When Peer Review Yields Unsound Science

As we report in our book Trust Us, We're Experts, 'peer review' is a process "in which panels of experts are convened to pass judgement on the work of other researchers. ... In theory, the process of peer review offers protection against scientific errors and bias. In reality, it has proven incapable of filtering out the influence of governmental and corporate funders, whose biases often affect research outcome." Lawrence K. Altman examined the issue in the aftermath of a recent meeting and "the news was grim.


A Swedish Scientist on the Tobacco Payroll

Ragnar Rylander, a respected Swedish scientist, has been doing research on the connections between environmental tobacco smoke and lung disease, research that has been secretly funded by the tobacco company Philip Morris. Rylander has been accused of manipulating his studies to suit tobacco interests, and of thus partaking in a "scientific fraud without precedent."


The Fake Persuaders

"Persuasion works best when it's invisible. The most effective marketing worms its way into our consciousness, leaving intact the perception that we have reached our opinions and made our choices independently," writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot. "As old as humankind itself, over the past few years this approach has been refined, with the help of the internet, into a technique called 'viral marketing'. Last month, the viruses appear to have murdered their host.


U.S., Oil Companies Oust Climate Change Scientist

The Bush administration, Exxon-Mobil and other energy companies successfully connived behind the scenes to oust climatologist Robert Watson from leadership of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nation's international scientific panel on climate change. Meanwhile, an extensive research survey published in March confirms that global warming is already affecting life on earth.


Nature's Editors Disavow GE Corn Article

The science journal Nature says an article it published last year on genetically engineered corn growing in Mexico was not sufficiently researched and should not have been published reports the Washington Post. The controversial article reported that corn growing in Mexico's southern state of Oaxaca contained genetically engineered material, although GE corn has been prohibited in Mexico since 1998.


Mad, Bad and Dangerous

In Trust Us, We're Experts, PR Watch editors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber examined the ways that industry PR manipulates science and gambles with your future. Now British science writer Colin Tudge is exploring similar themes. Whether the topic is pharmaceuticals or genetically modified foods, he says, "people distrust what scientists tell them. And they are perfectly right to do so. ...


Secrecy and Science

"Science has now become the leading edge of the [Bush Administration's] crackdown on public access to government information," according to the New York Times. The Administration has withdrawn from public access over 6,600 technical reports concerning biological and chemical weapons production on grounds that they might help terrorists or others develop weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration is also calling upon scientific societies to impose limits on their scientific publications.


How a Pseudo-Scientist Duped the Big Media

"Bjorn Lomborg's new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, brings us glorious news. The world's environment is getting better, not worse. ... If this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. The Skeptical Environmentalist presents itself as a work of impartial scholarship, an attempt to test the validity of various environmental concerns through a careful analysis of the evidence. In fact, it's a polemic, an intellectually dishonest tract filled with glaring omissions, appalling errors of fact and analysis, and inaccurate characterizations of contrary arguments.


Warning: Industry PR Smears Good Science As "Junk Science"

Public health scientists Samet and Burke issue a strong warning in the current American Journal of Public Health about "the tobacco industry's attempt to discredit the scientific evidence on passive smoking, particularly the industry's use of the label 'junk science.' ... Unfortunately, 'junk science' has now become an ingrained pejorative. The public health community will need to be watchful in other arenas where the "junk science" gambit will be used. ... Trust Us We're Experts offer(s) a popular and cautionary account.... The lessons learned from this episode ...



Subscribe to Science