History

Sense about Science was founded in 2001 when media scare stories — from the MMR wars to mobile phones ‘frying your brain’ — were rife, and public confidence in science was at an all-time low. We set out to change that: to advocate and support the public interest in sound science, and to encourage scientists to participate in public discussion. Here are some highlights from our history…

2016

Transparency of evidence: an assessment of government policy proposals May 2015 to May 2016 is published.

Pioneer in understanding of human memory, Professor Elizabeth Loftus awarded the 2016 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science

TrialsTracker, an automated clinical trials tracker shows around half of all trials have not published results and shines a spotlight on the worst companies and universities.

100+ people from across the country went to parliament to tell parliamentarians, ministers and officials why evidence matters to them.

Missing Evidence, our report on the scale and sources of delayed publication of government research is published.

In September, the UN released a landmark report calling on governments worldwide to pass legislation requiring clinical trials to be registered, and their methods and results to be fully reported.

Our EU office opens in Brussels

We launched a series of short animations as part of the Ask for Evidence campaign

Sense about Science campaigns to repeal the UK government’s anti-lobbying clause

The American Medical Association joins the AllTrials campaign

2015

Tracey Brown gives the tenth annual lecture: ‘The Ugly Truth’ on the nature of scientific uncertainty

The new EU Clinical Trials Regulation passed in 2015 contains law that says clinical trials in Europe must be registered and reported — thanks to the AllTrials campaign

White House Office for Science and Technology Policy invites us to talk about AllTrials

AllTrials USA launches with support from 50 patient support groups, medical societies, universities and consumer groups

Prof Edzard Ernst and Prof Susan Jebb are the two winners of the 2015 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science

Making Sense of Screening published

Making Sense of Allergies  published

Investors representing more than €3.5 trillion in assets ask the pharmaceutical companies they invest in to move towards transparency. The groups of 85 pension funds and asset managers support the aims of the AllTrials campaign and want the pharma companies to set out their plans to get clinical trials, past, present and future, registered and results reported.

Making Sense of Crime published

2014

I’ve Got Nothing to Lose by Trying It translated into Spanish, Italian and Croatian

Sense about Science USA launches

Dr Emily Willingham and Dr David Robert Grimes are the two winners of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science.

The Defamation Act comes into force

Our energy panel launches offering the public access to a team of experts in energy and climate sciences who will answer your questions about energy generation

2013

GlaxoSmithKline joins the AllTrials campaign and pledges to report past, present and future trial results

Professor David Nutt is the winner of the 2013 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science

Making Sense of Drug Safety Science published

The AllTrials campaign – calling for every clinical trial, past and present, to be registered and their results reported – is launched

Making Sense of Uncertainty published

I Don’t Know What to Believe translated into Chinese

The Ask for Evidence website launches supported by the Wellcome trust

2012

Our Plant Science Panel launches; offering the public access to a team of researchers directly on any aspect of plant science that comes up in public discussion

Briefing on public interest defence for libel: campaigners tell Justice Minister Lord McNally that the Defamation Bill going through the House of Commons lacks an effective public interest defence and no action on corporations

Winners of the inaugural John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science are Professor Simon Wessely and Fang Shi-min

Peer Review: The nuts and bolts published

Libel reform announced in the Queen’s speech

Sense about Science plays a key role supporting plant scientists from the publicly funded Rothamsted Research in their appeal to protesters who planned to destroy their GM wheat crop trial; the public support for the scientists is unprecedented

Professor Paul Hardaker appointed as new chair of Sense about Science board

2012 Annual Lecture: Sense about Science founder Lord Taverne, ‘What has science ever done for us?’

Scientists write to Science Minister on European Commission’s “irresponsible” public communication about radiation following Fukushima

200+ supporters joined us as at Inner Temple, London to launch the Alternative Libel Project’s final report and call for libel reform in the next Queen’s Speech.

Sense about Science presents on misreporting around Fukushima at AAAS Vancouver

Launch of VoYS USA – first workshop held in Cambridge MA

2011

The Ask for Evidence campaign launches with a support from Esmee Fairbairn

Standing up for science workshops held in South Africa

Sense about Science present at World Conference of Science Journalists, Doha about mythbusting as a way of tackling bad science and improving the standard of investigative science reporting

Tracey Brown gives evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee on why Peer Review matters for public debates about science and medicine.

Annual Lecture 2011: Professor Richard Evans, ‘Epidemics and refuseniks’

The Libel Reform Campaign document What should a defamation bill contain? is launched in the House of Commons prior to the publication of the Government’s draft Defamation Bill. In the document we set out our blueprint for reforms needed to protect free speech and debate.

Sense about Science launch a call to the MHRA for clear, honest labelling of homeopathic products that explain the lack of evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy in the treatment of disease

2010

Sense about Science wins Health Charity of the Year award at the Medical Journalists Association 2010 Awards for our work campaigning to reform England’s libel laws.

‘Warriors against claptrap’ and ‘What’s up with peer review?’ sessions at ESOF in Turin

Annual Lecture 2010: Dr Fiona Godlee, ‘It’s time to stand up for science once more’

The Times names Tracey Brown named as one of the ten most influential figures in science policy in Britain

Making Sense of Statistics

Mass lobby of Parliament for libel law reform

The Big Libel Gig brings together big names in comedy, science and politics on stage to tell us that England’s libel laws have become a dangerous joke

2009

Sense about Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN launch the Libel Reform Campaign
Sense about Systematic Reviews

Sense about Science and the scientific community call on the government to include principles for the treatment of independent advice into the Ministerial Code which is published in 2010

Sense about Science makes joint submission to Department of Health objecting to proposed professional registration of acupuncturists, herbal medicine practitioners and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners

Making Sense of Screening

Sense about Science develops the Peer Review Survey 2009, one of the largest ever international surveys of authors and reviewers, to capture how researchers think about peer review and its future.

Sense about Science launches the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign in June 2009, calling for reform of the libel laws to protect open scientific discussion.

VoYS sends as open letter to the World Health Organisation, calling for the body to issue a clear international communication about the inappropriate use of homeopathy for five serious diseases. The WHO responds with clear guidelines.

Annual Lecture 2009: Dr Olivia Judson, ‘Why experiment?’

Making Sense of GM

Standing up for Science II: the Nuts and Bolts

VoYS publish a dossier on their hunt for the evidence behind detox claims made for products and diets, and begin a campaign to alert the public

2008

First peer review workshop: research, publishing it, reviewing it, and talking about it publicly
First Scottish Standing up for Science media workshop

I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it, a public guide to weighing up claims about cures and treatments

To mark forty years since the Medicines Act (1968) Sense about Science host the Evidence Based Medicine Forum inviting doctors, scientists, nurses, patients, professional societies, journal editors, patient groups and other members of the public to tell us why evidence based medicine mattered then and matters now

Sense about Anti-EMF Products

Making Sense of Radiation

Sense about Brain Gym published leading many schools to drop its use

Making Sense of Testing

Annual Lecture 2008: Professsor Alan Sokal, ‘What is science and why should we care?’

2007

There Goes the Science Bit… published: a guide for early career researchers on standing up for science
Physical Agents (EMF) Directive delayed following campaigning by Sense about Science and others

Making Sense of Weather and Climate

Annual Lecture 2007: Professor Raymond Tallis, ‘Longer, healthier, happier?’

2006

First Celebrities and Science report: a popular annual series, these reports appeal to celebrities to get help on science and evidence before speaking out on important issues that may influence the public
Sense about Homeopathy

Standing up for Science published: a lively, informal guide to the inner workings of the media with practical tips for early career scientists

For the Record, an online forum where scientists respond to misinformation in the media is launched on the Sense about Science website

Sense about Science plays leading role in breakthrough Newsnight investigation: Malaria advice ‘risks lives’ – leads to Royal Pharmacological Society taking action against homeopathic pharmacists

Front page of The Times: NHS told to abandon alternative medicine

Sense about Science coordinates letter by Professor Michael Baum and other scientists to the chief executives of the NHS and Primary Care Trusts to raise their concerns about the campaigns to increase NHS spending on ‘alternative’ medicine

Sense about Bird Flu published

Inaugural annual lecture: Sir John Krebs FRS, ‘Scientific advice, impartiality and policy’

Making Sense of Chemical Stories published: the guide flags up the more serious misconceptions that exist around chemicals and suggests straightforward ways to evaluate them

2005

I Don’t Know What to Believe, the world’s first public guide to peer review
Campaign to repeal the Physical Agents Directive is launched. The EU Directive, planned to be incorporated into UK law in 2008, set limits on occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields which would make many procedures using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) illegal

Sense about the Energy Gap published

2004

The Voice of Young Science network (VoYS) is launched; the programme encourages early career researchers to play an active role in public debates about science
Sense about Science leads a working party on equipping the public with an understanding of peer review. Peer Review and the Acceptance of New Scientific Ideas is published. “Everyone should be encouraged to ask questions about peer review when listening to claims made about a scientific advance in an interview, press release, or news report”

2003

Sense about Science formalised as a Charitable Trust (1101114)
Sense about Science coordinate a letter to Tony Blair signed by 100+ leading scientists on the government’s failure to tackle misconceptions about GM

‘Public-good plant breeding: what are the international priorities?’ organised by Sense about Science in association with the John Innes Centre, the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum, and BBSRC

2002

Evidence Base is launched: our database of experts who want to put good science at the heart of public discussion. Notable subjects include MRSA, MMR and Vitamin D

Sense about Science is set up and Tracey Brown recruited as director

2001

Dick Taverne works with leading figures in the world of science and medicine to set up an initiative that will put evidence at the heart of public discussion