We frequently receive requests from readers, our colleagues in medicine or fellow science bloggers for the best reference site that has all the information they need on a specific topic. There are many excellent resources on the net, but nothing I know of that quite puts it all together in that way – one-stop shopping for up-to-date information on the topics we are most concerned with.

So we decided to create just such a resource.

You will now see at the top of this page a new link for SBM Topic-Based Reference which leads to our new section by that name. There you will see the list of topics we are currently working on, and once they are complete more will be added. As of today only one topic is reasonably complete, Vaccines and Autism.

The format (which is subject to change as we build and use the resource) is as follows: We start with a brief topic overview. This is not meant to be a thorough discussion of the topic, but a quick summary to get people started. This is followed by an index of all SBM posts on that topic and then links to outside resources that we recommend.

What I consider to be the meat of the resource comes next – a list of full references, with links when available, to key published research on the topic. Each listing also has a quick summary of the findings and significance of that study. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to be thorough for those studies we consider seminal – quality studies that establish important principles and conclusions for that topic. New studies will be added as they are published, so this resource will be constantly up to date.

The list of references is most useful, in my opinion. As a writer I often spend too much precious time tracking down a reference to a study whose conclusion I remember but don’t remember the details of the reference. We hope this feature will therefore be a critical resource for the media, for science bloggers and authors. It is also helpful for anyone interested in a topic to see the published research – the science in science-based medicine.

At this step we ask two things of our readers. The first is to be patient as we build this resource. This is a major project for SBM and will take some time to build. Also keep in mind that this in an open-ended ongoing project. No topic will ever be completed, as we will add and tweak information as necessary to constantly improve the site.

We also ask for feedback. You can use the comments of this post to let us know what you think. Is the format user-friendly? What type of information would you add? How can this resource be more useful to you? Is there an excellent link or reference we are missing? Let us know.


The reason we started with a vaccines and autism page is because this is one of the most vital issues we face today – where the need for a rational and science-based approach is most acute. There is a well-funded and motivated anti-vaccination movement, supported by misguided celebrities, media personalities, and rogue physicians, that is doing real harm to the public health. They are engaged in a campaign of fear-mongering and misinformation that is resulting in vaccine non-compliance and a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. It is possible that our generation may be reminded of the seriousness and harm from diseases long thought a thing of the past.

The anti-vaccine movement is also insidious beyond the issue of vaccines, for they sow distrust in the institutions of medicine itself. They preach, for example, that the American Academy of Pediatrics is knowingly and willfully harming children because they simply do not care. They tell their flock that anyone who disagrees with them is evil and corrupt, and warn of a massive conspiracy against the truth. They also promote risky, harmful, or just useless unscientific treatments for serious disorders like autism, which they wrongly blame on vaccines.

The only tool we have to counter this incredibly harmful campaign is information. That is why a robust resource of scientific information on the issue of vaccines and autism is immediately necessary.

I will also note that it is National Vaccine Awareness Month and in recognition of this a long list of individuals and institutions has published an open letter detailing the life-saving history of vaccines. Here is an exerpt from the press-release:

We, the undersigned, support immunizations as the safest, most effective way to control and eradicate infectious diseases. This August, as another National Immunization Awareness Month comes to a close, we are reminded that diseases such as smallpox and polio were once commonplace in the United States. Thanks to vaccinations, we have not seen or experienced many of the infectious diseases that gripped past generations, but other countries have not been so fortunate and outbreaks continue in the United States.

As we approach the 30th anniversaries of global smallpox eradication and the last polio case reported in the United States, new infectious diseases, such as novel H1N1 influenza, are emerging and others continue to strike the unprotected. This should remind us of the continuing importance of timely immunizations. Our strong immunization infrastructure will ensure our ability to meet the challenges presented by these diseases, but Americans have to do their part by getting themselves and their loved ones vaccinated.

Childhood and adult infectious diseases pose a real threat to personal and public health. Those who are not vaccinated leave not only themselves, but others vulnerable to dangerous diseases. Vaccines are the most effective option for preventing and stopping the spread of infectious diseases.

I encourage you to read the entire letter, which includes a list of the historical benefits of vaccines.


Posted by Steven Novella

Founder and currently Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine Steven Novella, MD is an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and the author of the NeuroLogicaBlog, a daily blog that covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella also has produced two courses with The Great Courses, and published a book on critical thinking - also called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.