#NewsSpeak & #NeuroSpeak: who deserves the Ig Nobel prize for MS research?

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British neurologists behaving badly in Edinburgh. #NewsSpeak #MSBlog #NeuroSpeak

It is that time of year again; spring and the very adversarial annual UK MS Debating Society Meeting. I haven’t attended for a few years but it is good to be back. I have been given the very politically-charged task of choosing an MS Researcher worthy of being awarded the Ig Nobel prize. The Ig Nobel prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are awarded each year in mid-September, around the time the recipients of the genuine Nobel Prizes are announced, for ten achievements that ‘first make people laugh, and then make them think’. I found this very difficult so I have to bend the rules slightly; in fact when you look at the Ig Nobel prizes not all of them make you laugh. 



I took the opportunity of seeing my daughter, who is studying in Edinburgh, last night. She showed me her new flat and we then went for a walk followed by a nice dinner on the Royal Mile. She is reading philosophy and theology and listening to her makes me realise how ‘straight-jacketed’ my medical school education was. The medical curriculum is very narrow; you have 5 or 6 years to cram in as many facts as possible. It is only as I have gotten older that I have found the philosophy of science essential reading, not to mention how important economics, sociology, law, politics, ethics, journalism, history, etc. are for the medical profession. 

For those of you who are interested in knowing how much Pharma have had to clean up their act those of us attending  this meeting have had to sign contracts agreeing to how much Merck has spent on us personally. We will then have to declare this as personal income in our tax returns and pay tax on the amount received in kind. As professionals we are however able to claim some of this money back as this meeting is part of our CME (continuing medical education). When I was in Rome last week I heard that these new rules, which apply across Europe, are having a major impact with many European neurologists simply not willing to accept Pharma hospitality as income. Similar rules to these have been in place in Sweden for several years and have not caused too many problems. Interestingly, Sweden is the one country in Europe where neurologists have to maker their tax returns available to the public for scrutiny.  

As for this particular meeting; I was one of the original founders of the meeting and it is probably one of the most enjoyable and free-thinking MS meetings I attend. Merck who have been sponsoring the meeting for 15 years have been brilliant and have always let us have control of the programme. The meeting is kept small to allow adversarial banter between friends and in general like-minded neurologists. Debating is a great way to learn and think about controversial issues and many new concepts that improve how we manage pwMS and change the way we think about MS have come from this meeting. 

As you can see from the programme below the topics are interesting and Barts-MS are involved in many debates. If you are interested I will keep you up to speed with our results. 



CoI: Merck UK are sponsoring the meeting

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

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