When I used to work for the Medical Research Council, I did my best not to bore people with it on this site. I took up the name “PooterGeek”—ironically, the suggestion of a summer student—so that when people searched for my name on the Web they would find biomedical publications to download rather than movie parodies.

Despite this careful splitting of my personality, I even removed a sniffy PooterGeek review of some terrible science writing because the author of the work phoned me up to complain that a bad notice from someone of my insignificant status within the MRC could be a career-killer. (The scientific journal editor with whom I then shared an office was outraged that I did so, but the article I criticised wasn’t grossly inaccurate, just badly written; and it’s been a general policy of mine to pull stuff on request unless a principle is at stake. PooterGeek has, bizarrely, acquired a certain amount of “power”. I’d rather use it to mock real bullies than to hurt the harmlessly incompetent—people who are overpaid and incompetent are a different matter.)

But I don’t work for the MRC any more, and I can hear the sound of a thousand PooterGeekers groaning at their monitors as I confess that I plan to write a long piece here about the importance of public health programmes. In the meantime, I recommend these two posts on the subject: one by Richard Sanderson reminding us of the value of vaccination and one from Tom Hamilton about how we should set the limits of another kind of medical intervention by the state.