On July 9th we held our first Science Based Medicine conference in Las Vegas. The event was definitely a success – we filled our room to capacity (150 attendees) and almost everyone stayed until the end. It also appeared that most attendees were actually awake, a rarity for a full-day medical conference. The Q&A session at the end was lively and interesting.

Kimball Atwood and I covered the history of science-based medicine and explored the differences between EBM and SBM. David Gorski discussed cancer quackery, including specific cases to illustrate the potential harm of pursuing worthless therapies for serious diseases. Harriet Hall gave us an overview of the the pseudoscience endemic in chiropractic. Mark Crislip discussed the chronic Lyme disease controversy. And Val Jones discussed health information online.

Based upon the feedback from those attending the conference, as well as the general enthusiasm, it seems that there is a hunger for this type of information. The audience was split about even between health care professionals and interested lay public. Many people asked if we plan on giving the conference again, and the answer is definitely yes. We have no plans set as of yet, and will certainly announce any future conferences here.

The list of editors and authors at SBM is deep and growing, so we have more than enough speakers to draw from. Also, the list of potential topics to cover is likewise long – we barely scratched the surface at this conference.

There were two broad themes in the questions we were asked, both during the Q&A and after the conference. The first is if we plan to make the content of the conference available for wider distribution. The answer to that question is definitely yes. We, of course, all have our slide presentations and written descriptions of each lecture. But also the entire conference was recorded on video, which gives us the option of releasing it in either DVD or podcast format. We have not yet decided which and how many of these formats we will use, and of course will make any announcements here. We are also exploring the possibility of attaching CME to the content if possible.

The other type of question we received was how to get involved in promoting SBM. There were many excellent suggestions, most of which were things we have already considered but simply lack the resources to put into effect. For example, several people suggested that we add new kinds of content to the SBM site – such as a page dedicated to each major topic with a description and list of resources. We have, in fact, already started to write an index of our SBM posts by topic, but this is a great deal of work and we all are most limited in our most precious resource – time.

The comments of this post can also serve as a place to share with us your suggestions as to what kinds of resources would be most useful – where should we focus our efforts? But I also made the point that we need volunteers as well as suggestions. While we are all dedicated to working toward improving and expanding this site, new projects require new resources. So if you have a suggestion, be prepared to be asked to chip in. Many people did step up and volunteer their help, which is greatly appreciated.

There are many ways people can help promote quality science-based medicine. In addition to submitting guest entries for this blog, you can stay alert to political activity in your state. Is someone trying to pass a bill to water down the standard of care? Let us know, and also make your voice heard by writing to your representatives and governor. If you has a skill you think might be useful, let us know and we will discuss how you can help. And any new projects we take on will certainly go faster if the workload is spread out.

For example – indexing all the posts at SBM by topic, and collecting relevant links and references. Many people asked if there was one place they could go to learn everything they need to know about the vaccine autism controversy. What a wonderful resource that would be, and we could host it right here at SBM – all it takes is time.

What the SBM conference taught me is that there is a growing network of people who are concerned about the quality of science in medicine. SBM and the standard of care have been systematically attacked over the last two decades and significant damage has been done at every level – political, academic, institutional, and regulatory. SBM is more than a blog – it is a rallying call. We need to re-dedicate the medical profession to quality science, and put an end to tolerating pseudoscience simply because it is called by a pleasant euphamism.


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.