The Word for 2011: Wakefieldian!

Ok, so Sarah Palin shot to fame and glory when she refudiated someone’s claim to something or whatever, and ended up contributing to the posterity by adding a word to the lexicon. And it seems there is a new candidate this year already (and the first fortnight hasn’t even sailed by!): WAKEFIELDIAN. So what would it look like in a dic?

wake-fiel-dian * adj. The act of making up fake research results in a bid to get published in major journals, raising a public health nightmare, leading non-believing conspiracy theoryphiliacs on a jack-off mission, whilst all the time pocketing big bucks. Originates from Dr. Andrew Wakefield who invented the MMR Vaccination – Autism – Enterocolitis syndrome, published it in The Lancet, later got it retracted, had his ass whopped by the more logical, scientifically minded community and single handedly caused a Measles outbreak in children whose parents he managed to brain wash with his rigged numbers. Or Any such study. –ism  to indulge in Wakefieldian research. e.g. Dr. Who, please stop indulging in this Wakefieldian effort to find out the effects of masturbation as a family planning tool.

(Or maybe that isn’t such a bad idea? 😛 )

Now the blogosphere has gone nuts on this topic, especially since investigative journalist Brian Deer started a systematic take down of the Wakefieldian studies in BMJ (clap! clap!). I have been following the different bloggers who had already been waging a war against this bull crappery for a long time, especially Orac at Respectful Insolence and Todd W. at ANTIantivax. So I am not about to repeat what they have gone sore from saying already. Instead, I will ask you to go check out the articles there for yourselves.

I will, instead, dwell on the sad state of affairs that has become biomedical sciences. Yes, at first, I was elated when I read Deer’s blog in the BMJ blogs and felt that at last the vermin that was Andy Wakefield and his blindfolded cheerleaders would be forced to crawl back into the woodwork. But as I read on, read more, and read into the financial ramifications which this fake research was involved with, I got a little sad. It is indeed the worst nightmare possible to see a scientist, that too one involved with something as sensitive as pediatrics-related-research, sell his soul off for money. I am not privy to the exact details and the nature of evidence Deer has in his possession, but this I will say, that even a whiff of financial conflict guiding a research is a major crime in my eyes. As has been well pointed out in the BMJ Editorial (3):

“Science is at once the most questioning and . . . sceptical of activities and also the most trusting,” said Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1989. “It is intensely sceptical about the possibility of error, but totally trusting about the possibility of fraud.”

Talking of evidence in Deer’s possession, the antivaxers are waxing eloquent on the fact that he may have obtained it illegally and may have made it public against the express wish of the ones concerned. Agreed. Let us put him on trial for that. But after we have justly punished Wakefield and his minions of evil scientists!

Now I am reading scary reports that since his keister got kicked out of the developed world, he is training his eyes on the developing world. As a member of the latter, I feel that it would really be a disaster. Not for me, maybe, because if he plans to land on our already poorly immunized shores, maybe I can become the local Orac! Yay for me! And my blog. 😛

But joking aside, what is more worrisome is whether or not he will be tried publicly for this fraud. If he is let go after professional penalty, of which he has already has had considerable taste, it is not going to be enough. He needs to be tried fair and square and then handed a punishment severe enough to deter researchers from rolling down the highway to hell. I must say this sounds unfair, but mere professional sanction is not going to stop him from trying his woo and harming more children from developing worlds. We have already seen a version of this happen in the Mugabe-led Zimbabwe where official endorsement of the Duesberg’s notion of HIV does not cause AIDS took root and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives unnecessarily.

Disclaimer: Read the name of the Blog. Do I really need to write one now?

More reads from the Good Guys:

1. Orac at Respectful Insolence on Scienceblogs: “Piltdown” medicine: Andrew Wakefield’s scientific fraud was worse than previously thought

2. Brian Deer on BMJ Blogs: Piltdown medicine: The missing link between MMR and autism

3. Godlee F, Smith J. Editorial: Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent. BMJ 2011; 342:c7452 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c7452 (Published 5 January 2011)

4. Deer B. Feature: Secrets of the MMR scare: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed. BMJ 2011; 342:c5347 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5347 (Published 5 January 2011)

* Please forgive any semantic errors, if any, and try to get the sarcasm intended!

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