Last night I attended the official launch of the Society of Biology, of which I am a Fellow. Whiling away some time before the event, I thought I should catch up with relevant reading, so went through the Society’s journal `Biologist’. This contained an announcement of decorations received in the New Year’s Honours by some other Fellows. One of these was Professor Michael Pittillo, who received an MBE `for services to healthcare’.
Does the name sound familiar? It should do. Professor Pittilo authored the now infamous report which set out proposals for the regulation of certain CAM practices. The proposals have been roundly condemned by various bodies, including the Royal College of Physicians. Why? Essentially because the proposals do not require any registrants to follow evidence based practice. All that is required is that they believe their remedies to be effective. I am hard pressed to envisage a situation in which a practitioner would not believe that.
Now it may well be that Professor Pittilo made other contributions in the field of health care that might warrant a decoration, but the tragedy is that he died suddenly last month, and will be remembered for this last and ignoble contribution. The public can hardly be blamed for making an association between this execrable report, and the award of an MBE in the same year.
At the Society of Biology event, the distinguished speakers Sr Paul Nurse FRS and Sir David Attenborough FRS emphasised the need for life scientists to get the right messages across to the general public, who for the most part have been very poorly served by their education and commonly do not understand what scientific evidence is. What does the public understand about honours for scientists, in the light of this award?
We are I’m sure all familiar with the Ig-Nobel awards. Perhaps it is time for the New Year Dishonours, for those who have compromised the accepted standards of their professions.