Global Myths & Global Risks

A Public Symposium: How can we restore society’s trust in health research through epidemiology?


    Coffee improves your memory
    Eating breakfast helps you lose weight
    Deodorants cause breast cancer
    Vaccines do more harm than good

    It can be hard to spot the risks among the myths. We are inundated with all sorts of ‘scientific evidence’ on a daily basis. Who should we trust? When should we get alarmed and take action? Epidemiology is the discipline that is supposed to provide answers to these health questions.

    This public KIT symposium will challenge participants’ ability to spot the real risks among the myths, explore drivers and consequences of the decreasing trends in immunisation in the Netherlands and Europe, and tease out recommendations for epidemiologists from a panel of global health experts from Africa, Asia, South America and the Netherlands.

    Report of the day can be viewed here!

    Event Details

    Date18 June, 2019
    Time16:00 – 18:00
    LocationKIT Royal Tropical Institute, Leeszaal
    Mauritskade 63, 1092 AD Amsterdam

    Registration is now closed.

    "Fake news" & the reproducibility crisis

    Most epidemiological findings are genuine and make an important contribution to public health, but some findings are obtained from ill-designed, poorly implemented, inappropriately analysed or selectively reported studies. These ‘questionable research practices’ are partly responsible for the reproducibility crisis in research, whereby studies cannot be replicated by independent researchers, casting serious doubt on their validity.

    Questionable research practices can have catastrophic public health implications. Vaccine hesitancy provides a case in point: many high-income countries are seeing a drop in vaccination rates and a surge in deadly diseases that were once thought near eradication. As vaccine hesitancy continues to spread in various shapes or forms, it could threaten millions of lives in low- and middle-income countries with weak and already over-stretched health systems.

    So how can epidemiologists across the globe counter the reproducibility crisis? And how can they respond to ‘fake news’ studies once they have taken a life of their own and start becoming the public health threat in question? Join the conversation on 18 June to find out!

    Planned Speakers

    Moderator: Stuart Blume, University of Amsterdam

    Stuart Blume was born in England, and educated at the University of Oxford. After a D.Phil in chemistry he moved into the fields of science policy and the sociology of science, working at the University of Sussex, the OECD in Paris, and in various British government departments. Between 1975 and 1977 he worked in the Cabinet Office (London) and from 1977 to 1980 as Research Secretary of the (government) committee on Social Inequalities in Health (the ‘Black Committee’). That led to what has since been his principal research interest: in the development and introduction of new health care technologies.

    Starting at the London School of Economics, he continued that work after moving to a Chair of Science Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam, in 1982. The focus of this historical and sociological research has gradually shifted, from diagnostic imaging technologies, to cochlear implants, and (from 1997) to vaccines. Current research focuses on (1) the history and dynamics of the global vaccine system and (2) the development and uses of technologies for and by people with disabilities. In 2000 he established the Innovia Foundation on Medicine Technology and Society as a virtual research institute concerned with user perspectives on new health care technologies.

    In 2007 Stuart Blume became Emeritus Professor. In 2009 he was appointed as expert advisor on bioethics to the World Federation of the Deaf, and from 2009- 2012 he was ‘Professor 2’ at the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Oslo (Norway). In 2013-2014 he spent several months as ‘Prometeo’ fellow attached to the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Cuenca, Ecuador, and in September 2013 he was Visiting Professor at the Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Orebro University.

    Speaker: Mariska Leeflang, Program Leader Methodology, Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Amsterdam Medical Centre

    Mariska Leeflang graduated as a veterinarian in 2003 and decided to make a move into research. In 2008 she defended her PhD thesis “Systematic reviews of diagnostic test accuracy”, with prof. Patrick Bossuyt as promotor. In 2010, Mariska obtained a Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research highly competitive VENI grant for “New methods for comparative evaluations of diagnostic tests”.

    Mariska’s work is built upon three pillars: systematic reviews of diagnostic test accuracy, comparative accuracy meta-analyses and primary studies for test-evaluation. She developed a method to meta-analyse predictive values instead of sensitivity and specificity and a way to compare heterogeneity between meta-analyses. Furthermore, she showed that prevalence may influence, through other routes, sensitivity and specificity. This in contrast to what is generally taught. Lastly, she showed that studies comparing two tests may lead to different conclusions when included in a meta-analysis than studies focusing on only one test.

    Mariska has been invited to give presentations for the Gates’ Foundation in Seattle, for the British Society of Parasitology in the UK, and many other places. For The Cochrane Collaboration, she was involved in training of European Cochrane Review groups in doing diagnostic reviews, as editor for diagnostic reviews and as co-convenor of the Screening and Diagnostic Test Methods group. Within the AMC, she is board member of the Graduate School for PhD students, and coordinator of the Honours programme (both bachelor and master).

    Speaker: Nicoline van der Maas, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)

    Nicoline van der Maas is a medical doctor and epidemiologist at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), a position she has held since 2009.

    Until 2010, she was leader of the unit that was responsible for the enhanced spontaneous reporting system of adverse events following immunisations. Thereafter, she started to work in the “research and surveillance of the National Immunisation Programme” unit, situated within the epidemiology department.

    Her areas of expertise are diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis and pertussis. Furthermore, she is interested in studies regarding safety of vaccinations and immunization of risk groups, e.g. pregnant women and preterm infants.

    In June 2018, she defended her PhD, entitled “Vaccine-preventable diseases: evaluation of vaccination programmes and optimization of surveillance.” In July 2018, she finished her training as a public health medical doctor.

    From November 2018 onwards, she is working as a medical advisor on vaccinations and screening for two days per week. The remaining days she is still working as an epidemiologist.

    She is a (co)author of more than 50 peer-reviewed articles concerning vaccinations and vaccine-preventable diseases.