MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Yes, I got an award – and a very prestigious one at that!

Thanks to everyone who supported me in often difficult times and made this possible.

Here are some details from the website of Nature:

Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor at Peninsula Medical School, and Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health at the University of Oxford, have been awarded the international 2015 John Maddox Prize for courage in promoting science and evidence on a matter of public interest, despite facing difficulty and hostility in doing so.

Edzard Ernst is recognised for his long commitment to applying scientific methodologies in research into complementary and alternative medicines and to communicating this need. Prof Ernst continued in his work despite personal attacks and attempts to undermine his research unit and end his employment. As a result, he has addressed a significant gap in the research base in this field and has brought insights into discussions with the public, policy makers, commentators, practitioners and other researchers.

Susan Jebb is recognised for her promotion of public understanding of nutrition on a diverse range of issues of public concern, from food supplements to dieting. Prof Jebb tackled misconceptions about sugar in the media and among the public, and endured personal attacks and accusations that industry funding compromised her integrity and advisory capabilities. Despite this experience, she continued to engage with the media and the public on issues of dietary advice, talking about the need for sound science and high quality research, and advocating for high standards of research governance.

The John Maddox Prize is a joint initiative of the science journal Nature, the Kohn Foundation, and the charity Sense About Science, and it is awarded to one or two people a year. The late Sir John Maddox FRS, was editor of Nature for 22 years and a founding trustee of Sense About Science. A passionate and tireless communicator and defender of science, he engaged with difficult debates, inspiring others to do the same.

For full award details see http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/maddox-prize-2015.html.

END OF QUOTE

On the day, I was quite nervous – so much so that I forgot the little text which I had prepared for the occasion. Therefore I had to memorize it and got a bit muddled up in my excitement. For all who were not present, here is the very short (they asked me for 3 minutes only!) ‘thank-you-address’ I had wanted to give:

I am delighted to receive this prestigious award and to have the research of my team recognised in this way. But, as a true sceptic, I have to ask whether I really deserve this prize.

What is remarkable about what I have done?

For the last 20 years, I have tried to find out the truth about alternative treatments. The results were often not what enthusiasts of alt med had hoped for. But my job was to test and not to promote alternative medicine. So I published our findings and, if necessary, I defended them – nothing truly remarkable about that; it is exactly what scientists should be doing. To me, it seems almost as obvious as explaining that 2 + 2 = 4.

The remarkable thing is not standing up for well-documented facts; the remarkable thing surely is that there are others who claim that reductionist science is not applicable to such a problem, and that it has to be solved holistically: 2 and 2 must be integrated not added, and anyway, the whole is greater than its parts. Therefore 2 + 2 is not for 4, it is whatever you want to make of it.

The even more remarkable thing is that, about 10 years ago, my peers in Exeter all of a sudden seemed to defend such lunacy and joined the charlatans who promoted this nonsense in attacking me, my work and my integrity.

I thank you for the prize and I thank you for the cheque that comes with it. I have decided to donate the money to THE GOOD THINKING SOCIETY founded by my friend Simon Singh. This charity stands up for science by correcting some of the many false claims that are currently being made for bogus treatments. I think this is in the spirit of John Maddox and the prize in his honour. I hope the prize will inspire other scientists to stand up for science – because our science can only be as good as the integrity of our scientists.

For me, the most touching thing of the entire evening was a man who came up to me afterwards, shook my hand with enthusiasm and said: “If we all had courage like you, the world would be a better place”. Then he disappeared into the crowd and left me fighting back my tears.

The INDEPENDENT carried a nice article about the prize, Prof Jebb and myself the next day. It attracted a comment by someone calling himself ‘ZimJay’ which typifies the level of debate in the field of alternative medicine quite well, in my view:

Who knew there’s a science award for thumbsucking?  is there is a bigger white male whiner than Edzard Ernst acting out like a 4 year old while living in the UK? Name them.

The University of Exeter has, as far as I know, not put out a comment. Odd, as it is not every day that a professor from this institution wins an international prize of this standing. Or perhaps not odd at all? But it is early days, of course – I wait and see.

Today, the INDEPENDENT published a short editorial with this conclusion:

During two decades patrolling the boundary between magic and medicine, he has protected our dignity, our pockets and our health. For that, we salute him.

I WOULD NOT HOLD MY BREATH FOR FURTHER VILE COMMENTS BY ALTERNATIVISTS – AND, IN THIS PARTICULAR INSTANCE, I OUGHT TO THANK THEM: WITHOUT THEIR INCESSANT DIRTY WORK, I WOULD PROBABLY NOT HAVE BEEN AWARDED THE JOHN MADDOX PRIZE 2015.

33 Responses to THE JOHN MADDOX PRIZE 2015: first reactions

  • Many congratulations on this richly deserved award. And what a generous gesture, to give the prize money to the Good Thinking Society.

  • Congratulations and thank you.

    I don’t know what more I could say, although I feel a lot more is warranted. The comments on the Independent website sum it up nicely. You have more support than opposition, and one day the battle will be won.

  • Thanks a lot for your work – I am one the ones you convinced by telling the truth about homeopathy an by repeating that 2+2 ist 4 although 5 might feel good as well or even better 😉

  • Congratulations, Professor Ernst — well deserved !

  • So well deserved. Many congratulations

  • Professor Ernst ich bin sehr glücklich.*****
      Herzlichen Glückwunsch für Sie!

  • ‘Bravo’ ! A well deserved award, you are quite right about the fact that the hardest part in your field is the permanent attack coming from alt med zealots.

    I hope you keep rocking for a long time.

  • Hats off to Edzard Ernst, a true scientist who feels a moral and ethical responsibility to write honestly and objectively about health care, sans the influence of politics, belief systems, or special interests.

  • Congratulations! I am so grateful for your work, and couldn’t be happier that this award has been given to you. Well deserved!

  • Hearty congratulations on a much deserved award.
    Next step?
    Get the Medical Royal Colleges and BMJ to add their own congratulations.

  • Congratulations. I am delighted that the work you and your team have done has finally been recognised and valued. Please keep up the anti quackery fight.

  • The award is well deserved. For all we know, your influential work may be savings lives.

  • Congratulations! You certainly deserve this recognition dear Dr. Ernst… And many more.
    Many thanks for being an exemplary teacher and inspiration.

  • Congratulation Prof Ernst! Critics are a precious resource to be appreciated and supported!

  • Well done. The recognition and award are very deserved. Score a point for science!!

  • Congratulations on the prize because it recognises the good work you have done in maintaining a fight against ignorance and backward-facing, anti-science quackery. For what it is worth, I, too, salute you.

  • Congratulations for your courageous work!

  • No one deserves this award more than you, professor Ernst. You’re an inspiration to us all. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.scienceinmedicine.org.au/images/pdf/ernstletr.pdf

    6 November 2015

    Professor Edzard Ernst
    John Maddox Prize Winner

    Dear Edzard

    Re: Congratulations on your award!

    Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM), has followed with interest and appreciation your work in exposing the false and misleading claims made by the multi-billion complementary and alternative medicine (AltMed) industry. I write on behalf of the executive members of our association to congratulate you on your achievement of the John Maddox Prize, in recognition of your work in promoting sound science and evidence.
    For over two decades, as an academic physician and researcher specializing in the study of AltMed, you have challenged poor quality research and exposed inappropriate political influence by those with vested interests. You have also contributed a considerable body of quality research and meta analysis.
    We appreciate that your achievements also came with a considerable cost to your career at Exeter University, where you held the Chair of Complementary Medicine, the first such academic position in the world.
    Your website continues to be of outstanding quality and reflects your passion and commitment to challenging legitimised pseudo-science.
    We at FSM strongly support your ongoing efforts to stand up for science and evidence-based medicine and we hope that you will continue your efforts for many years to come.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Professor John Dwyer AO,
    President of Friends of Science in Medicine
    http://www.scienceinmedicine.org.au

  • Congratulations on the award – keep up the good work!

  • Congratulations and well done. I only know you from your website but what a beacon of rationality it is!

  • A fantastic result for real science and a wonderful gesture to give the cash to Goodthinking. Just the first of many prizes for Edzard I hope.

  • My heartiest congratulations, Professor.

    Your comment about the usual sniping from homeopaths et al prommpted me to follow the pingback. I don’t read German at all, so I took the liberty of Googletranslating it. Most amusing. It’s all the usual nonsense, including:
    “Criticism of alternative medicine assumes that the critic has learned and applied to the field of alternative medicine, in order to assess what he analyzes. That is not the case, to my knowledge. ”

    I’m such the good Prof must be rolling in the aisles.

    This egregious rant ends with:
    “The skeptic community consists also mainly of professional strangers who have learned no alternative medicine. Then I ask myself, what should actually be honored with the prize. The devaluation of the Alternative Medicine and the upgrading of traditional medicine?”

    And they try to tell us that it’s not a cult and that 2+2= (not 4 for everybody, we’ll try out various ideas until we maybe guess the right one or until you get the correct answer all by yourself)

  • http://commsservices.cmail2.com/t/ViewEmail/r/B0BB5DF5A02DB7802540EF23F30FEDED/A1C969B6004EA423148F9D201EEB5695
    I just received the University of Exeter’s weekly bulletin – it does not mention the Maddox Prize. I wonder why.

  • ZimJay is a horrible woman who’s real name is Janine Zimardo.. She is a homeopathy fanatic and has been involved in the harassment of a greiving father on Twitter (to the point where she encouraged him to commit suicide).

    She’s a vile piece of work who is only capable of rehashing the same insults without ever being capable of providing evidence for her beloved magic water.

    Congratulations Edzard, it was well deserved 🙂

  • Well done and an inspiration to us all.

  • Congratulations Professor Ernst. It is sad to see the awful comments from keyboard warriors that you endure. We all benefit from your integrity. Thank you.
    Barry

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