Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Corrupting science

As been noted before science is not necessarily reliable. Since monetary gains trump scientific integrity it is difficult to prevent the misrepresentation or fabrication of science. A previous post explained the use of claimed uncertainty in science confabulated by the  Merchants of Doubt.

Case in point, Emilie Udell for the Center for Public Integrity reports how a lawyer (Evan Nelson of the law firm Tucker Ellis & West) invited a scientist to publish a "scientific theory" regarding the cause of mesothelioma. Coincidentally:
Nelson defended companies that had exposed people to asbestos .........
Luckily for his clients
Nelson came up with a new culprit: tobacco.
But:
There was an obvious problem with Nelson’s “science.” Researchers for decades have exhaustively analyzed data on the health of hundreds of thousands of smokers. Since 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General has summarized the findings of study after study, none of which shows evidence that tobacco causes mesothelioma.
The scientist involved offered to write "scientific articles" meant to be used in court cases. A firm offering such services is Gradient.
A group of academic researchers were so outraged by an article on BPA [bisphenol A, which, according to hundreds of studies is linked to health problems] written by Gradient’s Julie Goodman and Lorenz Rhomberg that they wrote a lengthy response with a table listing all the “false statements” in it.
In the words of the report:
Gradient has become a leading scientific voice in trying to prevent further regulation of air pollution.
Continuing the exposé the Center for Public Integrity recounts the case of Pam Collins, who was suffering from mesothelioma allegedly caused by asbestos gloves. Shawn Acton, one of the lawyers, was confronted with a novel theory regarding the cause of mesothelioma:
Acton did a little research and discovered that Valberg [the aforementioned scientist] had just co-authored an article in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity saying that cigarette smoke emits radiation. And he noticed that the article was funded by the law firm representing the maker of the gloves.
Acton had no idea that months earlier a lawyer at the firm, Evan Nelson, had concocted the scientific theory that Valberg was using against Collins. Or that Valberg and colleague Goodman had emailed drafts of the article in advance to the lawyer, as their contract required.
In another court case lawyers
decided to subpoena all records .....
The discovery led to e-mails showing how Nelson had commissioned three scientific articles and how its authors struggled to get it published. Eventually two got published.
Pam Collins’s lawyer said efforts by industry consultants to absolve asbestos of blame show they will say almost anything.
“Why are some of these companies putting so much money into research to be published in scientific and medical journals years and sometimes decades after they stop making the product?” Acton asked rhetorically. “Is its purpose for the advancement of medicine? Is its purpose to address a public health concern? Its purpose is for litigation. It’s science for sale.”
The article proves that even scientists are not above human nature.


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