An astroturf scientific journal

I wrote earlier about how tobacco company documents, released as apart of the Tobacco Settlement Agreement proved that Philip Morris created junkscience.com to argue that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) was harmless. Those documents also tell the story of how they set up a scientific journal controlled by tobacco-friendly editors so that research finding that ETS was harmless could be published. In 1987 Philip Morris cam up with a plan (details in this document) to:

Establish a genuine scientific journal on indoor air quality. The journal could be issued four times a year at a cost of $100,000.

The journal they founded is Indoor and Built Environment. The journal does not mention that it was founded and funded by the tobacco industry. The whole story is detailed in a recent paper in the Lancet by Garne, Watson, Chapman and Byrne. They analysed the content of articles in Indoor and Built Environment and discovered:

61% (40/66) of papers related to environmental tobacco smoke that were published in Indoor and Built Environment in the study period reached conclusions that could be judged to be industry-positive. Of these, 90% (36/40) had at least one author with a history of association with the tobacco industry. These figures can be compared with Barnes and Bero’s study of 68 articles on environmental tobacco smoke randomly selected from MEDLINE published between 1980 and 1994, which found 76.5% concluding environmental tobacco smoke to be “harmful”, and the same authors’ analysis of 106 reviews of this same topic, which found that 74% of reviews concluding environmental tobacco smoke was not harmful were written by authors with tobacco industry affiliations.

Conveniently enough, Indoor and Built Environment did not require its authors to disclose interests such as tobacco company funding. Garne et als conclusion is rather understated:

On the basis of the evidence presented in this paper, there is a serious concern that the tobacco industry may have been unduly influential on the content of the journal. The industry and its lawyers expected that the establishment of the International Society of the Built Environment would publish “overall results [which] will be positive and important”. It appears to be the case that its expectations were in large part fulfilled.

I wonder what’s next? Perhaps the astroturfers will establish their own country where all the health organiziations agree that ETS is harmless.

Comments

  1. #1 Jeff
    March 1, 2005

    Not really the subject of your post, but what evidence is there that Phillip Morris created Junkscience.com? The two articles in that post don’t provide any; the PR Watch article, as I read it, suggests that it’s Milloy’s personal enterprise. What do you have that claims “TASSC and junkscience.com shared the same address?”

  2. #2 TonyB
    March 1, 2005

    The astroturf medical journal is a perfect next step. At last we’ll have scientific documentation that salt is good for you, processed food is healthy, and low-carb diets (or whatever the fad of the moment is) are a great idea. I understand that Talon News has some ex-”journalists” who might be looking for jobs; their experience in fake news should be just as useful in publishing fake medical research.

  3. #3 Ian Gould
    March 1, 2005

    Actually the next logical step is to set up an astroturf citation index to “prove” that the papers published in the astroturf journals are being accepted as valid by the broader scientific community.

    Then how about an astroturf university with a Ronald McDonald chair of nutrition; a Phillip Morris chair of public health and a Texaco chair of Climate Science?

  4. #4 Tim Lambert
    March 1, 2005

    Jeff, junkscience war originally part of TASSC as Milloy says in this letter. Sourcewatch has the details on the same address thing.

  5. #5 jre
    March 1, 2005

    Jeff, the key document Tim linked to was a

    letter to Philip Morris from the PR firm APCO Associates.

    It read in part:

    “I am pleased to present you with an outline of APCO Associates Inc.’s (APCO) proposed activities on behalf of Philip Morris, USA, for 1994.

    We are very excited about the development and progress of TASSC ….”

    Regarding the shared address, I don’t know what Tim’s source was, but we have the following from
    sourcewatch.org:

    The phone number for junkscience.com is registered to “The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition” (a well exposed corporate front group and a former project of the EOP Group) at 1155 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300 in Washington, DC. This is the same phone number and address Milloy has used for the Citizens for the Integrity of Science, Junkscience.com, NoMoresScares.com, and of course, the defunct The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. The fax number used on numerous press releases over the years is “an interoffice fax” at 1155 Connecticut Ave NW,. according to a simple internet search.

  6. #6 jre
    March 1, 2005

    Damn — If I’d been eight seconds quicker, my post would not have been obsolete by the time it appeared!

  7. #7 Jeff
    March 1, 2005

    Thanks Tim and jre.

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