This is my last post for the year (although I may squeeze one in during the holidays, but no promises), and I often like to take the opportunity to take a look back at how SBM is doing.

This marks the end of our 11th year publishing SBM, and this article will be the 3,285th we publish. I like to think we achieved our primary goal of providing a respected and reliable source for health information, for both professionals and consumers. We focus on bad science in medicine, but also on improving the quality of medical science in general. I personally have learned a great deal over the last decade, exploring the nuances of how to best use scientific knowledge to improve medical practice.

The last decade has also been a time when medical science has been under assault. Pseudoscience and health fraud has infiltrated our schools, our journals, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics. Unfortunately there are billions of dollars to be made selling fake medicine, and essentially none in warning of the perils of pseudoscience in medicine. But despite the fact that we are essentially a small group of volunteers, we have a disproportionate impact on the conversation. We have been well-reviewed and are highly referenced. We have been invited to the NIH, and have been quoted directly in our recommendations to the FDA and FTC. We have regular media contacts, and are basically an important part of the conversation.

We had another great SBM conference connected to the NECSS conference in New York, and plan to participate again next year.

We have also successfully fended off a harassing law suit. I won my case in summary judgement, won an anti-SLAPP part of the suit, was awarded partial fees, and all this was upheld in appeal. We are still, amazingly, at the tail end of this saga, but I just learned that the court approved our last request for fees. 2018 may see a final end to this, and if not then early 2019.

However, at about the same time we learned of a new lawsuit, this one targets all the editors of SBM. This one, in my opinion, is also frivolous, harassing, and a direct assault on our first amendment rights, and our duties as professionals. I suspect it won’t go anywhere, but even a frivolous and bogus lawsuit takes incredible time and money to deal with. We will keep you updated.

That is the nature of what we do. If you target charlatans and con artists, you are going to get backlash from people who don’t exactly respect truth, professionalism, and following a valid process. People who sell fake medicine also tend to be flush with cash, which gives them the ability to use their funds for legal thuggery. We will endure, and we will tenaciously fight every such attempt at silencing our valid opinions, and we will win – because our only interest is in providing factual information and thoughtful analysis.

This, by the way, is also why we need to continue to lobby for effective anti-SLAPP laws, in every state and at the federal level. It should not be financially ruinous to defend your first amendment rights – otherwise, you don’t actually have that right. It exists only at the whim of those with more money than you.

SBM also continues to have ambitious plans for the future. This year we started a Patreon page and are already getting incredible support. We appreciate everyone who supports SBM, and we are almost at the point of self-sufficiency. Beyond that we have also laid out our goals, that will scale with our support. We plan to start an SBM podcast, make videos, hire full-time staff, and eventually finance our legal-defense fund.

We also have plans to combine SBM and the Society for SBM into one organization. Right now SBM is a project of the New England Skeptical Society (NESS) and the SfSBM is a separate entity. It makes sense to just combine them into one non-profit and then try to grow that organization.

We continue to recruit new writers and contributors. We receive many submissions, which is great, but also could use more regular contributors. There is also so much more that we can do as we grow. We are fighting on dozens of fronts – against anti-vaccine propaganda, the normalization of health fraud, the watering down of necessary regulations and licensing of quackery, and attempts to change the rules of science to accommodate pseudoscience. Most of us also have day jobs.

We have developed a vibrant community, and continue to grow that community (the recent addition of a Discord SBM server helps) but we need to grow further, to organize more effectively, and to marshal those who care about science-based medicine. We do this because we care about our patients and our society, and we can see how important it is to base medical practice and regulations on valid science. Not everyone shares our interest, or they are simply confused about how science works. Most academics are simply unaware that their profession is being hollowed out by pseudoscience. Most regulators are not scientifically literate.

So we are engaged in a massive up-hill battle, but we are dedicated. We appreciate all of those who support our work and have our backs, and we can grow as that support grows.

Thanks everyone for another year of science-based medicine.


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.