Time for some fun!

In alternative medicine, there often seems to be an uneasy uncertainty about research methodology. This is, of course, regrettable, as it can (and often does) lead to misunderstandings. I feel that I have some responsibility to educate research-naïve practitioners. I hope this little dictionary of research terminology turns out to be a valuable contribution in this respect.

Abstract: a concise summary of what you wanted to do skilfully hiding what you managed to do.

Acute: an exceptionally good-looking nurse.

Adverse reaction: a side effect of a therapy that I do not practise.

Anecdotal evidence: the type of evidence that charlatans prefer.

Audit: misspelled name of German car manufacturer.

Avogadro’s number: telephone number of an Italian friend.

Basic research: investigations which are too simplistic to bother with.

Best evidence synthesis: a review of those cases where my therapy worked extraordinarily well.

Bias: prejudice against my therapy held by opponents.

Bioavailability: number of health food shops in the region.

Bogus: a term Simon Singh tried to highjack, but chiropractors sued and thus got the right use it for characterising their trade.

Chiropractic manipulation: a method of discretely adjusting data so that they yield positive results.

Confidence interval: the time between reading a paper and realising that it is rubbish.

Confounder: founder of a firm selling bogus treatments.

Conflict of interest: bribery by ‘Big Pharma’.

Data manipulation: main aim of chiropractic.

Declaration of Helsinki: a statement by the Finnish Society for Homeopathy in favour of treating Ebola with homeopathy.

Dose response: weird concept of pharmacologists which has been disproven by homeopathy.

Controlled clinical trial: a study where I am in control of the data and can prettify them, if necessary.

Critical appraisal: an assessment of my work by people fellow charlatans.

Doctor: title mostly used by chiropractors and naturopaths.

EBM: eminence-based medicine.

Error: a thing done by my opponents.

Ethics: misspelled name of an English county North of London.

Evidence: the stuff one can select from Medline when one needs a positive result in a hurry.

Evidence-based medicine: the health care based on the above.

Exclusion criteria: term used to characterise material that is not to my liking and must therefore be omitted.

Exploratory analysis: valuable approach of re-analysing negative results until a positive finding pops up.

Focus group: useful method for obtaining any desired outcome.

Forest plot: a piece of land with lots of trees.

Funnel plot: an intrigue initiated by Prof Funnel to discredit homeopathy.

Good clinical practice: the stuff I do in my clinical routine.

Grey literature: print-outs of articles from a faulty printer.

Hawthorne effect: the effects of Crataegus on cardiovascular function.

Hierarchy of evidence: a pyramid with my opinion on top.

Homeopathic delusion: method of manufacturing a homeopathic remedy.

Informed consent: agreement of patients to pay my fee.

Intention to treat analysis: a method of calculating data in such a way that they demonstrate what I intended to show.

Logic: my way of thinking.

Mean: attitude of chiropractors to anyone suggesting their manipulations are not a panacea.

Metastasis: lack of progress with a meta-analysis.

Numbers needed to treat: amount of patients I require to make a good living.

Odds ratio: number of lunatics in my professional organisation divided by the number of people who seem normal.

Observational study: results from a few patients who did exceptionally well on my therapy.

Pathogenesis: a rock group who have fallen ill.

Peer review: assessment of my work by several very close friends of mine.

Pharmacodynamics: the way ‘Big Pharma’ is trying to supress my findings.

Pilot study: a trial that went so terribly wrong that it became unpublishable – but, in the end, we still got it in an alt med journal.

Placebo-effect: a most useful phenomenon that makes patients who receive my therapy feel better.

Pragmatic trial: a study that is designed to generate the result I want

Silicon Valley: region in US where most stupid fraudsters are said to come from.

Standard deviation: a term describing the fact that deviation from the study protocol is normal.

Statistics: a range of methods which are applied to the data until they eventually yield a significant finding.

Survey: popular method of interviewing a few happy customers in order to promote my practice.

Systematic review: a review of all the positive results I could find.



Like it? If so, why don’t you suggest a few more entries into my dictionary via the comment section below?

33 Responses to A charlatan’s dictionary of medical research

  • Science: A formal use of observation to test hypotheses. As opposed to confirming bias with false positives created by poor design.

  • Cured: (1) Spontaneously recovered from misdiagnosed ailment (after 6 months the symptoms were completely gone!)
    (2) Responded to conventional treatment which I’m not going to mention

  • Regression to the Mean: The charlatans’ descent into nastiness when their spurious arguments are challenged.

  • Excellent! May I use these (with attribution) in the Quackford English Ducktionary?

  • Quantum: vitalistic magic
    Nano: vitalistic magic that is too small to see

  • Citation of evidence: (1) A random selection of irrelevant scientific papers, posited in the hope that nobody will bother to check them.
    (2) Carefully selected charlatanry for which the single criterion for inclusion was the likelihood of its author to return-cite me.

  • Scientism: a derogatory synonym for the scientific method, used when someone disagrees with me. A term that was created by people of equal genius to me.
    Logical fallacies: something I’ll never understand or recognise, never mind ever be able to apply in my own thinking.

  • Skeptic – Individual who blindly criticises my method of making money.

  • The first section of a paper, Abstract: existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.

  • Diagnosis: brief description of how the patient’s aura is out of tune with the universe, for which I happen to have the perfect remedy/treatment.

  • Single Blinded Trial: Where I will remain blind to all data contrary to my required outcome

    Double Blinded Trial: Where both my fellow researcher and I will remain blind to all data contrary to the required outcome

    • That reminds me of Belgium.

      One could take medical exams the traditional way, or via the central jury. In order to not disadvantage anyone, the name lists did not indicate whether they were traditional or central jury.

      So, when the examiner received a list with a few hundred names, and another with only a handful, he/she had obviously no idea as to what system the candidate had chosen, totally oblivious as to what was most common. Sure. Blinding the Quack Way.

      This was 35 years ago. I hope they have changed by now. Possibly not much, since they still seem to think that “student” is a synonym for “arse-licking parrot”.

  • Consultation: The process by which a practitioner determines what product to sell the customer – so called because it invariably involves the consultation of an ancient* and revered† text.
    * The antiquity of the text is not an essential prerequisite (but it increases profits).
    † It is a fundamental requirement that the text is revered.
    Supplement: The expensive – and unnecessary – product sold ubiquitously at the end of a consultation (q.v.), the profit from which supplements the profit already made from the consultation.

  • Theory: Anything I can make up that might persuade the gullible to buy products from me

    Terrific list & contributions by all!

  • Homeopathy: a means to generate income from nothing

    Epigenetics: New age thinking that will transform your wealth into Deepak Chopra’s bliss

  • Enrolment: The process by which I sign up my most loyal customers to take part in a trial.
    Collaborator: My friend who helps me fiddle the results to get the answer I need to help my business.
    Experimental Arm: The part of the body into which an acupuncturist sticks the needles (e.g. LU3 to LU11).
    Intervention: The time I had to intervene in a trial because the results weren’t looking positive.
    Observational Study: A study done by a colleague where I look on to make sure it’s being done properly.
    Adverse Event: Where a study doesn’t give the positive outcome we’d planned. (See also Serious Adverse Event.)
    Serious Adverse Event: Where we can’t get anything positive out of a trial no matter how hard we mine the data. (c.f. Contraindication.)
    Unexpected Adverse Event: Where we get a positive outcome we can use in our advertising, but not the one we’d planned.
    Parallel Design: Where we test two lots of customers at the same time so we can pick the most positive results and ignore the others.
    Single Blind Masking: Where I keep only one eye open when sticking the acupuncture needles in.
    Contraindication: Where we see that the results of a trial don’t give the answer we’d planned.
    Documentation: Unnecessary bureaucracy.
    Double-dummy: Customers who believe what we tell ’em about our products.
    Follow Up: Where we go over the results again and again to find something positive we can use as advertising.
    Institutional Review Board: See Documentation.
    Intention to Treat: What we give to the participants in a trial, even though we know it’s not a treatment.
    Intra-rater Reliability: How often my collaborator (q.v.) remembers to turn up for work.
    Off-label: When I mix up the labels on the homeopathic ‘remedies’, knowing that it won’t make the slightest difference.
    Outcome: The results that we’d planned to get.
    Uncontrolled Study: One of the best kinds of study for getting a positive outcome.
    Independent Ethics Committee: See Institutional Review Board.
    Bayesian inference: The probability that we are going to be able to get the outcome we’ve planned.

  • Treatment plan: a combination of one or more remedies I saw on google, which if they don’t wor——–HEY LOOK OVER THERE!!!! BIG PHARMA!!!!

  • Numeric variable: The quantity by which we multiply the value we actually got in order to obtain the value we wanted.

    Pseudo-skeptic: Someone who challenges my pet theory or any other assertion I make.

    True skeptic: Someone who accepts that, because science can’t know everything, the thing that came to me in a stoned dream is as valid as any prosaic explanation.

  • I hope you don’t mind i translate it to spanish.

    • no, as long as you link to the original and credit me as author.
      they might not all work in a different language, so feel free to chose and pick.

  • Pharmacognosy: Knowledge that Big Pharma is trying to discredit my work for mercenary reasons.

  • Nobody has pointed out that Allopathy = Real Medicine

    • Allopathy: (obsolete) a nonsense, derogatory term coined by Samuel Hahnemann in order to rhetorically present homeopathy as a valid alternative system of medicine – which it isn’t.

  • body of evidence: The embalmed corpse(s) of long dead hypothesis.

    seminar: a long joke with no obvious punchline.

    P value: a measurement of how many pounds to charge per session.

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