Monday, August 10, 2015

The Radical Activist Attack on a Teacher

You'd swear by the hate-filled rhetoric that I just threw a pillowcase of kittens and an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker into a wood chipper. 


A scientific paper with manipulated data?   No.

A public presentation with information contrary to the scientific literature?  No. 

Statements to the media that are untrue?   No.  

What did I do to earn their ire?  I found some funds to teach science. 

For the last 12 years science communication has run parallel to my research and teaching.  Every year I provide a talk to our grad students about how to not just do science, but then how to share science. 

In 2012 I was traveling to quite a few places and answering lots of questions.  I was turning down lots of gigs because I had no budget to do it.  So when a group would offer an honorarium (big organizations can afford to do), I would not accept it personally.  Instead it would go into an outreach account to pay for future outreach opportunities. 

When asked about my speaker fees I always just say, "Take what you think would be customary and donate it to my outreach program."  We're talking thousands of dollars here. 

In Fall of 2014 the Monsanto company offered support for the program, and I thought that was great.  Love 'em or hate 'em, my workshops were teaching everyone from kids to scientists, so I was glad to welcome their support. 

It never was a secret.  At universities, our records are public, and people know where our funding is from.  You can probably find it online if you look  hard enough, but just ask and I'm glad to tell you about who sponsors my research or who sponsors my outreach. 

Last week the public information voluntarily hit the right activist ear, and they went ballistic. Screams of "Shill!" could be heard everywhere from drum circles to the Whole Foods Gluten Free Bisque Repository. After all, $25K is a lot of money, so to most people this was the smoking gun of high collusion they always suspected.  Heck, anyone that talks about science must be getting paid off. 

But alas that's a relatively small sum in perspective. Sure, I'm grateful for it and we're doing some good things.  This last year I did a few public education workshops for students/postdocs (including Iowa State, NC State, Arizona State, others).  Plus we put on two huge workshops- one at University of Florida (5/11/2015) and one at ASPB's National Conference (7/26/15).  Just to rent the venue at the second one cost $2500.  

Still, there's $16,000 or so left in the account. I'll make the specifics public this week.  You can see the $56 I spent on Jimmy Johns subs at ASU and the doughnuts I bought at Iowa State.  They were delicious.

So how much does Monsanto's contribution (no salary, no dollars to me, just for science communication program costs) matter in the big scope of things? 

This is what they are so upset about?  You mean that line that I had to draw on because it didn't show up on the graph on it's own? 

Various donors from very different industries have recognized the utility of my program in raising the scientific literacy of key groups in our nation. That is precisely why activist groups need it to stop.  

My research program NEVER was funded by Monsanto. Never. Probably never will be.  However, how to activists portray me?  How do they twist reality? 

 And Einstein's quote on the bottom could not be more fitting. 
I have no research money from Monsanto, and never personal compensation for any talks. At least they got that right.

  I'm Monsanto's lil' slave on the plantation. Talk about low class metaphors.   Paid to "promote" GMOs?  You mean, provided funds to pay for costs associated with teaching science? 

On top of all of this I received lots of other hateful messages, and notes from Gmail and Yahoo that my accounts were experiencing suspicious activity at sign in.  Good times.

Please share today's blog far and wide.  It shows what is happening here.  I was teaching science, a company allowed more science to be taught, and activists need that enabled scientist marginalized and reputation destroyed.  This is the length they will go to-- harm a scientist that has won awards for outreach and mentoring, because he dares to teach effective science communication.   

They only survive if science literacy fails. 

Glyphosate and School Lunches