Talk:1978 smallpox outbreak in the United Kingdom

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Bias?Edit

The lead and conclusions section seem to me biased, with far more emphasis placed on the anti-Shooter position than the results of the official enquiry. It's not clear to me why Pallen (a microbiologist & pop-science writer) and Escott-Cox (a lawyer) are being forwarded over the official position. Espresso Addict (talk) 01:32, 3 February 2020 (UTC)

There is no official position. The Shooter report was just that. Shooter's conclusions were never ratified by Parliament or the Government. Although the source of virus (Bedson's laboratory) is beyond doubt the transmission route has never been established. The conclusion in Shooter's report, that the virus was carried through air ducts, was deemed most unlikely in the subsequent court case and was central to the "not guilty" judgment. It seems the transmission route will never be known. Pallen is not alone in thinking that the Shooter Report is wrong about this.Graham Beards (talk) 08:59, 3 February 2020 (UTC)
Yes, I agree. It’s not about favouring Pallen and Escott-Cox over Shooter. They are just reflective of where the reliable sources are. For example, Behbehani p.503. It would be a WP:DUE problem to put Shooter over subsequent RS consensus i.e. no one knows how the transmission happened. DeCausa (talk) 13:05, 3 February 2020 (UTC)
@Graham Beards and DeCausa: I really strongly object to the bolded parts of the following in the lead: "A number of internationally recognised experts produced compelling evidence during the prosecution to show that it was highly unlikely that Parker was infected by airborne transmission in this way. How Parker contracted the disease remains unknown. "
I'd suggest removing the unsourced intensifiers "compelling" and "highly", and also stating that Parker clearly was infected from the lab stock of smallpox, as no-one doubts this, but the precise route is unknown/contested/whatever. I also think the Birmingham Mail source is completely unreliable. Espresso Addict (talk) 04:16, 4 February 2020 (UTC)
I’m neutral on the intensifiers but ”How Parker contracted the disease remains unknown” is exactly right and has to be the conclusion in the lead. But I don’t have any objection to adding to it “... although there is general agreement that the source of Parker’s infection was the smallpox virus grown at the medical school laboratory.” As far as the Birmingham Mail is concerned, it’s clearly RS for what Escott-Cox, the QC directly involved in the prosecution, said. What evidence do you have that it is unreliable to that extent (or at all)? 07:30, 4 February 2020 (UTC)
I edited the Lead: "Several internationally recognised experts produced evidence during the prosecution to show that it was unlikely that Parker was infected by airborne transmission in this way. Although there is general agreement that the source of Parker’s infection was the smallpox virus grown at the Medical School laboratory, how Parker contracted the disease remains unknown."
I am no fan of The Birmingham Post and Mail but I too can't see why it is an unreliable source for this article. It reported the tragedy accurately as I recall. What facts cited to this newspaper are contested? Graham Beards (talk) 09:03, 4 February 2020 (UTC)
Thanks, Graham Beards. There are four sources given for the statement at the start of the conclusion "Although it seems clear that the source of Parker’s infection was the smallpox virus grown at the University of Birmingham Medical School laboratory, it remains unknown how Parker came to be infected." One is Pallen's 2018 book, but no pages are cited; one is a BBC article from 2018 which presumably was related to the book's PR; one is The Birmingham Post and Mail article from 2018, again presumably related to the book; and the final one is the Behbehani review from 1983, which is independent and reliable. I would propose removing the two presumably dependent sources, which in any case fall far short of the medical project's standards for sourcing.
In general I don't think we should use local news coverage for anything medical related at all, and the sensational tone of the Birmingham Post and Mail article in question feels to me inappropriate even for linking. However I don't see a particular problem with retaining it as the source for the quotation from Escott-Cox -- aside from the fact that it links their article to ours, and encourages people to add further details from it, and also to append similar-quality sources willy-nilly to other medical articles. But that's a wider problem. Espresso Addict (talk) 01:55, 5 February 2020 (UTC)
You seem to have a very strong point of view on this. Can you indicate reliable sources that support what appears to be your point of view i.e. that considering both the Shooter conclusion on transmission and the new evidence adduced at the subsequent prosecution (and the conclusions reached in the prosecution as a result) the Shooter conclusion should still be presented as the likely explanation. I came to this article a few months ago without any prior view or, admittedly, without any prior knowledge. I spent some time searching for sources and I couldn’t find any with your POV. It would help the development of the article if you could suggest some for us to discuss. Incidentally, I think this is unhelpfully pointy. If you want to challenge their sourced description then it would be best to raise it expressly.DeCausa (talk) 07:49, 5 February 2020 (UTC)
The references still need work. I'll add the page numbers for Shooter and Pallen. By the way, I am acknowledged in Pallen's book – although I had little to add. I wrote most of my contribution to our article long before he wrote his book so I don't see a problem. But in the spirit of openness, I think it is best to declare this.Graham Beards (talk) 10:19, 5 February 2020 (UTC)
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