Daily News Archive
December 18, 2006
Integrity Under the Microscope
(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2006) Concerns over
scientific integrity have resurfaced over the past month over reports
of conflicts of interest and publishing freedom. In addition to the
censorship of government scientists, recent studies show that industries’
relationships with researchers have been largely underrepresented.
is an issue that affects our everyday lives when one takes into account
that many government (especially regulatory), industry and consumer
decisions are often based on scientific conclusions. The consequences
of the manipulation and censorship of science can unfortunately have
very real effects on environmental and public health by creating false
perceptions about toxics and their affects. Consider the following:
of interest. A new study in the American
Journal of Industrial Medicine reports that several leading
cancer researchers have not disclosed receiving money from companies,
including Dow and Monsanto, whose products they were investigating.
Of the conflicts investigated, one well-known cancer epidemiologist,
Sir Richard Doll, was found to have a two decade relationship with
Monsanto, during which time he downplayed the carcinogencity of Agent
Orange, among other toxics.
- Lack of full
disclosure of conflicts of interest to journals and their readers.
University of California, Los Angeles researchers report in the December
issue of the Journal
of General Internal Medicine that although the majority of
medical journals have conflict of interest policies in place for study
authors, less than half require such policies for editors or peer-reviewers.
In addition, many journals do not inform readers about those potential
conflicts that have been disclosed to them.
of government scientists. According to the Washington
Post, a new Bush
administration policy for reviewing scientific documents before
publication, which is currently being put into place, has angered
some U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, who say the elaborate
internal review of their work may impede them from conveying information
to the public. This heightened review policy comes on the heels of
controversy over censorship of government scientists researching global
warming at NASA and the Commerce Department.
Beyond recent headlines,
reports of censorship of university scientists have also raised eyebrows.
For example in 2004, Ignacio Chapela,
Ph.D., an outspoken critic of the biotechnology industry, was denied
tenure at UC, Berkeley even though he had been a respected professor
and researcher there since 1995. He had made the news a few years earlier
when his research revealed contamination of native Mexican corn with
genetically engineered DNA, which led to a vicious public relations
campaign by the biotechnology industry.