... to 'mislead', or 'cause to believe something incorrectly'. Or all of those, with a touch of duplicity and hubris thrown in. Details below.
On November 8th 2010, Defra released a bundle of papers on the vaccination of badgers with an accompanying press release which explained:
A key finding of the field study, conducted over four years in a naturally infected population of more than 800 wild badgers in Gloucestershire, was that vaccination resulted in a 74 per cent reduction in the proportion of wild badgers testing positive to the antibody blood test for TB in badgers.With the help of our resident scientific team, we explored the background to this in various posts throughout November, and early December.
Meanwhile on December 1st, the the BBC launched their campaign, with the strapline:
In a four-year project, UK scientists found vaccination reduced the incidence of TB infection in wild badgers by 74%.This was picked up by lazy
The 'consultation' on whether to cull badgers infected with tuberculosis, closed on December 8th 2010 in England and December 17th., in Wales.
The Badger Trust cite the BBC report in their submission.
But on December 14th., one week after the close of the English consultation, and with just hours before the close of the Welsh one, Defra issued a sort of retraction or plain English explanation of this bundle of research papers. And it says categorically that some media interpretation of this data, should not have been used to make the claim:
1. The findings in the paper were reported by some sectors of the media to mean that vaccination produced a 74% reduction in the proportion of badgers that had TB: e.g. "In a four-year project, UK scientists found vaccination reduced the incidence of TB infection in wild badgers by 74%."This paper was not released as a follow up press release to Defra's November 8th. offering, and neither was it released hard on the heels of the original
The data should not be used to make this claim.
The results of the field study actually show that BCG vaccination of free-living badgers reduced the incidence of positive serological test results by 73.8% (a new incident being a badger that changed its test status from negative to positive during the study). This is not the same thing as saying that vaccination reduced the incidence of disease by 74% as a negative blood test is not an absolute indicator of protection from disease, so the field results cannot tell us the degree of vaccine efficacy.
Data from the laboratory and field studies do not lend themselves to giving a definitive figure for BadgerBCG vaccine efficacy, defined as the reduction in the incidence of disease (new cases) among badgers who have received vaccine compared to the incidence in unvaccinated badgers. A definitive figure for efficacy could only be determined by field-testing the vaccine on a large scale over a long period of time. Several thousand badgers would need to be killed to determine the presence and severity of TB at detailed post-mortem examination."
So dear readers, what do we make of the time line on this?
* A bundle of papers and their million annexes on badger vaccination, released in a blaze of glory just a few weeks before the end of a consultation on whether (or not) to cull badgers infected with TB?
* The media scrum, led by the BBC and supported with quotes from Messrs. Cheeseman and Macdonald, offer their spin that 'Scientists have found that vaccination reduces TB in 800 wild badgers by 74%'.
* The consultation closes in England.
* With hours to go to the Welsh consultation deadline, Defra offer this little gem to their in-house group. "The data should not be used to make this claim."
Too bloody right it shouldn't. But it was, and it was not corrected until after the event - or at least the English event. And then only released within the magic circle of Defra's TB section.
And under those circumstances, we make no apology for the title of this post.