Skip to main content

Renewed Attacks on Science Communication

Today I posted some rather positive news. Students from my lab visited a school and taught six kindergarten classes how seeds grow, and we provided a seedling to over 150 students.  Each plant was in a test tube and could be planted in the garden later. 

The idea is to get kids to connect to science and grow healthy food in their homes.  The materials were paid for from my science outreach program. 

A tweet about planting seeds with grade school kids ignites a hate storm. 

But on the eve of the Science March, the idea of kids participating in STEM is apparently a threat to many.  This, along with a comment from a Purdue faculty member about my talk yesterday ignited the hate. 

Undisclosed kickbacks? 

So I posted a link to my funding history, which includes no funding from Monsanto.  Zero. 

Then Gary Ruskin, from the industry-sponsored front group US-Right To Know, posts a letter from Monsanto to me obtained freely from my FOIA'd emails. The company agreed to sponsor my outreach program (including the school stuff shown above) back in 2014. It was a really good thing. 

This was not for research, not for teaching. The donation to the university was to help rent space, buy doughnuts, put out coffee, buy flash drives, etc for an existing science communication program.  My workshops teach scientists, farmers, etc how to talk to the public about hot-button issues like vaccines, climate and genetic engineering.  It is much more about psychology and communication than discussion of scientific evidence.   

Before their donation (and since) I funded the workshops with honoraria and speaker fees (that could go to me personally), along with donations from the public.  Those are all listed on the associated websites

Because of the hysteria and hate that Ruskin and others fomented, there were threats against me, my lab, and my family.  It was so bad that the Domestic Terrorism Task Force was involved. I still am not to open packages that come to my house or work unless I know who the sender is. Their goal was to stop me from teaching science.

Ruskin works for an NGO dedicated to eroding trust in scientists. To keep his hundreds of thousands of industry dollars coming in, he must stop scientists from communicating. He knows that he can post the letter and re-invigorate the hate. He has a "gotcha", he knows it's slimy, and will continue to use it. That's the kind of ethics he has. Plus, it is best they can do to try to hurt me. 

It brings hate from folks like Joe Norman (@normonics), a computational scientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute. He spews unbridled abuse that is a symptom of someone truly unhinged. 

This is just a sample of Joe Norman's recent abuse that I've had to endure.  He eventually deleted the whole thread, and there's lots more that I'm glad to share. I'm glad to block/mute etc, but is this the kind of behavior we should expect from someone claiming to be a scholar?  If I was his academic advisor or if he worked in my department I would get him some professional counseling. 

And many others. I could post them here, but just go read Twitter. Here are a few gems. 
Just a couple of sweet people that hate before taking the time to actually learn what a situation is all about. 

The point is simple.  Ruskin took a boilerplate letter where a company donated to an outreach program and used that to fabricate a story of grand collusion.  

Ultimately, the money was never used, and the university donated it to a campus food charity.  The outreach program lives on, and pays for things like the test tubes and seeds to bring to schools above

And not once has anyone shown anything I've said in a blog, speech or presentation that is inconsistent with science. Nobody has ever questioned my research

As people convene to March for Science, it is important to remember what we endure as we stand up to communicate research, evidence and the methods of science. There are many out there that still insist on harming the reputations of those that teach, as they are a legitimate threat to their ideologies. 

Popular posts from this blog

Scientific American Destroys Public Trust in Science

This is a sad epitaph, parting words to an old friend that is now gone, leaving in a puff of bitter betrayal. 
When I was a kid it was common for my mom to buy me a magazine if I was sick and home from school.  I didn't want MAD Magazine or comic books.  I preferred Scientific American
The once stalwart publication held a unique spot at the science-public interface, bringing us interesting and diverse stories of scientific interest, long before the internet made such content instantly accessible.  It was our trusted pipeline to the new edges of scientific discovery, from the mantle of the earth to the reaches of space, and every critter in between.
But like so much of our trusted traditional science media, Scientific American has traded its credibility for the glitz of post-truth non-scientific beliefs and the profits of clickbait.The problem is that when a trusted source publishes false information (or worse, when it hijacked by activists) it destroys trust in science, trust in s…

Chipotle's Ag-vertising to Fix their Anti-Ag Image

After years of anti-farmer rhetoric, disgusting anti-agriculture videos, and trashing farmer seed choice, Chipotle now seems to have found a love for the American farmer that is as warm and inviting as the gooey core of a steak burrito.  Their new "Cultivate the Future of Farming" campaign raises awareness of the hardship being experienced in agriculture, and then offers their thoughts and some seed grants in order to reverse it. 

But are they solving a problem that they were instrumental in creating? 

The crisis in agriculture is real, with farmers suffering from low prices, astronomical costs, and strangling regulation.  Farmer suicides are a barometer of the crisis.  Farms, from commodity crops to dairies, are going out of business daily. It is good to see a company raising awareness. 

From Chipotle's website- The "challenge is real" and "It's a hard living"-- and companies like Chipotle were central in creating those problems. 

However, Chipotle&#…

Mangling Reality and Targeting Scientists

Welcome to 2019, and one thing that remains constant is that scientists engaging the public will continue to be targeted for harassment and attempted reputation harm.  

The good news is that it is not working as well as it used to.  People are disgusted by their tactics, and only a handful of true-believers acknowledge their sites as credible. 

But for those on the fence I thought it might be nice to post how a website like SourceWatch uses a Wikipedia-mimic interface to spread false and/or misleading information about public scientists. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not crying victim.  I'm actually is screaming empowerment.  I spent the time to correct the record, something anyone can check.  Please look into their allegations and mine, and see who has it right. 

This is published by the Center for Media and Democracy.  Sadly, such pages actually threaten democracy by providing a forum for false information that makes evidence-based decisions in policy issues more challenging.  It…