25 Days of CoDI: Day 6

On the sixth day of CoDI Mr Murray asked me, when, where and how would you like to die?

Scott Murray: Bringing Death Back to Life 

 scott murray

Professor Scott Murray, St Columba’s Hospice Chair of Primary Palliative Care at the University of Edinburgh, is appearing at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas as part of Death on the Fringe. Death on the Fringe is a series of events looking at this difficult topic. Director of Death on the Fringe, Robert Peacock explains more…



Death is never the easiest thing to talk about. That much is obvious. But like many things, it doesn’t go away just because you push it to the back of your mind and pretend it’s not going to happen. Paradoxically, if you do discuss it, it can become much easier to deal with and hence quite liberating.


What do you want to happen after you die? Have you made a will? Have you thought about your funeral? What about if you become terminally ill?


These are questions it is better to have with relatives and friends while everyone is calm and in good health, rather than in the emotional upheaval that surrounds a health scare or emergency situation.


Death on the Fringe exists as a way to kick-start those conversations in an entertaining and understanding way, at the world’s biggest arts festival. If the taboo surrounding death can’t be broken at the Fringe, where can it?


We are now in our third year. As well as incorporating comedy and drama, we also programme a range of events featuring prominent academics and thinkers in the area of death and bereavement.


Professor Murray has supported Death on the Fringe since the beginning and we’re delighted to have him performing this year as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. He used to work in rural Kenya and has very interesting perspectives on how different cultures treat death around the world.


He draws on that experience to challenge people with the questions: when, where and how would you like to die? Why are we not planning for death the same way we plan for a wedding for instance? Could it not save a lot of heartache, suffering and expense?


These are challenging things to think about, and there are no easy answers, but we do hope that by posing the questions, it helps to make the inevitable less intimidating and unthinkable.


Please join us at Professor Murray’s talk, and when you’re not at other Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas events, see what else is on at Death on the Fringe on our website, www.deathonthefringe.org.uk.  You can also find out about the wider year round initiative of which it is a part, Good Life Good Death Good Grief, on the website www.goodlifedeathgrief.org.uk.


Scott’s show takes place on Tuesday 9th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at: http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/99/performance/1534/book-tickets

Scott Death


25 Days of CoDI: Day 5

On the fifth day of CoDI Gary left me questioning, the safety of cancer screening. 


Gary Kerr: Is Cancer Screening Harmful?


What is your background?

Gary Kerr

I’m a scientist-turned-social scientist and a science communicator. My background is in Genetics. I studied Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow. Following on from Glasgow I gained a PhD in genetics and cell biology from the University of Warwick. Whilst working as a laboratory scientist, I realised that my scientific skills would be best used outside of the lab. So, I became a science communicator and presented science shows in primary schools. I worked for various science festivals but I realised that I missed both the academic freedom and deep critical thinking required in academia.

What do you do now?

I am a Researcher in Science Communication at the University of Salford, Manchester. I research the role of science communication events, such as science festivals, in shaping society and how people view and interact with scientists. Scientists are sometimes seen as elusive and secretive. Consequently one part of my research is looking at how the general public interact with scientists and looking at how that relationship could be improved. Furthermore, I also do freelance science communication work. This includes assuming the roles of presenter, trainer, curator, producer and manager at various science festivals across the UK – this is very important for my research. In order to understand the society and sub-culture which I study, I need to immerse myself in that world so that I can see and understand that world (and thus critique it) through the eyes of that sub-culture.

 How does your CoDI talk fit with your research?

My CoDI talk combines my previous experience in Medical Genetics with my current research in the social dimensions of science and technology. As a result, it fits in perfectly with my research. So I really want to use the show to examine the relationship between scientists and the public. I want to  question what it means to be an ‘expert’ giving ‘expert advice’.

I want to understand why we don’t question expert advice in some cases, but completely disregard it in other cases.


Why are you participating in CoDI 2016?

I participated in CoDI in 2014, and questioned whether or not designer babies were a slippery slope for society. This was an interesting event as there was so much audience debate and discussion. We manged to change the mind of 3 people in the event. Initially they were very clearly against having designer babies. They did however come round to the idea of it, so long as it was properly regulated and not used for cosmetic purposes. I’m interested in this format of event from a research angle: How can scientists best engage the public to inform and engage with complex topics?

What are you looking forward to most from CoDI?

I’m very much looking forward to playing devil’s advocate. I will be throwing out facts and figures and challenging people’s opinions on blindly believing scientific claims.

I want to challenge people to go out to the world and ask for evidence when they hear claims about medicine and science. And of course, I’m looking forward to a bit of banter on stage with the wonderful Susan Morrisson!

Gary’s show takes place on Monday 8th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:  http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/104/performance/1539/book-tickets

Gary Cancer Screening

25 Days of CoDI : Day 4

On the fourth day of CoDI Clarkson made it clear to me, that dental health is a priority


Jan Clarkson: Bad Teeth = Bad Health Jan Clarkson

Do bad teeth really = bad health? We sat down with Jan Clarkson, Co-Director of the Dental Health Services Research Unit (DHSRU) at the University of Dundee, to find out just how serious not taking care of our teeth can be…


It’s no secret that a lackadaisical approach to dental care leads to fillings and gum disease. However, the latest research evidence suggests it could also cause serious illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.


Oral disease is the most widespread chronic disease. Consequently, it affects 4 Billion, is often invisible and is accepted as an unavoidable consequence of life and ageing.


As a result, there is increasing concern that the high burden of oral diseases represents a widely underestimated public health challenge, for almost all countries worldwide. Despite being highly preventable, the global cost of oral disease is $300 billion and not everyone has equal access to dental care.

Female in pain after a tooth extracted, close-up







Poor oral health can have detrimental consequences on physical and psychological wellbeing. As a result NHS choices and popular daily press provide evidence that bad teeth = bad health. Yet people continue to neglect their teeth.

Bad Teeth = Bad Health



So are these publishers right?  And if so why aren’t people listening? Are there other places to look for trusted evidence? Maybe, probably, but where?


This CODI event will challenge your assumptions about the importance of oral health and debate the evidence for ‘Bad teeth = Bad health’

Bad Teeth = Bad Health

The common risk factors that oral disease shares with other chronic diseases/conditions are:

  • Diet

– Risk factor for dental caries, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers and obesity

  • Tobacco smoking/chewing

– Risk factor for oral and other cancers, periodontal disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases and diabetes

  • Alcohol consumption

– Risk factor for oral and other cancers, cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis and trauma

Bad Teeth = Bad Health
Common Risk Factor Approach

Jan’s Research

Jan’s research is in dental clinical effectiveness and knowledge translation. She has worked in health services research throughout her career, focusing especially on issues relevant to dental practices.

Much of her research is embedded in service delivery and summarizing evidence. Consequently, the outcome has informed changes to Scotland’s dental remuneration policy and education. Her current research, in partnership with NHS Education for Scotland, focuses on the challenge of getting dental care providers to use best evidence.

As Joint Chief Investigator of three national multi-centre randomized controlled trials, it’s safe to say she has lot of responsibility. She manages research funds of £10m with collaborators across 10 sites. Furthermore she is involved with the recruitment of 180 UK dental practices and over 4000 of their patients. The results of this research will not only impact Scotland. In addition, as joint leader of Cochrane Oral Health, she works with international colleagues to provide summaries of the world best evidence

In 2016, in recognition of her contribution to dentistry, Jan was marked with the award of an Honorary Fellowship, from the Faculty of General Dental Practitioners, (part of the Royal College of Surgeons England).

In conclusion, Jan really knows what she is talking about, yet she still wants to hear what you have to say! She cannot know everything however, and she cannot view dental health from the same angle as everyone else. Therefore it is up to you, to come and hear what she has to say, and to have your say in debating the matter!

Jan’s show takes place on Sunday 7th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:  http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/103/performance/1538/book-tickets


Bad Teeth = Bad Health

25 Days of CoDI : Day 3

On the third day of CoDI Dean and Cross brought to me, my very own science adventure…

Lewis Dean and Kate Cross: Choose Your Own Science Adventure

Kate and Lewis come as a double act. They had such a good time at their first two CODI shows that they’re coming back for a third in 2016.

Science Adventure
Kate, Susan and Lewis @ CoDI 2014

We tracked them down to ask them about their research and themselves.

What is your name and what is your job title?

KC: Kate Cross, Lecturer in Psychology, University of St Andrews
LD: Lewis Dean, Public Engagement with Research Manager, Research Councils UK

Tell us about your research in one sentence.

KC: I study psychological differences (and similarities) between men and women.
LD: I’m interested in the evolution of human culture; basically why we’re the primate with hammers and computers and science


Who/what inspired you to do research?

KC: When I was a 2nd-year undergraduate student I was taught by a Prof called Anne Campbell. She studied girl gangs in New York, so she had some interesting stories to tell about her work! She clearly loved what she did and it was exciting to hear her speak about it.
LD: There are three writers who had a massive impact on me – James Herriot and Gerald Durrell inspired my interest in animals and Jared Diamond got me thinking about how humans evolved.


What’s your show about?

KC: It’s a show about ‘Questionable Research Practices’. These are things that scientists sometimes do – whether knowingly or unknowingly – which make it more likely that their results are wrong.

LD: And they end up telling the world that they’ve found something real, when it’s really not clear that they have.


Why did you pick that topic?

LD: Well, last year we did a show about current controversies in psychology, and as part of it we did a brief demonstration of how one Questionable Research Practice called p-hacking works. (It’s when researchers do several lots of tests on their data but only report the ones that ‘worked’)

KC: Our audience wanted to know more, and we wanted to cover more – about how common these practices might be, about some of the consequences of them, and what we could do about them. So we decided to come back and devote a whole show to it.

LD: But nobody wants to come to a 50-minute lecture entitled “Questionable Research Practices, Why They’re Bad, And How To Stop Them”

KC: (We are certain about this)

LD: So instead, we’re going to do a bit of silly theatre. We’re going to show the sorts of situations where scientists might be likely to use Questionable Research Practices, and some of the consequences that QRPs can have.

KC: While avoiding any accusations flung at particular scientists or groups.

LD: Of course. We’ll also do some Q&A.

KC: Yes. Think of it as being part half ‘chat with a couple of researchers’ and half Greek-tragedy/detective movie/British farce mashup.


Well what more could you wish for? If you’ve already seen the duo in action, you know what a treat you’re in for with this show, if you haven’t, well you’d be a fool to miss another!

Lewis & Kate’s show takes place on Saturday 6th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at: http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/102/performance/1537/book-tickets


@CatharineCross @CODIfringe #CODI2016 (1)

25 Days of CoDI: Day 2

On the second day of CoDI, it came as news to me, that exercise is bad for you…


Professor Derek Ball: Exercise is Bad for You

What is your background?

derek ballI have a non-standard background. First of all I trained as a registered general nurse (RGN) in London in the mid 1980’s, before entering higher education.  My first degree was in Sport Science, which I studied at Manchester Metropolitan University. Following this I completed a PhD in Medical Sciences (diet and exercise performance) in the Medical School at Aberdeen University. My first job after finishing my PhD was at the Marine Biology department (the Gatty) in St Andrews. Here I studied the effects of temperature change on fish muscle performance. My experience in St Andrews was especially relevant, and really set my career using molecular biology to understand muscle function.


What do you do now?

I am an Associate Professor in Applied and Integrative Physiology and the Director of Post-Graduate Studies in Human Health and Disease, at Heriot-Watt University. I have been at Heriot-Watt University since 2006. I arrived here in Edinburgh after working for the Ministry of Defence on life support systems on nuclear submarines.


How does your CoDI talk fit with your research?

My research focuses on human metabolism and health and the effects of our lifestyle on these factors. Exercise is a good experimental model to use when looking at the response to an increase in energy expenditure and how the body simultaneously co-ordinates several different organ systems to meet these demands. However, sometimes we can over-stress the body and this tells us something about the limits to the human body and how these are manifested. Exercise is generally thought to be good for us but there are exceptions to this rule and my talk will explore some of these more controversial ideas by looking at several organ systems.


Why are you participating in CoDI 2016?

I participated in CoDI 2015, discussing whether we should allow athletes to take performance enhancing drugs and the possible implications. I enjoyed the experience so much that I volunteered to appear again in 2016.


What are you looking forward to most from CoDI?

First and foremost interacting with you the audience. The audience are always interested in hearing what you have to say. Secondly, taking the CoDI experience back to the lecture theatre, last year’s experience helped me to engage with my students more effectively!

Derek’s show takes place on Friday 5th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at: http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/101/performance/1536/book-tickets

With special thanks to sponsors Royal Society of Biology

Derek Exercise



25 Days of CoDI : Day 1

To celebrate CoDI returning for a 4th year in 2016, we shall be running a blog for the following 25 days titled ’25 Days of CoDI’, to give you all a taste of what CoDI has in store for you at #edfringe 2016! So take a seat, get comfy, and feast your eyes upon our first post…


On the first day of CoDI, Beltane revealed to me…

The first CoDI act of 2016… Professor Stephen Lawrie: Mental Health is… Mental


No your mam’s new car isn’t mental, and neither is Kanye’s new song… Stephen Lawrie’s talk on mental health however, well yes, that is mental!

Stephen Lawrie is Head of Psychiatry at Edinburgh University, Director of the Scottish Mental Health Research Network, and PsySTAR Director. (PsySTAR  is  a UK PhD training programme for psychiatrists). As an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist with NHS Lothian, he works as a general adult psychiatrist in Edinburgh.

Professor Lawrie’s overarching goal is developing research tools to provide objective diagnoses and improve the management of major psychiatric disorder. He is particularly interested in clinical applications of brain imaging in psychosis and in the development of novel treatments. These treatments might enhance outcomes in established schizophrenia and possibly even prevent psychosis in high risk populations.

His own research has primarily involved using structural and functional brain imaging. This is used to distinguish patients with schizophrenia from their relatives, and from other patients with major psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder and autism. He has published more than 300 papers in peer reviewed journals, edited six books, and is on the editorial board of several journals. He is currently principal or co-investigator on more than £20M of research and training grants from MRF/MRC, MRC NIHR, Wellcome Trust and the EU. So basically, he knows what he’s talking about. 

Professor Stepehn LawrieTake it away Stephen…

All this talk about Mental Health and Stigma is annoying. It is Dualistic, Ambiguous and Stigmatising!!!

The word MENTAL itself is unhelpful because it exists as something distinct from the physical. It suggests our mental lives are distinguishable from our physical lives and reality. To some the word conjures up things that are imaginary or not real – and to others the word ‘mental’ is an alternative to calling people ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘self-destructive’. All these words denote something that is somehow less worthy of serious attention, care and compassion. And this is probably part of the reason that services for mental illness only get around 10% of the funding for physical illness services on the NHS. ‘Mental’ services and practitioners are marginalised and under-resourced.  Ultimately, there is no mental illness or physical illness, there is just illness; and all illness has biological, psychological and social components.


MENTAL HEALTH is even worse! This is mainly because we know quite a lot about treating mental illness and almost nothing about treating or increasing mental health. But ‘mental health’ is a bad phrase because talking of mental health when we are really talking about mental illness is euphemistic, avoiding the real subject and not actually dealing with the problem. So, some people end up talking about treating or preventing mental health (which sounds like a bad thing to do!), when they really mean treating or preventing illness.


And then there is the word STIGMA. It is ok on its own but to talk about the STIGMA OF MENTAL HEALTH or ILLNESS is itself stigmatising. This is both because it is again separating the mental from the physical but also because it misses the point. The real aim of services and sophisticated societies in general should be to promote the SOCIAL INCLUSION of people with mental illness. Reducing stigma is difficult if not impossible, whereas social inclusion is at least partly an achievable goal. The very inclusion of those with mental illness will reduce stigma, and prejudice and discrimination that arise from it.

So, let’s talk about the treatment of and social inclusion for those with mental illness.


Stephen’s show takes place on Thursday 4th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at: http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/98/performance/1533/book-tickets

Mental 2





Stephen Mental

Welcome to the 2016 Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas!

Welcome to the 2016 Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas!

SONY DSCWelcome to the 2016 Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas!

For the fourth year running, some of academia’s finest minds will be taken out of their natural university habitat and plonked down in the middle of the Edinburgh Fringe, with only compere extraordinaire Susan Morrison to protect them.

Come hear them speak frankly about some of their most controversial ideas and have your say.

Tickets are already on sale, so check out the programme RIGHT NOW!


We would like to say a big thank you to all of you who helped promote, support and attended out CODI events this fringe.

Also a big well done to our presenters. You can take a look at the photos of the events here.

Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2015

Final shows

We only have 4 shows left of #codi15!

CODI (25.08.15) Hug a thug (credit Lucy Gibbons) (2)
Susan dressed as a hoodie- “Hug a thug”
Why is the Arctic cold demonstration. "Skating on thin ice"
Why is the Arctic cold demonstration. “Skating on thin ice”
Anyone for... Lobster!? "Wild Scottish and Free"
Anyone for… Lobster!? “Wild Scottish and Free”

Thursday 27th – The Great British Brain Off

Friday 28th – What if Lance Armstrong had the right Idea?

Saturday 29th – Computers are only for geeks

Sunday 30th- Edinburgh should ban students 









It has been a manic,exhausting but exhilarating month here at CODI HQ with some truly fascinating shows.
Lewis and Kate gained a 4* review with their show “Alas, poor Darwin..?” ( read here) and We even featured on STV … watch it via http://player.stv.tv/summary/edinburgh-festival-2015/ – the 7.05pm ‘Edinburgh Festival 2015’ episode shown on Monday 17 August (Mon 17 Aug, 7.05 pm). Fast forward to 11.15 into the 44 minute long show.

Good luck to our remaining presenters and we look forward to seeing you 3pm in the Yurt – St Andrews Square!

Week 2 round up

Its coming to the end of week 2 of the fringe, can you believe it?

We have had loads more excellent shows covering topics from the selfie to evolutionary theory. We even featured on STV’s Fountainbridge show which you can watch here at 11.15 mins

In the next few days you can look forward to some shows surrounding drugs, violence and criminality…

Saturday 22nd- Swords into ploughshares

Sunday 23rd – The Cocaine Conspiracy 

The Cocaine Conspiracy (trailer 2015) from Wild Leaf Reels on Vimeo.

Monday 24th – The war on drugs is harmful 

Tuesday 25th – Hug a thug