Wednesday, June 09, 2004

My Other Job

Sorry for the lack of posting; final manuscript draft due next week. I'm clearly not an expert when it comes to publishing, this being my first book and all, but I must say this. Everything I read about getting a book published said it takes at least one year from the time the publisher makes an offer to the time the book actually gets published. Well, I believed that, and I can now report that that information was incorrect. The process only takes a few, very short, months! It's not so much that I'm complaining about the rapid pace. If that's the industry norm, so be it. I can follow instructions. It's the dearth of accurate information/advice I don't like. Somebody with experience: publish a reference textbook for writers so we can all be more efficient. (You have to wonder, how did the writing community and the publishing world manage until now without my sage advice?)

Some items you might find interesting:

Teenagers and Birth Control Use

More than 40% of female high school students report that they have had sex. Only 51% of female students reported condom use at last sexual intercourse, and only 21% reported use of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs).

The information comes from the CDC* and I'm really hoping there's some sampling bias somewhere (I didn't have time to look at the methodology). Otherwise, the numbers for sexually active teenagers and contraceptive use don't look good at all.

You and Your Politician

Officials of the National Institutes of Health, already under fire for alleged conflicts of interest by some of its scientists, on Wednesday found themselves defending the process by which they decide how to apportion the agency's $28 billion annual budget.

"NIH's priority-setting process has drawn questions, God knows, from members of Congress," U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla., said at a panel hearing. If Congress is to adequately fund the agency, Bilirakis said, "we need to understand how they choose what research to conduct and how they fund that research."


But other panel members warned that Congress should interfere less with the process by which NIH decides what to study. For members of Congress "to substitute our own scientific judgment" for that of NIH leaders, said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., "is a very perilous activity."

Both Waxman and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., singled out criticism by some conservative Republican members of Congress of several NIH studies of sexual behavior as inappropriate. "Some people do engage in self-destructive behavior," Capps said, "but we cannot pretend it does not exist," and NIH should study why people do self-destructive things if they are to be prevented in the future.

I agree with Rep. Waxman; politicians shouldn't regulate medicine.

Rounding Up Or Down

Statistical errors are common in peer-reviewed medical papers, even in the most renowned scientific journals, according to a report in the May 28th BMC Medical Research Methodology.

Considerable effort has been expended to improve and standardize reporting of medical research, the authors explain, but there is little literature investigating the incorrect computation or reporting of results.

First, how boring is it to check the statistics on the statistics? Second, posting the raw data from a study freely on the Internet is a great idea.

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2002). Surveillance Summaries: June 28, 2002. MMWR, 51 (no. SS-4).

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