A quick update on the WhoIsSick.org story. We have contacted BoingBoing’s David Pescovitz, a celebrated science journalist and writer-in-residence for UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering, for an explanation. Mr. Pescovitz, however, has stuck his head in the sand and has decided to ignore questions from us, as he really has no explanation. Referring to WhoIsSick.org as today’s equivalent of Dr. John Snow’s efforts to map cholera in London in 1854 shows fundamental lack of understanding by Mr. Pescovitz of what science is. Throwing questionably collected data on the map is not science. For BoingBoing, however, the definition of science seems to be any feel-good, user-generated content.
Also, our very own almost-MD Josh searched through Medgadget archives and uncovered a story about HEALTHmap Global Disease Tracker, an effort by two doctors at Children’s Hospital Informatics Program in Boston.
From that article:
“While working on a state-funded program to track disease outbreaks in Massachusetts, the two discovered some inconsistencies in how information is reported. Some sources, such as ProMed-mail, provide very specific data that is verified by medical experts, but the process can be lengthy. At the other extreme, newspaper articles and blog entries come out far more quickly, but they are more likely to contain errors such as unconfirmed reports about avian flu infections in a country.
“You always have this trade-off between timeliness and specificity,” said Brownstein.”
As Josh says, “… at least they realize the scientific trade-offs between speed and accuracy. Their site also gives readers the option to map only information from credible sources like ProMed, WHO, etc… None of this Johnny-come-lately, i think i have a fever b/c my temp is 99.1…”
Also, if you have not followed our discussion at WhoIsSick post, then check it out. Your opinion will count.