Episode 134 – 4th May 2012

This week we find out why geeks need to get more political by speaking to Mark Henderson, author of the ‘Geek Manifesto’, speak to Professor Jim Al-Khalili about his new book on paradoxes in science, discover why FRAND is no friend of free software, and go down the Ancestor’s Trail. And more!


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The Geek Manifesto (2:40) by James O’Malley (ft Mark Henderson)
Open Standards and FRAND (15:08) by Salim Fadhley (ft Glynn Moody)
Paradoxes in Science (24:20) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Jim Al-Khalili)
The Ancestor’s Trail (36:54) by James O’Malley (ft Chris Jenord)
Protest Voting (44:32) by Alex Fitch
Biobank is Good (50:34) by Peter English
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy & Brain Two

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One thought on “Episode 134 – 4th May 2012

  1. Peter, I enjoyed your response to my Biobank piece. I think we probably agree about more than we disagree about. I agree with you that there are potentially great benefits from UK Biobank, and it sounds like you acknowledged my points that the standards of data privacy were not as high as we would normally expect. Probably the main area of disagreement is about exactly how to balance the two.

    I should point out, however, that I’m not saying that it’s definitely all wrong and shouldn’t have gone ahead. I do think it’s a difficult balance to strike, and if a properly constituted ethics committee came down on the side of the UK Biobank project as it’s currently been designed, after careful discussion of the pros and cons, then I wouldn’t really have a problem with that (although it’s not necessarily the decision that would have been reached if I’d been the one with the casting vote on the ethics committee). My main objection is that that careful discussion, which I think is essential for the ethical legitimacy of the project, just didn’t happen. It got approved pretty much by default by an ethics committee that didn’t seem to be up to the job. That’s what I object to.

    I think you also misunderstood one of my other concerns. You said that I objected to UK Biobank because it was a private company, and not a government organisation. That wasn’t really my point. In fact, UK Biobank arguably is a government organisation. It’s actually constituted as a registered charity, but with most of its funding coming from taxpayer-funded sources. My point was that it’s separate from the NHS. Whether it’s a separate organ of government or a private company is immaterial here: the point is that since it’s a separate organisation from the NHS, the NHS has no right to share my data with it without my consent.

    In general, I’d rather trust a private company than the government with my personal data. My bank looks after my personal data pretty well. The Royal Navy left a laptop with my personal details on it in the back of a car for it to get stolen. But that’s probably not that relevant to the current discussion.

    Anyway, apart from that, an interesting piece with some great points, and I enjoyed listening to it.

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