output is limited to reproducing items in the press or press releases of their own or allied organisations. There’s no comment to the point where one has to imagine that the people running this are incapable of commenting – probably for reasons to do with the flavour of their education.

    Why do they not link to obvious places such as Understanding Uncertainty?

    Whoever chose those links has a superficial or trite knowledge of the UK science blogosphere.

    Whoever chose their showcased celebs at their splashy launch has a superficial or trite etc.

    It looks like you have been giving these people the benefit of the doubt to no avail. They need to admit their error and talk with the people who can advise them properly – however, there are doubtless a bunch of PR or comms experts who are telling them that they know best and that scientists have no part in campaigns because they ‘can’t communicate effectively’ – or, of course, there are the people who dismissed thoughtful input as the ‘warblings of social scientists’.

    Has anyone in the UK had a blog comment or approach from any of the people involved in Science: So What? despite the fact that they employ a (clueless, LOLing) Social Media Manager etc.? Far too busy being cool and tweeting their other media and marketing colleagues about how marvellous each others campaign launches are to actually engage with any of the active science people who are using social media in the UK.

    • Wulfstan

      I knew that I’d read this but couldn’t find it before posting the earlier comment. Science: So What?:

      @astronomyblog can you recommend us your favourite british science blogs? thanks!

      Because there would be no way that they would have been working on this project for all this time and actually deigned to go out and look at BritBlogs or any of the aggregators or ask around – all before, you know, launching their campaign.

      From what I can see, they are still looking through the recommendations.

      I would be willing to bet that they have a folder full of justifications as to why they are really right and how their campaign launch and subsequent activities have been impeccable. There’s probably a breakdown of expenditure v. column inches generated and photographs because they will, of course, be far more interested in interest from old media than involvement or buy-in from new media.

    • Speaking for HolfordWatch, no, we have not had a comment or overture from SSW. afaik, no other Bad Science bloggers have had a comment or approach.

      Now you’ve mentioned it, it doesn’t speak well for their social media or digital engagement strategy.

  3. Wulfstan: I’m getting a bit of a Nathan Barley vibe off SSW.

    Although it’s not that bad. Overcoming Bias is on their blogroll which is an excellent sign.

    Neuroskeptic isn’t though…yet.

    • Hm – actually, I have to agree that for a UK organisation there does not seem to be the preponderance of UK science blogs – and particularly not when Oxford is represented more than once.

      Aside from your good self, a striking omission is Gaylard who has not only been included in Open Lab 2008 but also the What Science Means to Me, video – Paul of Hawk-Handsaw has done some excellent work related to homeopathy and has some upcoming publications on it.

      It is not an appropriate blog roll and doesn’t reflect their mission or their message – in so far as we understand them.

  4. Pingback: Science: So What? campaign overplays the evidence on childhood nutrition and health « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  5. I am from the team at Science: [So What? So Everything]. We are pleased to see that the site and blog has a readership amongst the online science community and welcome comments and criticisms about the campaign. However, it is also of utmost importance to us that we engage the wider public with science in an accessible and friendly way. For this reason it is not always appropriate to cite original research when creating online content.

    The case studies on the site are an extension of the offline media campaign and support our message. With regards to the blog and twitter feed, our aim is to report on current interesting news stories, including, but not limited to, the UK scientific community. Our blogroll is representative of the broad range of individuals who follow us on Twitter and the blog itself. We are of course interested in all science blogs, including those that are UK-based, but must acknowledge that the online community, and scientific blogospheres, are particularly international.

    • Those sentiments seem a tad sententious – particularly given that, as a commenter rather than blog author states, your team had to ask for recommendations for UK blogs as they seem unfamiliar with them.

      We can not agree with your comment about the appropriateness of citing and linking to the research – it offers a level of useful granularity for those who are interested and links do not interfere with the reading experience of those who do not care to explore further. The New York Times has an exemplary, unobtrusive policy in this area.

      Inaccuracy is a poor way to extend and support your message.

      You do not display a noticeable degree of discrimination or appropriateness in your blog or twitter feed as to the quality of the reporting of a science story – as such, it is difficult to perceive how that extends to any general cause or support for science excellence. Is anybody currently involved in Science: So What? appropriately qualified to identify appropriate coverage and plausible stories?

      We invite you to read the posts on this site that relate to Science: So What and to science communication: e.g., Science Communication: So What.

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