How thalidomide created birth defects was a 60-year mystery. Until now. New insight into its use in cancer therapies also. This week's podcast is a great interview with Dr. Kathleen Donovan from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
It is almost October in Florida, which means the brutal summer heat is almost over and we can plant the damn garden. Over my whole life I’ve found great solace in growing my own food, and in North-Central Florida you get two seasons to do it — fall and spring, two seasons separated by a freeze event or two that represents our tiny little microwinter. This year the garden is expanded to epic proportions and features a lot of climbing vegetables. Others, like tomatoes, grow better if tethered rather than using the flimsy tomato cages home improvement stores. This year I actually sprung for some new fencing — but the warning tag had me concerned. I historically have used welded wire fence, the stuff with big 10 cm squares that allow me to reach through to pick fruit. One year in Chicago I found a roll of road mesh (same concept used in reinforcing concrete) in front of a Mexican bakery. It was there for a few days and then I brought it home in my 1984 Chevy Caprice decommissioned police c…
You may be familiar with the issues with Biofortified. Using anonymous public records requests they obtained internal, outside work documents from the University of Florida. I was asked to lend my expertise as a subject matter expert (sort of like an Expert Witness, but it was not a trial) in mediating an issue between two organizations. I had to get approval to do this from University Administration, so I filled in the forms with details needed for them to make decisions on legality and appropriateness.
They approved. I then signed a contract with the law firm representing one organization, stating that I'd keep all information confidential. I posted that I was retained by a law firm as a compensated subject matter expert in a private matter on vacation time, in full compliance with my university's disclosure guidance.
Biofortified obtained my private correspondence, and in a blindsided hit-- made all of the information public, and destroying the confidentiality I was sworn …
US-Right to Know has a clear agenda, and scientists that teach information that is counter to that agenda are systematically dismantled using a series of well-established techniques, which include selective publication and interpretation of public records requests, defamatory websites, and manipulation of journalists to tell their crooked story.
Now they have a patsy on the inside of UCSF, someone that is complicit in furthering their smear campaign. I've already written about the Chemical Industry Documents library, where my conversations with other academics about lavaliere microphones and private conversations with newly arrived…
Three years ago the Food Babe, Vani Hari, submitted a public records request to my university. I have always been a vocal about Hari, both in her egregious errors as well as her talents as a motivational pre-Goop peddler of generally poor advice. Of course, a blind squirrel does find a nut here and there, so I agree with her on some facets about food and farming.
But Hari was convinced that my criticisms were being dictated by the Biotech Industry Mothership, and that an independent scientist could not possibly find flaw with her analyses and recommendations.
This is the text from her blog about the need to file the request. She wanted to unveil how the "food industry" used me to "control science and deliver their PR and lobbying messaging." She got a big fat goose egg. She exploited transparency laws and requested tens of thousands of pages of my personal emails. They were delivered to her promptly and at great taxpayer expense.
Cameron English just published an outstanding article over on Genetic Literacy Project. If there's one thing you read today, please make sure this is it. The story is about lactation specialist Dr. Shelley McGuire. She tested for glyphosate in breast milk and didn't find it. What happened next is about intimidation, hacking, and abuse by a corrupt movement.
Today I found another sterling example of how academic researchers find a challenging predicament when honoring both transparency and confidentiality at the same time.
I recently reviewed a grant proposal for the USDA. We agree to keep this information confidential, yet the proposals and our review travel by university email. It would be easy to harvest the proposal and my evaluation using FOIA.
But the USDA makes me sign an agreement that I will keep the information confidential and cannot provide the information via FOIA. My institution didn't sign off on this, just me. Would the USDA, the researchers, and my private correspondence be protected? Probably not.
The USDA says that it is their job to determine if the materials are to be distributed. If the university receives a request, they don't reach out to those involved and ask for permission. They fill the request. So if Karl Haro von Mogel asks me questions about the review, who's lab it was or what the project wa…
The last part of my discussion in Conflicts of Interest (COI) and balancing transparency versus confidentiality.
The conversation started when I had outside work, meaning nothing to do with my university appointment. I was asked to review data for a law firm as a subject matter expert. It was not a trial, but a private mediation between parties. It was agreed that all information, including the players involved, would be kept confidential. I agreed with that.
Vague (and approved) verbiage was provided on my website that I was working as an expert for a law firm outside of my job and I was compensated for it.
What I didn't realize at the time was how this kind of non-disclosable COI is perceived. To most of us that have such arrangements with companies that fund a trial, share a collaboration, and wish their association to remain confidential, it poses a tremendously dangerous place for loss of public trust.