Monday, September 21, 2015

Cherry Picking and "Return on Investment"

In a textbook case of cherry picking, one sentence keeps emerging in the activist trial-by-internet concerning the Monsanto donation to my science communication program.  The backstory is that my university received a donation from the company toward my outreach program, which covered the costs for me to travel and teach scientists how to talk about science. 

That was very nice of them, wonderful.  Having funds to rent a facility, travel to the location, buy coffee/doughnuts or subs for the workshop is a real help. Previously this was all funded personally buy taking monies offered to me as speaker fees and deferring them to the Talking Biotech program. 

I remain extremely grateful for their support, even after those funds have been allocated elsewhere by the university. 

I was so grateful, that I noted this in an email to the Monsanto Company.  That became a huge deal when 4600 pages of emails were seized by activists back in June. 

Out of the tens of thousands of sentences they focused on this single one, finally irrefutable proof of high collusion between a professor speaking facts and a company that makes products. 

Select graphics from Natural News, GMO News and Food tout my kind appreciation as dangerous collusion.

I was raised in a home that emphasized gratitude and appreciation for the gestures of others.  I was raised in a home that taught me to take opportunities and maximize them, to work hard, to over-deliver.  

So when I promise the donor "a solid return on investment" that's not a evidence of a conspiracy.  That's evidence of a good upbringing. 

The company recognized my program of science education as an effective and powerful way to help train scientists how to interact better with a concerned public, and their funds enabled me to do it once a month for a year.  Ironically, I fell far short of expectations, and then lost the funds after activist uproar.

It is amazing that folks like Mike Adams and Vani Hari, along with the rest of the GMO-Truthers, see gratitude and appreciation as a negative thing.  It tells us a lot about them and their characters.

When anyone trusts me with financial support for my research or my outreach, I will do my best to maximize the return on the investment.  That is a promise.  That is a quality instilled deep in my by loving parents and grandparents, that emphasized the value of hard word and always going above and beyond for others. 


Mike W said...

The worst thing you did was fail to be a politician. You didn't carefully word your emails to cover your ass. You said what you mean without worrying about what others could twist them to mean.

I'd challenge any truther to listen to Joe Rogan #655. If you can listen to Kevin on that podcast and think he's a shill, or a discredited scientist then you are beyond reason.

Anonymous said...

I believe you do an important job educating the public and this is an example of cherry picking. If all they could find was this out of thousands of emails that's great. Having said these, that sentence looks bad. You are not just thanking Monsanto for their support, you are promising return on investment. You are not promising return on investment to department of education you are making that promise to a for-profit company. You are saying your educational efforts will increase their profit. A consequence of a more educated public might mean more profits for one company , that is fine. However you making that promise just does not sound good! It is unfair to analyze every sentence you ever wrote for alternate interpretations, but that is your life now. I am sorry.

Unknown said...

Let's see if this passes through your censorship system and gets published. You have no right to present yourself to regulatory bodies and hearing committees as an independent scientist, so long as you are receiving money from an industry player engaged in profiting from your having a specific opinion.

Anonymous said...

"You have no right to present yourself to regulatory bodies and hearing committees as an independent scientist, so long as you are receiving money from an industry player engaged in profiting from your having a specific opinion."

Oh the hypocrisy. All the pro-organic people don't have any right to talk then ?
By the way, by "receiving money" do you mean that the money goes in his pocket ? Because then, only Folta has the right to talk, and not the organic people, as he put no money into his pockets.

Kent Wagoner said...

I'm sorry, but return on investment IS very important to universities. Perhaps not to a single corporation for a single donation, but clearly the taxpayers need to know that their money is helping to build the state's economy. When my university worked the numbers a couple of years ago, they found that the state economy benefited $52 for every dollar spent on agricultural research.

It just doesn't seem to me that this would even be an issue if another corporation had been the donor, or if the topic covered were something less polarizing. If the corporation was Micron and the topic was memory chips, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

I just don't see how anyone who is not an activist can see a problem here.

Kent Wagoner said...

Unknown said, "Let's see if this passes through your censorship system and gets published." You misunderstand. This isn't one of your anti-GMO websites or pages that is unable to cope with any kind of real dialogue. This is Kevin's blog, in which he has stated numerous times that he will not censor just because someone disagrees. That's not how science works. All viewpoints, even ill-informed ones like yours, will still get published. You may find yourself the recipient of some well-deserved derision, but that doesn't mean you won't be heard.

I'm all but positive he will leave your comment up just so the rest of us can see just how out-of-it you really are.

Anonymous said...

A company constructing a fitness center in their building has an expected return on investment. Healthier, happier employees who are more loyal?
When you pay a premium for almost any product your return on investment may simply be a no hassle return?
What is your return on investment when donating to a charity? Piece of mind maybe?
What about insurance. You need to make a claim it was a good investment otherwise it was a terrible return on investment.
Cherry picking this for return on investment is really weak and narrow minded.

Cryptandra said...

Kevin, it may be small consolation at this difficult time but you can have faith in the belief that you will be vindicated by history. There are many of us out here following your story and believing in the good work you do. You have lots of friends, many whom you've never met. Cheers.

Mike W said...

By your standard very few, if any, actual "independent" scientists exist. There may be a few independently wealthy ones funding all of their own research, or some lucky researcher that doesn't have to worry about getting outside funding and grants and can just get by on whatever the university allots for their program...

I doubt you've ever set foot in a science lab in a university. I'm not sure why people with absolutely zero working knowledge of the system seem to be the ones that feel most free to generate opinions on how to "fix" it.

Anonymous said...

The situation has called attention to a huge problem. Many of Kevin'S defenders just do not get it. There are huge positives for society when industry and academics cooperate. Enough said. The issue is what the impact is when the industry interests and the public good (or perceived by some) diverge. Who does the academic work for? Clearly Folta does not believe there is a real smoking gun, no ,after the cherry picking and I accept that. But I am a believer and can see the downside of the grant and those e-mails and how they can be perceived. Folta already knows his errors in retrospect and the past history stands. For the rest of us, a sad lesson has been learned. Be careful and when you make statements on such sensitive issues be aware that you do have to be careful and open about all previous relationships that could call your unbiased credibility into question. Welcome to the real world.

Anonymous said...

Yes anonymous. Scientists require support for their efforts, and now it is clear that all such support does come with strings attached, real or just perceived. The vicious attacks, from both sides of this situation, are appalling. Dr. Folta certainly does not deserve that. Perhaps naive, but no where near blatantly unethical. There are lessons to be learned from all of this. Hopefully in the great majority of cases, there is no conflict between industry and public perception of the common good, but when there is scientists must be absolutely transparent about such relationships no matter that the scientist maintains no influence. Unbiased credibility must be maintained - beware the appearance of who you are in bed with.

Kevin Folta said...

Well I disagree. "Independent" stands for my syntheses. They represent the literature and the best distillation of the current science. I'll be integrating with congress a lot in the next weeks, and I'm the best kind of person to do this. Nobody buys my words. If you think that's how it works, I would recommend that you urge the folks that YOU like to send massive funds to me. If you think that is how I roll, do the experiment. I'll be glad to show you that it does not matter who provides funds for the outreach, my message is the same.

Anonymous said...

I hope you're doing your best to let this Mike Adams bs roll off your back. No use getting wound up by a former Y2K disaster kit salesman. How goes the formaldehyde challenge? I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for updates and results! Keep up the great work.