Hilda Bastian (PhD) was a health consumer advocate in Australia in the ’80s and ’90s. Controversies riddled with ideology and vested interests drove her to science. Epidemiology and effectiveness research have kept her hooked.
Hilda has a habit of being a “founding member” of things. They include the Consumers’ Health Forum of Australia,’s first board and some of its parts, and the Cochrane Collaboration and its Consumers and Communication Review Group. In 2004 she joined the group of people who helped build the national Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); that required moving to Germany and learning the language.
A second intercontinental migration ensued in 2011. This time it was to Washington DC to the National Institutes of Health, where she worked on projects at PubMed. After a regime change there, she returned to Australia in 2018 to finish her PhD at the Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare, on some factors affecting the validity of systematic reviews (awarded in 2020).
Hilda is a member of the editorial board of the independent Drugs and Therapeutic Bulletin, and is the lead for the independent advisory group on the update of the Cochrane review on exercise therapy and ME/CFS. She is also a member of the PLOS One Human Research Advisory Group, and a Wikipedian, blogging occasionally at BMJ Blogs. She is also a contributor to WIRED.
Absolutely Maybe began on the Scientific American Blog Network in July 2013, moving to PLOS Blogs in December 2014. The artwork on Absolutely Maybe is usually her own. Hilda also enjoys exploring the limitless comedic potential of clinical epidemiology in cartoons, sometimes at the blog, Statistically Funny. She credits her love of comics to Brenda Starr, Wonder Woman and The Archies.
Hilda has been profiled by the Sydney Morning Herald (“A voice for the people”, in 1994), the BMJ (“Australia’s consumer champion”, in 1999), Australian Doctor (“A passionate woman”, in 2000), and STAT News (“She speaks – and draws – truth to scientific power”, in 2016). She was featured in Vox in 2017 in an article, “Doctors have decades of experiencing fighting ‘fake news’. Here’s how they win”.
Commenting at this blog:
I like reading people’s comments, and I like to chat – so I would be happy to hear from you. (I moderate blog comments, though, and I will not release comments that would turn the commenting space into an unpleasant corner of the internet.)
Other than freelance writing for commercial media outlets and PLOS, since becoming involved in health and science in the 1980s, my employers have all been not-for-profit community or government agencies, or not-for-profit universities. I have never accepted funding from a manufacturer of a drug, device, or similar health product. More than 20 years ago, I received funding from a not-for-profit health insurer, and once from a private health insurers’ association for participation in a conference. Other than bank and retirement savings accounts, I have never owned stocks or had financial investments.
I have received research grants (or benefited from grants received by others) from: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC – Australia); Consumers’ Health Forum of Australia (CHF), UK Cochrane Centre, Victorian Department of Health, National Institute of Clinical Studies (NICS – an Australian government agency that no longer exists), intramural National Institutes of Health (NIH), waived PhD university fees under the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.