Saturday 20 February 2010

He Who Pays The Piper ...

Comrade Beeb seem to have woken up to the fact that there might be some corruption going on in the climate change debate.

Well, they may have been aware of its existence for a while, but it's significant that they have recently shown more willingness to report it.

Leading scientists say that the recent controversies surrounding climate research have damaged the image of science as a whole.

"Public opinion polls are showing that the answers to questions like: 'how much do you respect scientists?' or 'are they behaving in disinterested ways?', have deteriorated in the last few months."

[President of the US National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone,] said that this crisis of public confidence should be a wake-up call for researchers, and that the world had now "entered an era in which people expected more transparency".

"People expect us to do things more in the public light and we just have to get used to that," he said. "Just as science itself improves and self-corrects, I think our processes have to improve and self-correct."
The tone of this article seems to be one of naïve trust in researchers; that the recent revelations are just the result of a few bad eggs; that trust can be engendered by a bit more openness.

The idea that the results themselves may be routinely skewed in favour of their sources of funding - usually governments who desperately wish to 'prove' the legitimacy of their climate change policies - doesn't appear to have been considered.

If a researcher is making a living out of grants from those who wish to prove the existence of AGW, they're hardly going to jeopardise that revenue stream by coming up with conflicting data. If that were to occur, such results will be quietly suppressed.

You think that's unfair on scientists? A tad harsh?

Well, if climate change research mirrors the institutionalised cycle of bias cosily set up between researcher and funder in the tobacco control debate, not really, no.

Take the case of Dr Anna Gilmore, for example.

Last month, she was incensed that a tobacco company had called for more 'transparent' consultation processes in relation to public health legislation.

Reading Chris Proctor's claims that British American Tobacco supports ­evidence-based public health regulations and "transparent" consultation processes is like peering into an alternate universe (Letters, 16 January). Our paper, which he refers to and is publicly available at PLoS Medicine, shows that BAT reshaped EU policymaking procedures to expressly prevent such regulation and did so by recruiting a series of more credible partners to front its campaign and obscure its involvement (Tobacco corporations lobby to hamper passing of EU health laws, say academics, 12 January).
Gilmore argues that tobacco companies are too biased to be allowed to comment on anti-smoking matters. She has even written a paper about it (not for free, of course).

Presumably, Gilmore considers herself a paragon of objectivity and dispassion. Despite the fact she is making herself very rich on the back of producing anti-tobacco reports favourable to her funders.

Here are a few of her recent granted projects:

European Commission. Seventh Framework Programme, €3,000,000 (Grant), Health in Times of Transition (HITT), May 2009 - April 2012
Gilmore A, McKee M et al

European Commission. Seventh Framework Programme, €2,991,656 (Grant), Pricing Policies and Control of Tobacco in Europe (PPACTE), 2009 - 2012
Gilmore A, with Clancy L, Perkurinen F, Godfrey F, Fischbacher C, Levy D, Boffetta P, Gallus S, Fernandes E, Ross H

NHS Soutwest, £165,284 (Grant), Smokefree South West: Research and evaluation support, 2009 - 2011
Bauld L, with Gilmore A.

Cancer Research UK, £30,000 (Grant), Studies of the impact of passive smoke exposure on child health, 2009 - 2010
Gilmore A, with Britton J et al

CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), £146,767.50 ($286,769) (Grant), Upstream Determinants of Smoking in Low, Middle and High Income Countries participating in PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study), 2008 - 2010
Yusuf S, Chow C, McKee M, Sankaranarayanan V, Teo K, Gilmore A.

Bloomberg Initiative, $1,092,000 (Grant), Development of sustainable structures to promote ratification of FCTC and advocate for stronger tobacco control legislation and compliance, 2007 - 2010
Gilmore A with Danishevski K, et al on the behalf of the Russian FCTC Coalition

European Respiratory Partnership, £150,000 (Grant), Tobacco industry influence on European Union Tobacco control policy making, 2007 - 2009
Gilmore A, with Collin C

Islington Primary Care Trust, £30,000 (Grant), Evaluation of the impact of smokefree legislation amongst different ethnic groups in Islington PCT, 2007 - 2008
Gilmore A, with Lock K

Health Foundation Clinician Scientist Fellowship, £576,195 (Grant), Developing and evaluating policies to reduce tobacco use and harm in the UK, November 2006 - 2011
Gilmore A

National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health, $1,564,280 (Grant), Globalisation, the tobacco industry and policy influence - grant extension, 2006 - 2010
Gilmore A, with Lee K, Collin J, McKee M

Open Society Institute, US$300,000 (Grant), Public Health Leadership for an Open Society, 2005 - 2005
Gilmore A, with Coker R, Atun R

Cancer Research UK, £80,000 (Grant), Centre on Global Change and Health (support for tobacco industry document work), 2003 - 2004
Gilmore A, with Lee K, Collin J

National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health, US$1,628,225 (Grant), Globalisation, the tobacco industry and policy influence, 2001 - 2006
Gilmore A, with Lee K, Collin J, Bissell K, McKee M, Vaughn JP

The Wellcome Trust, £1,000,000 (Grant), History of Medicine tobacco document archiving project, 2001 - 2006
Gilmore A, with Lee K, Collin J, Berridge V, Black N
Being a simple google search, this may not even be a comprehensive list, but it's clear that Anna Gilmore has been a beneficiary of grants totalling over £10m from vested interests seeking ammunition for their anti-smoking policies.

Now call me cynical, but I don't think she would consider disappointing them, do you?

So, just as Fyffes would naturally look to a scientist willing to swear blind that bananas are a wonder fruit, who better for the Department of Health to appoint to look into the success or otherwise of the UK smoking ban**, eh?

Evaluating the impacts of smokefree legislation using secondary data

Cost: £220,000

Status: Ongoing

Contractor: University of Bath .

Lead researcher: Dr Anna Gilmore

Publication: a series of articles will be produced as the analyses are completed. The first of these is in press
Anna's bulging anti-tobacco till goes kerching once again***.

Little wonder, then, that Dr Gilmore was so incensed at the suggestion of more independent and disinterested parties being chosen for such research ... such a move would have disastrous consequences on her bank balance.

With regard climate change science, the BBC reports Dr Cicerone thus.

"There is a feeling that scientists are suppressing dissent, stifling their competitors through conspiracies."
Taking into account the methods by which studies are commissioned and funded, by those with a huge stake in ensuring 'correct' results, while simultaneously dismissing opposing views (from oil or tobacco companies, for example), it's only natural that conclusions will be skewed.

Under the circumstances, it's not earth-shattering news that a few scientists are being manipulative and corrupt. I'd be more surprised to find that there are some who aren't.

** Obtained via FOIA request
*** Now we know why Andy Burnham was so confident about
the future results of the review


Anonymous said...

Dr. Anna Gilmore, stinking c*nt liar, ain't she. They all are. It's for the money, no science required.

banned said...

05:30 on Sunday mornings is often good for a bit of climate change scepticism on BBC Radio 4.

Anonymous said...

Just trash.
The woman has no shame.
Just more troughing greedy trash.
They breed like cocroaches.

Pogo said...

If you read Andrew Montford's "The Hockey Stick Illusion" you'll see that the saintly Dr Cicerone was the head of the NAS panel that that whitewashed the report into the MBH98 "Hockeystick" - the posterchild of Al Gore's crappy film and the IPCC reports. So he's not exactly the greatest advocate for scientific freedom and transparency either.

how green are your kidneys ? said...

This doctor got £140K to research whether kidney dialysis could be made more carbon friendly. I thought we were short of frontline staff ? Obviously not.

how green are your kidneys ? said...

Sorry that link I gave above seems to have been blocked.
It was a doctors blog about how he was tackling climate change in peoples kidneys. He found ways to recycle the water from the dialysis machine and was visiting hospitals to see how green things were. His interview for the job was done in a tent in the woods. He was on £140K a year of taxpayers money.

Dick Puddlecote said...

What science could really do with are practices such as those described in The Brussels Declaration

But then, that would require a government committed to honesty.

Anonymous said...

I worked in commercial R&D for thirty years, including collaborations with universities, EU sponsored joint developments with European quangoes, and directly funded personal projects.

In my experience ALL university professors that I dealt with were in it purely for the money, and would say and do anything to get funding from my company.

The EU work was exactly the gravy train you might expect - five star hotels and sunny Med beaches, but never produced a thing of use.

As for direct funding, towards the end of my career I was offered £30k for a project to develop ceramics for a specific application, and when I suggested that ceramics would be too brittle and that the money might be better spent improving the existing materials, I was threatened with the sack by my manager for not taking the money regardless. That was the last straw for me, and I resigned shortly afterwards.

This was all a decade ago. With the collapse of R&D since and fierce competition for scientific posts that must have resulted, I would imagine that few honourable scientists remain in R&D.

As a general rule, unless you've read, understood, and reviewed the raw data of any modern research, then I wouldn't give it any more credence than I would a party political manifesto or a TV ad for face cream.

green kidneys said...

seems to work now

Leg-iron said...

This is why I no longer work in the mainstream of science, and why I'm not rich and never will be.

I refuse to run experiments I know are pointless. I have been asked if I could scan pig crap for a whole range of pathogens, including some that are rarely or never found in pigs, and I said 'Yes. I can do it but it will be a total waste of my time and your money. You will get a long and expensive list of zeros.'

I also report the results I get. if their stuff doesn't work as intended, that's the report. If they want me to keep doing it until I get the 'right' answer, I'll explain that I am perfectly willing to do it again for the same price, but the chances are it'll be the same answer.

Managers don't like that attitude. Most companies seem to. So I make a slow and steady income rather than fleecing a company who then wouldn't come back.

Works for me.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

"Leg Iron"...

In my younger days, when I too was a working scientist, I belive that your approach used to be called "science" - a concept that seems to have fallen out of favour in many areas of study.