dinsdag 3 december 2013

The curious silence on activist science

My two cents on the Seralini retraction story (Retraction Watch has all the details which I won't rehash here):

The first author, Gilles-Eric Séralini, is board member of an anti-GMO lobby group. Its website presents rather gleefully the horrible pictures of lab rats with huge tumors. What it does not tell you is that no matter what you feed them, this type of rats is highly likely to grow such tumors - indeed, they were bred for this very purpose. Previous research by Mr Séralini was funded by Greenpeace. Mr Séralini has been accused before of questionable, politically motivated scientific practices.

To me this reeks of the kind of political bias in research I come across all too often. What bothers me most, however, is the deafening silence about it in the news media. Accept a cup of coffee from a Monsanto employee and your reputation as an independent scientist is in tatters; but when it comes to furthering your own political views everything seems to be allowed, including sloppy science and misleading, exaggerated headlines. I wonder which is the more damaging.

The other problem is the natural law that it is always the initial headline that sets the image. The retractions, the errata, and the rectifications at best get page three. A few months ago heavy accusations of highgrading and overfishing thrown at a Dutch fishing company were all over the news. The news of its acquittal by the authorities never made the papers.

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