Ten years ago, on June 28, 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court issued "the most influential ruling you've never heard of," says the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy. In the case known as Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., they directing judges to act as "gatekeepers" in the courtroom, excluding expert testimony if they deemed it was "junk science." "But what started as a well-intentioned attempt to ensure reliable and relevant evidentiary science has had troubling consequences. ...
In its recent attempt to revise an EPA report on climate change and the environment, the White House cites a study by Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics that has drawn harsh criticism from climatologists. "Greenhouse skeptics, pro-industry groups and political conservatives have seized on the results," David Appell writes in Scientific American.
"Nanotech joins biotech among those
promising technologies that hold the potential to
change our world radically," Citigate Cunningham vice president
Bill Bennett told PR trade publication The Holmes Report. Many in the PR industry are looking to nanotechology as the next big thing. "Such potential will never be without controversy, and already there are pockets
As we detail in our book Trust Us, We're Experts , 'junk science' is a PR pejorative used by corporations to smear environmentalists and public interest scientists.
Following the publication of an influential 1981 Japanese study linking secondhand cigarette smoke to lung cancer, the tobacco industry went on the attack, funding its own study to counter the Hirayama study. "The goal of the study was to produce a credible, peer reviewed article that could be used as a public relations tool," report Mi-Kyung Hong and Lisa A. Bero.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has joined a number of other health and science leaders in questioning the integrity of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (RTP), a "seemingly independent scientific journal" that hides "its authors' and editors' extensive financial ties to tobacco, chemical, pharmaceutical, and other industries. ... [M]any RTP papers are written by scientists from industry labs or by industry-paid lawyers and lobbyists.
Congressional Democrats accuse the Bush Administration of stacking the Center for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention with "individuals who are affiliated or openly sympathetic with the views of the lead industry." Their report "Turning Lead Into Gold: How the Bush Administration is Poisoning the Lead Advisory Committee at the CDC" details recent changes to the panel, noting the removal or rejection of several academic experts on lead poisoning.
"The Bush administration has begun a broad restructuring of the scientific advisory committees that guide federal policy in areas such as patients' rights and public health, eliminating some committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the president's views and in other cases replacing members with handpicked choices," reports Rick Weiss. The Department of Health and Human Services has shut down or revamped committees set up to give advice on topics such as biotechnology and the effects of environmental chemicals on human health.
"Security guards, secret guest lists and silent sponsors were not what some participants were expecting when they turned up at a meeting in Sydney earlier this year to discuss new medicines. Billed as a 'Collaborative Forum' at the University of NSW, the invitation had been signed by three medical groups including Arthritis Australia. Academic kudos for the forum was provided by a major report prepared by the University of Canberra.