Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Trust me, I’m a scientist

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3658 (Published 09 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3658

Re: Off-topic comments

Sir,

Science communication, any sort of communication, is bedevilled by our
tendency to choose words with the best ( or less than best )
intentions, forgetting that our meaning may be unclear to others. “
When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it
means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.” (1)
Professor Colquhoun complains that the discussion has been “ hijacked by
the antivaccination lobby”.

Who are they ? As the country gears up for a mass vaccination assault
on swine flu, I happened this morning on an update on the preparations.
(2) The three contributors were asked at the end, if they would be having
the vaccine. Two will be having it. The third, a member of the Cochrane
Vaccines Field and the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group, said
he will not be having the vaccine. He seemed to be suggesting that there
are other options with a stronger evidence base. Does this place him in
the antivaccination lobby ? Who can tell us ? What it does tell us , I
suggest, is that we should all exercise our humility and good humour, as
well as our hobby horses, as we prance and trample, Humpty Dumpty - like,
over all and sundry, in your hospitable columns.

1. Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking - Glass. (1872) ch. 6

2. www.learning.bmj. com

Competing interests:
voluntary vaccination devotee

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 September 2009
Noel Bell Thomas
Semi retired GP
Maesteg , Wales CF34 9AL