I am Neuroscience PhD, a humanist, skeptic, feminist, avid reader, science enthusiast, woolly-liberal über-nerd, and, as of October 2015, father to the Lykketroll.

I moved from England to Norway in January 2012 and live in Lørenskog with my wife, the Lykketroll, and our two aging rescue cats, Socrates and Schrödinger. 

I am on paternity leave from the 4th of July to the 18th of November. 

The job I am on leave from is as an  Associate Professor and Head of Studies at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. My background is in child neurodevelopment (my PhD looked into the relationship between fatty acids like omega-3 and cognitive development in young children) but I now work on a hodge-podge of things roughly within the field of Universal Design of ICT 50% of the time, the other 50% of my time I am Head of the 'General' Studies (Allmenn in Norwegian) Unit, which is comprised of around 24 academics within a range of fields, including mathematics, physics, Norwegian, and technology and leadership.

In between working and doing the usual dad things,  I like hiking and running in the beautiful Norwegian outdoors, cooking and playing video games. 

If I believed in souls I would say that mine was born in Norway. 

I plan to sleep when I'm dead.

Survey shows that Dagbladet article on mobile phone use abroad is 100% PR-driven rubbish.

I’ve recently had a go at Dagbladet for their terrible storyon the HPV vaccine, and then for regurgitating some Daily Mail guff in the wake of the—in no way totally made up, honest—controversy surrounding Newcastle United Football Club’s muslim players following the club’s decision to be sponsored by Wonga, and I’m afraid it’s their turn again this weekend, this time for the perfect example of PR-driven ‘news’ story.

Yesterday’s Dagbladet (Saturday 17th) had a story on page 27 with the headline ‘Norwegians don’t take a holiday from their mobile’. The article reports some survey data which shows that 97% of Norwegians feel that they couldn’t cope with a holiday abroad without their mobile phones, 55% want WiFi in their hotel rooms, 74% want to know what’s going on back home and 31% of men and  17% of women check their work emails when away on holiday. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how to you think about, the story isn’t available online, so I can’t link to it.

The first and most obvious problem with this article is that

we have no idea how many people were included in this survey

. Were there thousands of people or just a handful? Without knowing this, the numbers are essentially meaningless, and yet this key bit of info is missing. Not to mention the fact that who the respondents were and what, how, and why they were asked, are all important factors in how this survey ‘data’ can be interpreted. 

That’s not just the only thing that got my back up though. Reading through the article, I was struck by just how closely it followed the model for PR-driven news articles that I first learned from Michael Marshall, of

Merseyside Skeptics Society

and

Skeptics with a K

, at a

Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub

meeting maybe a couple of years ago now. His talk on “How PR Came to Rule Modern Journalism” changed the way I read newspapers and I’d thoroughly recommend spending an hour of your time watching the presentation below, which

Glasgow Skeptics

have posted complete with the lecture slides.

Marshall’s rule of thumb for spotting an advert disguised as a new story is the 4

th

Paragraph Rule: ‘If a company name appears around paragraph four, there’s a strong chance they paid for it’. This has stuck with ever since I first heard it and I find myself scanning for examples without even meaning to sometimes.

This Dagbladet article isn’t the first PR-driven story I’ve read in the papers since moving to Norway but it’s definitely one of the clearest examples of a Bullshit Surprising Survey (which Marshall talks about around the 33 mark minute of the video above). First Star Tour travel agents gets a mention as the instigators of the survey in the first paragraph, and then there’s a quote from a representative of i Ticket ‘Scandinavia's largest travel agency chain’. There is no

news

 content to speak of; it is just a badly disguised advert for a couple of companies who are in the business of selling people holidays.

It's interesting that even Norwegian newspapers follow the format for PR-driven articles so closely, but it's not surprising as journalists and newspapers here are under the same pressures that lead to this situation as back in the UK. I tweeted

Marshall

about it and found out that he’ll be giving a talk on the subject in Stockholm next August. It’s a depressing certainty that I’ll have many more examples of PR-driven ‘news’ articles in Nordic papers for him to talk about by then.

Dagbladet's response to my post on their PR-driven nonsense article

Article for Argument: Snus: What's the Harm?