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Corporate Counterfeit Science - Both Wrong and Dangerous

Science & Tech  (tags: abuse, americans, business, corporate, corruption, cover-up, dishonesty, ethics, environment, law, lies, money, oil, society, usa, technology, study, scientists, science, research, investigation, discovery )

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Last week, a New York Appeals Court ruled unanimously that that Georgia Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, must hand over internal documents pertaining to the publication of 11 studies published in reputable scientific journals between 2008 & 2011

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JL A (281)
Friday July 12, 2013, 3:45 pm

The Equation

a blog on independent science + practical solutions
Corporate Counterfeit Science – Both Wrong and Dangerous
Andrew Rosenberg, director, Center for Science & Democracy

June 11, 2013
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Asbestos can kill you. We’ve all been warned about the dangers of breathing it in. That is why we test buildings for it and have rules to protect construction workers from exposure to it. But how do we know asbestos is harmful? Because scientists have done studies of the dangers it poses to our health. And I’m glad they have so we can avoid these threats.
Tampering with science behind the health effects of asbestos

For decades, however, some companies have fought efforts to regulate asbestos, even tampering with the science behind our understanding of its health effects. And, sadly, a recent court ruling indicates that the tampering may have been more widespread than anyone previously knew.

Last week, a New York Appeals Court ruled unanimously that that Georgia Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, must hand over internal documents pertaining to the publication of 11 studies published in reputable scientific journals between 2008 and 2012. At issue in the case: whether the firm can be held accountable for engaging in a “crime-fraud” by planting misinformation in these journals intending to show that the so-called chrysotile asbestos in its widely used joint compound doesn’t cause cancer.
Science falsely presented as independent research—with lawyers suggesting revisions

Here’s what we know. The articles were published in the following scientific journals: Inhalation Toxicology, The Journal of Occupational & Environmental Hygiene, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, and Risk Analysis. The studies were authored by conflicted experts who were hired by Georgia Pacific; the company’s lawyers were involved throughout the process and, even more alarming, these conflicts of interest were not disclosed in the studies. As a result, the articles in question were untruthfully presented as independent, bona fide research.

The court noted that the studies were intended to cast doubt on the capability of chrysotile asbestos to cause cancer and that the authors did not disclose that Georgia Pacific’s lawyers participated in lengthy discussions of the manuscripts and suggested revisions. As Justice Richard Andrias wrote in the court ruling demanding the internal documents that will shed light on the extent of wrongdoing, “The public has an interest in resolving disputes on the basis of accurate information.”
The difference between funding for science and paying for specific scientific conclusions

Of course, there is no surprise that companies such as Georgia Pacific have scientists working on research. Private companies are a significant funder of science, especially as public funding options for scientists have decreased. But there is a bright line between the funding of science—whatever outcome it reaches—and paying scientists to reach a specific scientific conclusion. Such efforts to manufacture false scientific evidence as part of a legal or marketing strategy are reprehensible.

The process of science has both a logic and rhythm to it, from research and analysis, to peer review, comparison and publication for consideration by other scientists. It is about discovery, building knowledge and understanding of the natural and human world. Many in society— and many, many companies—have benefited from this open process of science. But everyone is threatened when companies manipulate the scientific process itself in the name of marketing and profit—and, most disturbingly, when the actions put people directly at risk as they did in this case.
Ghost-writing scientific papers undermines science and threatens public safety

Asbestos is but one case of “ghost-writing” of counterfeit science for academic publications in an effort to market or cast doubt on scientific results. Recently, the editors of the Public Library of Science (PloS) Medicine, a respected open-access scientific journal, published a series of articles highlighting how widespread the problem has become in the pharmaceutical field and the difficulties academic journals are facing as they try to combat the problem.

Perhaps the most telling article in the series was written by a former ghost-writer who detailed her company’s role in creating scientific papers and presentations solely as a marketing tool. According to her account, her company was unconcerned about discovery and expanding knowledge, but rather sought to push its drugs to new markets – effective or not, dangerous or not.

As a scientist, it goes against my teaching and experience to accept that ghost-writing of fraudulent scientific papers in the name of commerce should be allowed to continue unabated. Not only does it undermine the entire scientific enterprise, it poses an enormous potential threat to the public. Everyone, knowingly or not, is affected by scientific evidence about what is safe, what can help or hurt them, and how best to keep their families safe. Everyone makes choices, and should be free to do so, based on this information.

Deliberately falsifying science isn’t just a financial matter for shareholders and company managers. It has real impacts—potential life-and-death impacts in the case of asbestos. Companies: by all means, market your products; tell us why you think they are good choices. But keep your lawyers, public relations, and marketing people out of the science we depend on. There are lives at stake.

Posted in: Science and Democracy, Scientific Integrity Tags: asbestos, best available science, corporate influence, Corporate Interference

About the author: Andrew Rosenberg is the director of the UCS Center for Science and Democracy. He leads UCS's efforts to advance the essential role that science, evidence-based decision making, and constructive debate play in American policy making

Barbara K (60)
Friday July 12, 2013, 4:52 pm
I hope they can be sued and made to pay just like when they took down the Tobacco Industry. This is just as bad or worse. They need jail time, a good long jail time. They are being reckless with people's health and know death can be the result, edging towards manslaughter and murder. Far-fetched? Maybe, maybe not.

JL A (281)
Friday July 12, 2013, 5:27 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Barbara because you have done so within the last day.

Mitchell D (104)
Friday July 12, 2013, 7:00 pm
Are these the guys whose mother, or grandmother, worked for the Nazis, in Germany, carrying on the family tradition?
And, if not, what is it about integrity that they don't understand? Oh, it's not spelled "MORE."
When the hell is enough, enough for these bastards?

Stephen Brian (23)
Friday July 12, 2013, 8:28 pm
Studies designed to achieve predetermined conclusions are a serious problem, both with and without coporate interference. Between deliberate design for desired results, circular logic arising from unstated assumptions and models, and undergrads being taught in some fields to write argumentative rather than analytic papers (genuinely not understanding that they should start with a question rather than an answer), there is a whole lot of dangerous junk-science out there.

Much of the problem comes from the fact that people are only interested in reading about new things, not confirmation of accepted theories. That gives out-there claims, true or false, a disproportionate amount of attention and journal-space, with no publications carrying scientific refutations. It's unfortunate, but a journal of predictable results would get no readers. Still, with modern data-storage and ease of database-production, it could be feasible to make the countless studies with boring results like "Yes, inhaling inorganic compounds that stick to your lungs is bad for you" or "No, injections which do not actually include any chemicals that have ever been linked to autism are not correlated with autism" easily available. Those would be handy to have on hand whenever a study saying the opposite comes up. It's kinda like this:

Helen Porter (39)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 12:24 am
Thank you for the information,

TomCat S (129)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 12:52 am
I call it Republican skience.

Not a typo.

JL A (281)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 6:39 am
You are welcome Zee.

Kit B (276)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 8:47 am

We do have many scientific results that support the claim that repeated inhalation of asbestos particulates does in fact lead to mesothelioma - a virulent cancer. In a sane world that would be the end of the discussion, but the world according to KOCH is not a sane or healthy world. We now have to hope the courts will find against the KOCH entity of Georgia-Pacific and in long run in favor of healthy building materials.

JL A (281)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 8:53 am
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Patricia H. (440)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 11:45 am

Emanuel Shargel (0)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 3:34 pm
Thank you for this fine article. It is hard to believe that such criminal activity, involving such suffering and painful death to their employees and the public, remains unpunished.

Birgit W (160)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 5:55 pm
Thanks. I know that many scientists in Canada are not allowed to let us know what is really going on in our country, and if they speak up they get fired.

JL A (281)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 6:05 pm
You are welcome Manny and Birgit.
You cannot currently send a star to Birgit because you have done so within the last day.

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 6:55 pm
Thanks for posting this info, JL. They are so impressed with themselves regarding what they've been able to achieve so far from spending billions, that outright lies are nothing new to them. Since Citizens United didn't rein them in in the least, they've decided to go for the gusto. Way past time to charge them with crimes and take some of those billions from them. I hope to see many more articles like this--catching the lies, going forward. Time for them to pay....with interest!

Freya H (357)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 8:16 pm
Too much corporate "science" is designed to appease the fat cats and further their own selfish agendas rather than truly advance our knowledge and improve life. When did Big Business become the enemy of the environment, the little guy, and scientific truth? Free enterprise is the very lifeblood of our nation - but too many businesses have been seduced by the dark side of capitalism, and like Anakin Skywalker have gone from heroes to villains.

Jaime A (52)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 10:17 pm

Kerrie G (116)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 10:48 pm
Noted, thanks.

JL A (281)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 10:57 pm
You are welcome Kerrie.

Deb E (63)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 11:05 pm
No different than in the GMO world. This should be punishable with prison time. Ask the family members of those who have died from mesothelioma if asbestos causes cancer ... there's your scientific evidence.

Lona G (80)
Sunday July 14, 2013, 5:33 am
Definitely noted. More people should be made aware of it. Thanks JL A.

JL A (281)
Sunday July 14, 2013, 9:10 am
You are welcome Lona.
You cannot currently send a star to Lona because you have done so within the last day.
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