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misuse and corruption in science

a briefing document

New translation, the Magna Carta

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misuse and corruption in science is one of a series of documents demonstrating how corruption of information, often by government, industry and science, affects modern society and its progress.

marker at abelard.org misuse and corruption in science
marker at abelard.org Corporate corruption, politics and the law
marker at abelard.org establishment psycho-bunk


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Scientific research and results are frequently, at best, misleading and, often, down-right corrupt. This is because scientists, their professional sponsors, big business, non-governmental organisations and government vie to publish reports and results that put the authors, the sponsors, the company, its products, the government’s actions, in the best light. The butt of all this deceit is the general public, trusting of authority figures, titles such as Doctor or Professor, and people in white lab-coats.

In the end, for all concerned to obfuscate, it is a matter of
“money talks, money often corrupts, money = power”.

This document provides examples of such corruption, falsification of results, biasing of conclusions.

marker at abelard.org

so-called peer review

A caution to those naive people who imagine that ‘peer review’ is another name for secure knowledge.

Most ‘journals’ are in the hands of a very few large corporations. The pharmaceutical industry (and others) are vastly profitable.

The average French person consumes 7 times as many tranquillisers as a Briton, 3 times the antidepressants of an Italian and 2 time the sleeping pills of a German. In recent times, the French medical system was rated the best in the world!

Observe the recommendations on the covers of best-sellers:
writer A praises the work of writer B;
writer B praises the work of writer C;
writer C praises the work of writer A.
Just because it is not in the Daily Sleaze does not mean that it is 100% reliable, nor does it mean it is reliably rubbish!

Buy a first-class crap detector!

pharmaceutical industry and academia Three GoldenYak (tm) award

“The answer to that question is at once both predictable and shocking: For the past two decades, medical research has been quietly corrupted by cash from private industry. Most doctors and academic researchers aren't corrupt in the sense of intending to defraud the public or harm patients, but rather, more insidiously, guilty of allowing the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to manipulate medical science through financial relationships, in effect tainting the system that is supposed to further the understanding of disease and protect patients from ineffective or dangerous drugs. More than 60 percent of clinical studies--those involving human subjects--are now funded not by the federal government, but by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. That means that the studies published in scientific journals like Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine--those critical reference points for thousands of clinicians deciding what drugs to prescribe patients, as well as for individuals trying to educate themselves about conditions and science reporters from the popular media who will publicize the findings--are increasingly likely to be designed, controlled, and sometimes even ghost-written by marketing departments, rather than academic scientists. Companies routinely delay or prevent the publication of data that show their drugs are ineffective. The majority of studies that found such popular antidepressants as Prozac and Zoloft to be no better than placebos, for instance, never saw print in medical journals, a fact that is coming to light only now that the Food and Drug Administration has launched a reexamination of those drugs.”

Even in the linked article we have:

“ Novartis, stepped in and provided additional funding for development. In 1984, private companies contributed a mere $26 million to university research budgets. By 2000, they were ponying up $2.3 billion, an increase of 900 percent that provided much needed funds to universities at a time when the cost of doing medical research was skyrocketing.”

No, that is not 900%, it is more like 9000% (or even 8700%)—trust nobody!!

return to the index

the unhealthy relationship between ‘science’ and funding

“ [...] The company currently uses the three studies to claim that 96 percent of children taking Concerta experience no problems in appetite, growth, or sleep. But Pelham says the studies were flawed. The original intent of the studies was to measure both side effects and main effects of the drug. But two of the three studies, including Pelham's, required that the subjects had to already be taking MPH and responding well to it in order to enter the study. In other words, by stacking the studies with patients already successfully taking stimulants, McNeil ensured the subjects would be unlikely to register side effects, Pelham says.”

“There was also pressure from the company to tweak the findings, he says. Part of Pelham's study involved "providing parent training to parents, having a simple behavioral program in place on Saturday lab days, and establishing simple behavioral programs in the children's regular school classrooms."[...] ”

“One theory is that consistent use of stimulants suppresses a child's growth. Concerns increased in April when the journal Pediatrics published a federally-funded study, the largest yet investigating the long-term health impact stimulants have on children. That study, funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health and known as the MTA Follow Up Study, found that consistent use of the stimulants stunts growth in children at a rate of about one inch every two years. The study also questioned a theory, apparently one still promoted by drug companies, that children make up lost growth over time.”

“No drug company in its literature mentions the fact that 40 years of research says there is no long-term benefit of medications," he says. "That is something parents need to know." ”

This is not an occasional or isolated incident, nor is this the only method by which scientrific research can be rendered unreliable. Other ‘ploys’ include the narrow base for ‘peer’ review, the corporate control of ‘journals’, and links between universities and corporate funding. Peer review can also become an excuse for maintaining currently fashionable views amongst small, incestuous cliques, unbacked by serious empirical studies.

Nor is it just in the USA that serious scientific research is severely tainted by related industries and by politicans. The US administration also practises selective ‘science’.

See also establishment psycho-bunk 2 —Ritalin and junk science

mmr scaremongering

“THE knives are out for Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who linked autism to the MMR vaccine. Over the last few weeks, various reports have indicated serious flaws in his research. News has also emerged that he received (but did not disclose) £55,000 from a legal aid project set up to look for links between the vaccine and the disorder. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, admitted that his journal would not have published Wakefield’s paper in February 1998 had it known about his conflict of interest. Stated simply, for the last six years parents have been tortured by a myth.”

does Bush prefer patrons to science?

“ ....When a President starts appointing scientists as he does campaign staffers, we risk an era of Lysenkoism in America--when Soviet citizens were told (among other things) that acquired traits can be inherited. While Bush's supporters may giddily profit from such changes, it's the rest of us who lose out when science becomes another avenue for propaganda.”

contention growing over accusations that bush administration politicising science

There are several useful links in this report.

“And besides the Waxman and UCS reports, there are still other analyses documenting the Bush administration's abuses of science. For example, consider www.scienceinpolicy.org, a Web site that focuses exclusively on the environmental arena. The site details distortions and misrepresentations on issues ranging from climate change to debates on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Along with policy analyses, it contains the following statement:

“The Bush administration justifies environmental policies by misusing and misrepresenting science. The administration's harmful positions on climate change, pollution, forest management, and resource extraction ignore widely accepted scientific evidence. When the administration invokes science, it relies on research at odds with the scientific consensus, and contradicts, undermines, or suppresses the research of its own scientists. Furthermore, the administration cloaks environmentally damaging policies under misleading program names like "clear skies" and "healthy forests." As a result, the public and the media often wrongly believe that this administration uses sound science to help promote a healthy environment. In reality, the best available science indicates that President Bush's policies will cause and exacerbate damage to the natural systems on which we all depend.”return to the index


‘scientific’ nonsense

A widely applied rule used since the 1960s for the erosion of beaches that does not work:

“Even under ideal conditions, however, the rule has never been credibly shown to provide accurate predictions," the commentary added.”

“Cooper consulted available information with the aid of an Internet computer search service to come up with the estimate that the Bruun rule is in use in 26 countries, Pilkey said.”

A ‘expert’ witness who caused people to be jailed on dubious ‘evidence’:

“ "Beyond reasonable doubt." That simply wasn’t true in the cases of Cannings, Clark and Patel. It wasn’t true when the pathologist Alan Williams was helping to ruin the life of Sally Clark and a host of others whose cases are now "under review", as are six involving Meadow. The General Medical Council is investigating Sir Roy, but that will not stop plausible voices with "Sir" and "Professor" before their names filling in the blanks for courts struggling with cases for which the rules of evidence are inadequate. Nor will it prevent an "expert" from putting their own theories first and people last.

“The problem is probably an intractable one. Prosecution and defence alike are entitled to call upon expert evidence. The idea that those experts could somehow be vetted by the state or their peers to keep the likes of Sir Roy out of the system verges on the sinister. In the case of Sids, natural justice probably demands that we accept the possibility that infanticide might sometimes go unpunished. There are no definitive answers in these matters.
[There are things in human affairs where attempting to ‘punish the guilty’ without adequate ‘proof’ causes more injustice than the problem that some possibly ‘guilty’ person will escape.]

“That makes it all the more important, though, for judges and juries to think twice about anyone who pretends to possess such things” [for instance, definitive answers]

A commonly heard saying regarding so-called experts used in court-room litigation is, “Opinions for hire”.return to the index

more alleged government corruption in the usa: tuna and foetal brain damage

“Specifics are clearly needed. According to EWG, if every pregnant woman followed FDA guidelines on what's safe and ate one six-ounce can of albacore tuna each week, 99 percent would exceed safe mercury blood levels for their entire pregnancy.

“It's not that the FDA doesn't have the information. The agency has done extensive testing of canned tuna and has a good idea of how much mercury the fish contains. Based on these figures and Environmental Protection Agency standards - which are actually designed to protect human health and can be tailored to individuals - it just takes a little math to figure out how much tuna a pregnant woman can safely eat.

“Clearly mercury affects each of us differently. One in six U.S. women of childbearing age carries levels of mercury in her blood that could lead to fetal neurological damage if she did become pregnant, EPA scientists reported in February. If you are that one in six, it's particularly important for you to limit your intake of certain types of seafood if you're pregnant, thinking of getting pregnant or even of childbearing age. Body weight affects mercury levels too; people who weigh less will see mercury and other contaminants collect in their blood at a faster rate. The FDA's one-size-fits-all advice doesn't take any of this into account.”

return to the index

who and what can you believe? tuna fish and a lot more...

“Behind every food scare, there is a barrage of claims and counter-claims, hyperbole and damage limitation. How do we pick our way through it? Recently, one study found that civil servants 'especially women' who drank heavily were the least likely to suffer a heart attack. Another, in the same newspaper, warned women about the danger of heart disease as a result of binge drinking. In the end, nobody believes a word of it.”

The item includes 14 examples, each expounded under headings of
The headlines, The story, The spin, The facts, The twist and, sometimes even, The further twist.

We have recently reported on tuna and foetal brain damage, in the context of research results endorsed by the US government being slanted to benefit continued profits of industry.

Following is the final comments on pregnant women eating tuna from our headline link.

“The twist: Exactly one year after the ban, a study appeared in The Lancet, saying that pregnant women had little to worry about. Research conducted on mothers and children in the Seychelles, who eat 12 fish meals per week, found no evidence of abnormalities.

“A further twist: The FSA still advises pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and children not to eat swordfish, marlin and shark. Indeed, its advice has been extended to include tuna (no more than two cans or one fresh tuna steak per week).”

The many vested interests, not just in industry and the media, but also in research and governmental supervision, wish to create reactions ranging from neurotisism to panic in order to justify their existence and ensure their wage checks.

return to the index

Related further reading

marker at abelard.org Corporate corruption, politics and the law
marker at abelard.org establishment psycho-bunk

email abelard email email_abelard [at] abelard.org

© abelard, 2004 ,2 april

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the address for this document is https://www.abelard.org/briefings/science-corruption.asp

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