Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Pepsi Ethics

It’s taken me a few hours to cool off enough to write coherently and without using (too much) profanity after I learned that ScienceBlogs added a corporate PR “blog” about nutrition written by PepsiCo. I think I’ve learned all I care to know about corporate “food” giants’ definition of what is “nutrition” by being confronted daily by a flock of hugely protruding bellies and jiggling posteriors everywhere I go (yes, even here in Germany). I would link to that “blog” so you can see what I am talking about but quite frankly, I don’t want to send any traffic to them. I think you can find them easily enough. [Oh. and when you do find them, please don't swear or curse in your comments because these delicate corporate types don't like that and will not publish your comment, spanky, spanky.]


Back in the Cretaceous, I and my colleagues accepted an invitation to join ScienceBlogs because we wanted visibility, credibility, technical support and community along with complete editorial control over our work. It seemed too good to be true, but ScienceBlogs provided us with that along with a small stipend and a platform that, while not perfect, works well enough. In short, we control all the content in the left sidebar, the banner and the center column, while ScienceBlogs/Seed Media Group controls the content in the right sidebar and in the space above each blog’s banner.

Predictably, ScienceBlogs/Seed Media’s space is devoted to advertising. Advertising, which is essential to keep this site up and running, is a necessary evil, especially in these uncertain and dark economic times. I’ve tried to ignore the ads although admittedly, that has been somewhat difficult at times since prepackaged ads are often a target for spammers (these ads also provide entertainment for observers and excellent blog fodder for those who wish to sharpen their writing teeth by commenting on them).

But I and my colleagues were recruited by ScienceBlogs based on our track records of productivity, topic choices, traffic and whatever ephemeral talent that their corporate masters thought we possessed. Not one of us had to buy our way in. And despite the presence of advertising on this site, none of us is paid to write content that supports a particular corporate agenda. But yesterday, we were blindsided with the surprise addition of a new corporate PR “blog” written by PepsiCo’s top R&D folks.

The presence of that “blog” raises a few important questions. How does ScienceBlogs expect to maintain their (OUR) credibility as a science news source (we are picked up by Google news searches afterall) when they are sneaking paid-for propaganda into the ScienceBlogs news stream under the guise of news? That is unethical. I can only speak for myself, but as an unemployed scientist who’d love to continue my interrupted career path before I’m dead, the only thing of value that I have left is my integrity, but this surreptitious decision by the Seed overlords is casting a pall over all of us by selling the site’s integrity to the highest bidder.

While I am interested to learn more about how the corporate machine actually works from the inside, this is not the way to do it. I cannot imagine what sorts of credible nutrition research PepsiCo is doing that they can or will actually talk about publicly, nor can I possibly imagine any “food” corporation actually caring about promoting public health — unless it promotes their bottom line. I don’t care how many PhD scientists they hire, PepsiCo is a corporation, not a research institute, fer crissakes! They do not engage in public navel gazing. As a corporation, their one and only goal is to increase their profit margin, even if that means poisoning their non-American customers or redesigning their “food” so it kills Americans more slowly.

What’s next, ScienceBlogs? Perhaps a “blog” about deep sea oil drilling or a “blog” about sashimi written by BP? Or maybe H$U$ will buy their way in here to write a “blog” about the evils of animal research and captive breeding of endangered species? Or maybe PETA will write a “blog” about dumpster diving behind your local Piggly Wiggly? I am surprised that PepsiCo needs to buy blog space when they’ve got plenty of electronic real estate of their own that they can bend to fulfill their corporate agenda and corrupt to their hearts’ desire.

If PepsiCo wants to be associated with this site’s reputation, why not provide the struggling ScienceBlogs the $$$upport we need to continue pursuing the thing that attracts them — our vision — without buying a blog and then passing it off as intellectually honest writing? $upporting ScienceBlogs is certainly not going to break their budget anytime soon. I guarantee that would result in a much more positive response overall than buying their way into the ScienceBlogs line-up. Alternatively, if PepsiCo is so sure of their moral superiority, why not set up blogs on their site, and run them in what ever manner they desire?

This is a giant mistake. Adding a PepsiCo “nutrition” “blog” damages the credibility of those of us who have invested literally years of our lives into building ScienceBlogs up into something special, something with integrity, something to be proud of. Not only is the addition of this “blog” an insult, but the skanky clandestine manner in which it was executed is a fucking slap in the face from Adam Bly and the ScienceBlogs overlords, reflecting their overall (lack of) respect for our collective contributions and investments. This shortsighted decision will have negative consequences for Seed Media Group, ScienceBlogs and, sadly, for all of us.

[Added 8 July at a couple minutes after midnight, Germany time] To register your displeasure with this decision, feel free to email comments to Adam Bly: bly@seedmediagroup.com and editor@scienceblogs.com. Even though I personally have no problem with cursing, I’d advise you to limit your use of expletives in the off chance that using them might keep them from reading your entire message.

Even though this is mostly a Adam Bly/Seed Media Group screw up, you can also express your concerns and opinions by contacting the Pepsico’s PR d00d who is heading up ScienceBlogs’ astroturf blog, Daniel Pellegrom at (914)253-2958 or by email at daniel.pellegrom@pepsico.com.

Comments

  1. #1 Aaron
    July 6, 2010

    Yes, yes, yes, but how do you really feel?

  2. #2 Toast
    July 6, 2010

    That echoes my thoughts when I saw it. Next the macdonalds blog?

  3. #3 becca
    July 6, 2010

    In fairness to Pepsico, I suspect they are learning from the example of the cigarette companies. They know soda taxes are only a matter of time, and that they are going to be the convenient scapegoat/public enemy #1 everytime ‘obesity’ pops up. They probably want to start people identifying their company with tropicana and quaker oats. I’m pretty sure there are valid nutritional research questions that might put those products in a favorable light.

  4. #4 Barbara Feder Ostrov
    July 6, 2010

    Fellow ScienceBlogger @PalMD agrees with you: http://bit.ly/be2sUG

    Barbara Feder Ostrov
    Deputy Editor, ReportingonHealth.org

  5. #5 ZenMonkey
    July 6, 2010

    I could not possibly agree more. I’m outraged as a reader; I can only imagine how pissed off you SB bloggers must be.

  6. #6 Big Blue
    July 6, 2010

    As an honest-to-goodness Pharma Shill (with silken cowl and skull ring), here is my $0.02: See how they moderate comments and respond to critiques.

    They may have motives beyond simple PR. I can think of lots:

    -Adverse Event monitoring. It’s surprisingly hard to find out when bad stuff goes down on account of your product. Doctors treating the patient won’t even bother to let the company sales rep know, even if they see the sales rep every dang week for pizza and garlic bread.

    -Too many yes-men in their organization. This is a failure of management, can also be a failure of past management, and it can get to a point where you can’t fire the whole gorram company even if they are buttkissers, no one would be left to run the bottling machine. Consultants often do the same. So they look outside for ideas and opinions.

    -Looking for Opinion Leaders. This is not the same as market research, you’re looking for smart people who tell the sheeple what to think rather than what the sheeple already think. People who claim to be such, usually aren’t, so you gotta look in unique places. Scientists do tend to be Opinion Leaders, it’s a personality thing.

    I agree they suck at tactics. They will undoubtedly say, “Hey, our food scientists are Real Scientists too, and they deserve a place just like any academic!” Which is fine–but then they should let a few of their own industrial scientists blog independently without a babysitter. These scientists undoubtedly blog already, they could just read the ones management likes and figure out a few that they wouldn’t mind admitting work for Pepsi.

    Guess they didn’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto. Ah well.

  7. #7 Mu
    July 6, 2010

    I saw the announcement popping up in the “latest entries”, and couldn’t believe anyone could announce such a blatant sell-out with a straight face. But I figured, soon “Age of Autism” and “Natural News” will buy prime billing, and I don’t ever have to switch out of scienceblogs.com for my entertainment, with Orac providing the Roger Ebert style “19 thumbs down” commentary.

  8. #8 Ark Lady
    July 6, 2010

    Poor decision and wish you would say what you really think (LOL) check this little puppy out–my favorite quote is,

    “Essentially those in charge of analytics-driven content say, ‘These journalists, they only got it half right. Why produce all this stuff that doesn’t make money. Just produce the stuff that sells,’ ” Mr. Doctor said.

    Link is NY Times! http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/05/business/media/05yahoo.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=at%20yahoo%20using&st=cse

  9. #9 Chris Clarke
    July 6, 2010

    As an honest-to-goodness Pharma Shill (with silken cowl and skull ring), here is my $0.02: See how they moderate comments and respond to critiques.

    That’s beside the point. Taking them on at all is a violation of about five different types of journalistic and publishing ethics, not to mention PR strategy.

    Even USA Today marks that sort of stuff “Paid Content.”

    If Pepsi’s intentions were honorable, they’d put all this stuff prominently on their own site. They’d get more traffic, and it would reflect better on the company. The only reason to do it this way is to buy credibility without doing the hard work.

  10. #10 davey
    July 6, 2010

    Agreed. I’ve got nothing against drinking an occasional Pepsi product but, jeez, what a boneheaded mistake by ScienceBlogs. Sb and by association you bloggers who blog here, lose a whole lot of credibility by having PR flacks from a sugar merchant write about nutrition here.

  11. #11 Cath@VWXYNot?
    July 6, 2010

    Sorry dude. I’d be really pissed off if it was me, too.

  12. #12 Synchronium
    July 6, 2010

    When Gillian Mckeith gets a blog here, we’ll all agree never to return, right?

  13. #13 Shelley
    July 6, 2010

    I can agree with your sentiments.

    However, what are all of you bloggers who are outraged going to do?

    Are you going to quit ScienceBlogs? Refuse to write? Start up another site?

  14. #14 ERV
    July 6, 2010

    You realize that Pepsi Co. makes more products than ‘Pepsi’, right?

    Gatorade? Naked Juice? Tropicana products? Lipton teas? Quaker oatmeal?

    And its intellectually lazy to blame obesity on Pepsi. Christ on a stick.

    Im waiting till they actually publish something to throw a tantrum.

  15. #15 "GrrlScientist"
    July 6, 2010

    i honestly do not know what to do. should i stay or should i go? if i go, where would i go? or should i just quit blog writing altogether and devote myself to writing those books that everyone tells me i should write? do my words or actions even make a difference? (apparently not).

    what do you think i should do? i guess i am sort of lost. ScienceBlogs is the only identity i’ve got, but THIS isn’t the sort of person, or writer, i wish to be(come).

  16. #16 Fred
    July 6, 2010

    Is it just a coinkidink that PZ is asking his readers for their backgrounds on the same day PepsiCo introduces their “blog”?

    Sorry for the paranoia. This is what comes from living under a capitalist regime.

  17. #17 Coturnix
    July 6, 2010

    @Fred: Coincidence. PZ posted that (after several of us posted that same kind of post) hours before any of us heard about the new blog.

  18. #18 CButter
    July 6, 2010

    You realize that Pepsi Co. makes more products than ‘Pepsi’, right?

    Ir-fucking-relevant. They could make vegan unicorns that shit rainbows; that doesn’t justify the decision to hand them a propaganda organ. They can blog on their own damned site.

  19. #19 Fred
    July 6, 2010

    @Fred: Coincidence. PZ posted that (after several of us posted that same kind of post) hours before any of us heard about the new blog.

    Whew! Thank goodness.

    I’m going to go out and buy a Pepsi now.

  20. #20 Jeff Knapp
    July 6, 2010

    I am rather flabbergasted. Even if this does turn out to be a legit independent blog, just the fact that it is a corporate sponsored blog means, to me, that I can never really trust it. At the very least, this just does not look good. At the worst, it could be exactly what you say it is. I’m betting that you will prove to be more right than not. Sb made a bad move on this one, me thinks.

  21. #21 Adam M. Goldstein
    July 6, 2010

    I think the sentiment expressed in the post is right on. Seed media (or whatever the name is) don’t say anywhere on their site what their editorial policies are. Well, for one thing, does anyone get ad money or anything else, say, per click? Seed itself is a business, as the post says, out to make a profit, and they would have their pages be all ads if they could. Having a corporation sponsor a blog (or whatever the arrangement is) clearly degrades the credibility of the whole site. If I were a SB blogger, I would set up my own personal blog on WordPress or some other service—Wordpress, for instance, writes open-source blogging software, and uses their blogging platform to test it out and develop it. They’re not even selling anything. This is really depressing. It seemed too good to be true that there could be a media outlet based on providing science information in an unbiased way from credible people with something interesting to say, and it turns out that it really is too good to be true.

  22. #22 llewelly
    July 6, 2010

    There was a blog here sponsored (in part) by Shell . Joe Romm (climate progress) posted on it, and there were a handful of other articles. Whatever happened to it?

  23. #23 Arboretum Elk
    July 6, 2010

    Fortunately, it’s not the only scienceblog that has been paid for, just the only scienceblog that has been paid for that also has an agenda that we disagree with. I’ll let you guess the former!

  24. #24 Brendan W. Locke
    July 6, 2010

    Really bad move for the SB “brand.” I can’t wait to see how this all pans out. Luckily, it seems like there is enough traffic generated by all of the bloggers here that a fork would be very easy to develop. Good luck to you!

  25. #25 Richard Simons
    July 6, 2010

    I agree that this is a really bad move for ScienceBlogs. This is a sponsored blog that we have been told about. I can’t help wondering how long it is before there is a blog that we are not aware is sponsored.

  26. #26 ERV
    July 6, 2010

    CButter :…doesn’t justify the decision to hand them a propaganda organ
    What, exactly, has been posted at the Pepsi blog that is ‘propaganda’?

  27. #27 Neon Sequitur
    July 6, 2010

    The title of this post is spot-on. What to do? The most important thing is what *not* to do: DON’T give the “Food Frontiers” blog any traffic, ever. Don’t link to it, don’t follow any links to it, don’t do *anything* that might give these blighters any traffic, ever.

    Since PepsiCo is paying for their space here, then lack of traffic may convince them it’s not worth the money and it’s time to move on. SB management take note: I’m not interested, and I won’t be reading any of the content on PepsiCo’s blog.

  28. Although I understand SB need some sort of income resources.. but I’m really piss if there are more Mcdonalds Pizzahut to come..

  29. #29 Shelley
    July 6, 2010

    What should you do? That’s not an easy answer.

    You all have made a home here, and it’s tough to leave home. In addition, there is a synergy among your blogs of benefit to you all.

    On the other hand, the organization behind this site made a fundamental error by not providing a heads up to people first about this new blog. Either the Seed Media group is incredibly clueless, or they feel that the blogs they’ll lose aren’t of enough importance to warrant concern. This attitude should bother you all, deeply, because chances are, more choices of this nature will be coming down the road.

    And you all made it easy, too. You carved the road out for Seed Media. I’m sure they’re appreciative.

    As for the blog, and those who say, “Wait and see”, well, what can we see now? The blog is called Food Frontiers, not PepsiCo’s Food Frontiers. This strikes me as being very misleading — if it is a corporate sponsored blog, this information should be made known, up front. Yes, there’s a little logo on the side, with a blurb, but let’s face it: no one pays attention to the logos, and the little blurbs.

    As for the content, you know what this will be from the beginning:

    “As part of this partnership, we’ll hear from a wide range of experts on how the company is developing products rooted in rigorous, science-based nutrition standards to offer consumers more wholesome and enjoyable foods and beverages.”

    This blog isn’t about food frontiers, in general, this blog is about PepsiCo, and PepsiCo products. The material might be mildly interesting from the perspective of seeing how a major food corporation does R & D (publicly, I should add). But the scientific value will be moderated by the fact that you’re not going to see the research warts–the mistakes, the failures, the acknowledgment of bad decisions made. Seeing only the good, the “positive” is not, to me, science. It’s PR. No matter how many scientists you throw at it, it’s PR.

    What should you do? I don’t know. I don’t blog anywhere but my own place, so I can’t judge what you’d lose if you left. You may find that you’ll lose a lot, too much really, and you’ll have to make the best of a less than happy situation. Or you may find in the end that you just can’t handle this new path.

    Whatever you decide, good luck.

  30. #30 Robert S.
    July 6, 2010

    Shouldn’t we, you know, let them post something that falls under PR first before hammering them? They might either provide accurate information because they aren’t trying to pull a PR blitz with this, or they might be pulling a Christian Science Monitor, where they would give good, accurate info as a PR move. (healthywashing, equiv to greenwashing?) Either way, let them screw up first before throwing your hands up and decrying the end of scienceblogs. If pepsico starts using the blog to flog product, or to try and mislead, I’m sure the rest of you good folks will come down on them like a ton of bricks. I for one would like a more candid look at what goes on in a megafoodcorp’s R&D wing, and if that is what is coming, even if it is focused on how they can do something other then make us fat, I’m all for it.

  31. #31 Blake Stacey
    July 7, 2010

    Chris Clarke sez:

    Taking them on at all is a violation of about five different types of journalistic and publishing ethics, not to mention PR strategy.

    Even USA Today marks that sort of stuff “Paid Content.”

    Yes. This.

  32. #32 Stephen
    July 7, 2010

    Either way, let them screw up first before throwing your hands up and decrying the end of scienceblogs.

    As far as I am concerned, they already have screwed up. The blog is edited by “a member of the sustainability communications team”, which means a PR lackey. Using the only evidence we have available – the old posts up at the pepsi version of the blog – the content of this new blog will be mindless corporate PR drivel. Anyone who seriously thinks that it is likely to produce a “candid look at what goes on in a megafoodcorp’s R&D wing” is full of hope and wishful thinking, but nothing much else.

  33. #33 CButter
    July 7, 2010

    What, exactly, has been posted at the Pepsi blog that is ‘propaganda’?

    The mission statement and editorial policy.

    The blog admits that it will only be reporting on positive internal developments, and its editorial policy prohibits “defamatory” comments.

    When a private, for-profit company pays to exercise editorial control over a previously independent media outlet, the default assumption is that the content is biased. If this were not the case, it would not need to be standard journalistic practice to mark ads as ads. Which, as has been pointed out here, even shitty newspapers do.

    Pepsico is not lacking in avenues to communicate to consumers. They have their own damned website, and they can purchase advertisements if that proves insufficient. Hell, they can print it on product labels if they really want to. What, exactly, do you think is their motive in augmenting these vectors with a blog (whose title doesn’t bear the name of the sponsor) on Scienceblogs?

  34. #34 Jadehawk
    July 7, 2010

    What, exactly, has been posted at the Pepsi blog that is ‘propaganda’?

    what can possibly be posted on an officially sponsored blog that isn’t going to be a form of advertising and attempt at overly positive presentation of themselves? It’s not like they’re likely to talk about their company’s failures. That would be a bad business decision.

    I for one would like a more candid look at what goes on in a megafoodcorp’s R&D wing

    in that case, I’d suggest finding a blog by a pseudonymous insider, a whistleblower, or even just a former employee. You don’t honestly expect a candid look at anything from a blog edited by a PR dude with health/greenwashing right in his job title?

    I hope the pepsiblog dies a death quicker and less profitable than the shellblog

  35. #35 Luna_the_cat
    July 7, 2010

    I found the addition of corporate blogs in general a troublesome addition (although I was too pressed for time to make my full unhappiness felt) — this seems worse.

    In a pinch, I wonder if you and some of the other “core” ScienceBloggers who object to this would be able to set up a separate collective of blogs somewhere, and leave Seed. It’s not ideal because of the Seed audience and because that puts the onus of paying for adequate server-side provisioning and technical maintenance back on the bloggers, but it’s an obvious last-resort message sent to Seed.

  36. #36 Guy G
    July 7, 2010

    It’s not like they’re likely to talk about their company’s failures. That would be a bad business decision.

    Would it? Let’s say that hypothetically they wrote an open, critical blog, documenting both successes and failures. With an audience of primarily scientists, I think such openness would improve their reputation, making it actually rather a good business decision.

    Note that I’m only challenging the idea that talking about your company’s failures is automatically a bad business decision. I’m not suggesting that this is remotely likely to happen.

  37. #37 ERV
    July 7, 2010

    what can possibly be posted on an officially sponsored blog that isn’t going to be a form of advertising and attempt at overly positive presentation of themselves?
    My blog is not sponsored by the University of Oklahoma. You still wont see me writing negative things about it (I do write positive things). When have you seen Orac bitch about his place of employment on his blog? Or Brayton? Why would you expect Pepsi employees to use this as an opportunity to bitch about their job?

    Grrl– You would leave over this, but not what happened this time last year? I want you to stay, but I also dont want to give you the impression you are doing something ‘honorable’ if you leave. It would have been honorable last year. Not now.

  38. #38 Broken Link
    July 7, 2010

    I’d suggest that everyone make a decision to never visit the Pepsi blog. Don’t even check on what they are saying. After all, if they are here because they want traffic, don’t give them traffic. They might just go away on their own.

  39. #39 Bec
    July 7, 2010

    To give an idea of what the content is likely to be: http://foodfrontiersblog.pepsico.com

  40. #40 Pierce R. Butler
    July 7, 2010

    ERV – c’mon now, what happened last year (besides the departure of several good SciBloggers)?

    Meanwhile, consider the possibilities this opens up –

    * Economics blogging from Goldman, Sachs!
    * Oceanography blogging from British Petroleum!
    * Anthropology blogging from the Burma/Myanmar government!
    * Military Science blogs from Blackwater/XE!
    * Political Science blogging by Bush, Cheney, Gingrich & Palin!
    * Blogging on everything by Ben Stein!

  41. #41 Jadehawk
    July 7, 2010

    My blog is not sponsored by the University of Oklahoma. You still wont see me writing negative things about it (I do write positive things). When have you seen Orac bitch about his place of employment on his blog? Or Brayton?

    is your blog specifically about the University of Oklahoma? is Orac’s blog about his workplace? Is Brayton’s? The answer is, of course, no (and btw, PZ for example has criticized the University of Minnesota system for teaching woo, just as a counterexample). OTOH, this blog will be about PepsiCo and their products (at least that’s what the introductory post says), which is quite something else. To write only positive things about the subject of your blog, while being paid by said subject, is just plain old advertising. Pretending it’s science is lying and propaganda in my book.

  42. #42 Guy G
    July 7, 2010

    * Oceanography blogging from British Petroleum!

    You mean BP? That doesn’t stand for British Petroleum. They changed their name after they became mostly owned by non-British shareholders (currently 40% UK, 39% US, 21% Other). Not that they haven’t done terrible things (like most oil companies), but no-one had called them “British Petroleum” for years until Obama decided he needed an “ass to kick”. After all, calling them “British Petroleum” does somewhat suggest that the US had absolutely nothing to do with the disaster and it was us pesky Brits wot did it.

  43. #43 ghost
    July 7, 2010

    I’m not from these parts, so what I say doesn’t really matter, but I think this is an overreaction to this. I’m not a huge fan of corporate endeavors like this (and at least you’re not hosting BP’s fine blog, but the bottom line is that the owners of this site would like to make money and this opportunity presented itself. As far as the integrity of this site and its blogs go, it may turn away some of the more passionate, anti-corporate type, but rationally, it should not affect people’s views on the other blogs on this site.

    This isn’t like Yelp’s demanding money to push favorable reviews to the top of a restaurant’s page, or any site that takes sponsorship to alter the overall message of the site. You aren’t being told to mention how great Pepsi is here, in fact you’ve outright bashed them and even been linked to on other sites, but not censored what so ever. I suppose this article is helpful in proving that this partnership has not provided an overall bias on the site.

    The fact is, though, the Pepsi blog is entirely self contained. If you go to the Food Frontiers blog, every page has a blurb in the top left stating that the blog is the view of PepsiCo’s R&D Leadership Team. Go to the About page and you can see the job each blogger holds in PepsiCo’s R&D Department.

    The sponsored blog doesn’t even get preferential treatment. There’s no large banner at the top of the page to advertise the blog or Pepsi themselves. Their article is not featured in the “What We’re Talking About” section; in fact, the only mention of their blog which I could find was an article by another blogger about the Food Frontiers blog. In the list of all blog posts, I had to go to the third page to find PepsiCo’s post, and it’s only been 1 day since it was posted, so I’d imagine they aren’t making that blog any easier to find than your own.

    And you might argue that a corporate blog such as this one does not belong amongst the reputable sources evidently featured on this site. I’d even go so far as to argue that point (not you being reputable, I believe that, haha). Certainly the Pepsi blog will be filled with its fair share of PR spin, but they didn’t just make this blog to say “our Pepsi with 28 grams of sugar is extremely healthy and you should buy one now” and “a bag of Cheetos is healthier than an apple, so eat one a day.” They have a huge influence on the eating patterns of most Americans and because of this their point of view is hugely relevant to the scientific community. They may not be pushing the barriers of science in their research, but they are researching the science that will directly effect millions of people on a daily basis. As much as I’d love to read about the latest developments in the Large Hadron Collider (maybe I’ve just exposed myself as not being a science buff?), Food Frontier is the application of science in its most practical form, in a way that has a massive affect on the World. So to discredit the entire blog because of some PR slant is also an overreaction.

    I don’t know why I’ve written so much about a blog I’ve admittedly never read on a site I’ve admittedly never been to before (though I may come back), I suppose I’m tired of everyone’s eagerness to jump to an anti-establishment viewpoint. I don’t like corporate influence controlling as much as they do, but the fact that they do makes their blog here completely relevant, and the fact that it has remained a single part of the blog with no influence on your blog or the others on this site means it’s a perfectly reasonable endeavor that does not compromise your integrity. At the end of the day, the owners of the site are getting back some money for the hours they put in developing the site at a small cost – the inclusion of a blog which presents its biases at the forefront and doesn’t change the content which was already present on the site.

  44. #44 Jason
    July 7, 2010

    The resistance to this Pepsi blog from supposed scientists confuses me. Corporations like Pepsi are unquestionably among the largest investigators and investors into food science, regardless of their motives. Ignoring what they have to say just because they are getting paid is ridiculous. What, does it only count as science if you’re not making much off it? Do discoveries only count if your motives are pure? I think not.

    The introduction to this new blog says: “The focus will be on innovations in science, nutrition and health policy. In addition to learning more about the transformation of PepsiCo’s product portfolio, we’ll be seeing some of the innovative ways it is planning to reduce its use of energy, water and packaging.”

    I would expect a scientist skeptical of those claims to monitor actual postings for misinformation, post counterarguments for Pepsi’s claims, or find alternate interpretations for their (eventual) claims. Instead, the response here seems to be “liar liar pants on fire”- and this is before the first real post.

  45. #45 Bing
    July 7, 2010

    Wrong. Who do we write to?

  46. #46 Jeremiah
    July 7, 2010

    You write: “I am surprised that PepsiCo needs to buy blog space when they’ve got plenty of electronic real estate of their own that they can bend to fulfill their corporate agenda and corrupt to their hearts’ desire.”

    They are paying for the privilege of having their content vouched for by Sb in the same way yours is. Which is why you are so angry, and should be. It devalues the credibility of being associated with the organization as a whole, which means they’re cashing in the reputational credit you helped build. And you won’t have it anymore.

  47. #47 John Mark Ockerbloom
    July 7, 2010

    “i honestly do not know what to do. should i stay or should i go? if i go, where would i go?”

    Well, it’s your decision on whether to stay or to go, but if you decide to go, there are plenty of other blogging platforms you can use if you want. I’m pretty happy with wordpress.com, for instance. The basic service is completely free. I pay $15 a year for my own .com domain name (which, among other things, means I can change platforms later on if I want to– “wordpress” doesn’t appear in the name). You can pay more if you like to have more control over page design, get rid of the ads WordPress occasionally runs, or run your own ad network. But the basic package seems quite reasonable to me.

    The WordPress software can also be downloaded for free and run on your own server if you like. (I’m happy to use their hosted service, though, since then I don’t have to worry about maintaining my own server, spam filtering, etc.)

  48. #48 me
    July 7, 2010

    when they are sneaking paid-for propaganda into the ScienceBlogs news stream under the guise of news

    And, of course, there’s no propaganda at, for example, global warming shill Timothy “Lamebrain” Lambert’s blog, is there?

  49. #49 Hank Roberts
    July 7, 2010

    Gee, I wonder why Pepsico needs to do this.

    Oh, wait: industry can shut up almost anyone who wants to warn of risk from industrial business as usual — ask the FDA — except the military, which has some independence to report problems that affect their ability to do their duty.

    Like it or not, the military can do things other parts of the government can’t — like ending segregation under Truman for example.

    The military has started coming out with blunt, accurate, good, clear nutrition information based on good science — science that’s a decade old. But I’ve never seen it explained as clearly (link below to National Institute of Health program))

    Why? Because industry has just about completely screwed up the country’s health by promoting crap food.

    News story:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=army+recruiting+obesity

    “… report by a panel of top retired military officers on the physical fitness of military recruits.

    Titled “Too Fat to Fight,” the April study bluntly concludes that 9 million 17- to 24-year-olds — 27 percent of all young adults — “are too fat to serve in the military.” The report by the nonprofit organization Mission: Readiness calls this trend “a threat to national security” and notes that “being overweight is now by far the leading medical reason for rejection.” From 1995 to 2008, the study says, “the proportion of potential recruits who failed their physicals each year because they were overweight rose nearly 70 percent.”

    Within just 10 years, the number of states reporting that 40 percent of their 18- to 24-year-olds are obese or overweight went from one (Kentucky) to 39. In three states — Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama — more than 50 percent of the young adults were obese or overweight in 2008. To reach normal weight, the nation’s out-of-shape young adults would have to lose a collective 390 million pounds, according to the report ….”

    There’s more. Try this:

    http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=8107
    Permanent link: http://videocast.nih.gov/launch.asp?15352

    Two DAYS worth of video from the National Institute of Health — sciencebloggers could mine this material for quite a few items, there’s amazing science in there and amazing info about how the military’s being fed crap. First hand details with pictures.

    The link above is to Day 1 of the 2-day program.
    On the Day 2 video, start around minute 58 through 1:13 to hear the marine presenting in detail what front lihe soldiers in the camps currently get to eat — first hand from the guy who handles supplying them, in detail. Start earlier around minute 12 for what would be better (Dr. Bill Land). Many more parts to the presentation. All worthwhile.

    A clear copy of Dr. Land’s slides (hard to see in the video) are at: http://omega-6-omega-3-balance.omegaoptimize.com/files/8/9/8/7/3/147167-137898/NutritionalArmor.ppt

    The National Institutes main site on this is: http://efaeducation.nih.gov/
    Interactive spreadsheet (Windows or Mac) for food choice is:
    http://efaeducation.nih.gov/sig/kim.html

    Hell, the front line soldiers are being fed the same crap the poorest people in the country eat, and that’s because it’s all their budget allows them to be fed. But the camps are full of US corporate fast junkfood outlets so the soldiers can spend their own money on junkfood to make up for the cheap unhealthy food they get.

    I’m not an eager promoter of the military, but I’m all for taking care of the health of young people wherever they are, and the individuals I know in the military are worth protecting — from our corporate overlords — just like the kids anywhere.

    PS to Pepsico — yes, oatmeal is good.
    No, peanuts and sugar and corn and corn syrup aren’t.
    Get it sorted out.

  50. #50 conpas
    July 7, 2010

    Oh come on GrrlScientist, every family has a miscreant or two. SB isn’t an exception. I’m sure at the SB blogger Xmas gatherings you won’t see FF there. “ahem….oh yeah…FF. Uhh….we don’t really talk about FF.”

  51. #51 Pierce R. Butler
    July 7, 2010

    Where do you go to find out how many paid drive-by commenters are employed by PepsiCo and its agencies?

  52. #52 Herman
    July 7, 2010

    GrrlScientist, good for you. Well said. I have to say however that it is difficult for me to get too high and too mighty over the specific business Pepsi is in. I’m a Coca-Cola man myself and fast food is certainly on my menu, including some Pepsi run franchises. Thanks to my wife, this is all with a little moderation and a dose of veggies for dinner.

    I think the real issue is having any corporate run blog tarnishes Sb’s image, an image you guys have built for Sb and SMG. I know SMG has bills to pay but have Pepsi pay the bills by advertising in the right sidebar but not by providing content. It is the individual voices that makes Sb a great resource and even if I don’t happen to agree with all of those voices, can’t stand PZ, at least I know they are sincere voices and not filtered through marketing strategies and a corporate strategic plan. Well, at least that was the case until lately.

    Your minds made Sb and they can build the same audience elsewhere. If you leave I can just as easily read your insights on another site, another site without PZ and its all the better! :)

  53. #53 Murray
    July 7, 2010

    If it’s a question of staying with an organization in which you have suffered a profound disalluaionment, I vote for those who hang in there to CHANGE the basic structure, not just be angered by it. Don’t give up the ship, Grrl !!

  54. #54 "GrrlScientist"
    July 7, 2010

    murray: okay, how about building our own ship? …of the people, by the people and for the people?

  55. #55 "GrrlScientist"
    July 7, 2010

    to register your displeasure with this decision, feel free to email comments to Adam bly@seedmediagroup.com. Even though I have no problem with cursing, I’d advise you to limit your use of expletives in the off chance that he might actually read your entire message.

  56. #56 JafafaHots
    July 7, 2010

    “Even though I have no problem with cursing, I’d advise you to limit your use of expletives in the off chance that he might actually read your entire message. “

    Well I failed, because my email header was “PepsiCo? Are you fucking kidding me?”

    But I’m not naive enough to believe Bly will be reading none of them. Sure, they may tally up the negatives in order to decide what kind of a PR campaign they need to do use to calm reader down. They’ll probably even get help from Pepsi PR people on that task.

    Bottom line is, Pepsi is here to stay unless PEPSI decides it’s in their interest to leave. They likely have a contract and would sue Sb if Sb decided to boot them. Not that Sb would, it’s clear that the money was the important thing.

    A Monsanto scienceblog, an ADM scienceblog, a Chevron scienceblog, hell, that might just be a great new business model. Who needs ethics or standards or even readers as long as the corporate cash is rolling in?

  57. #57 JafafaHots
    July 7, 2010

    gack. sorry for the multiple typos. I’m not only a bit PO’d, I’m currently sleep-deprived.

  58. #58 Susannah
    July 7, 2010

    Didn’t this post have a different title a while ago? (S… C… D…, wasn’t it?) And a paragraph about acceptable language?

  59. #59 Paula
    July 7, 2010

    http://foodfrontiers.pepsicoblogs.com/
    Wow, scary shit.

    You know, pepsico are going to blog about the role of corporations in food policy, and that’s political science, not food science.

    And I’ll stick with Marion Nestle on those issues http://www.foodpolitics.com

  60. #60 Alex Catgirl
    July 7, 2010

    I think GrrlScientist should publish her books!

    But should you need a “parking spot” for your blog, I’m more than happy to provide one for you free of charge at my site, which is 100% corporate/ad free….but could we please put a picture of a catgirl with a bird in her mouth in the masthead?

  61. #61 Chuck C
    July 7, 2010

    I certainly hope the title change for the post was your idea, and not Seed’s or PepsiCo’s. I’d hope that you’d be screaming it from the rooftops if you were pressured.

  62. #62 DrMeow
    July 8, 2010

    I’m sympathetic to the general issue, but I don’t understand how you can lump PETA and HSUS in with BP and PepsiCo. They are manifestly not driven by profit or self-interest, precisely the opposite.

  63. #63 skeptifem
    July 8, 2010

    Tons of bloggers are leaving, most are making new blogs or firing up the old ones.

    The network of blogs can be maintained if people link to each other, which I am sure they will. Having the power decentralized will make it impossible for this to happen again.

    I am pissed at scienceblogs too- if they were that desperate for cash they could ask for donations or something. I mean, I would have given, for sure. The people who read blogs and who are into science are more likely to be able to afford that anyway.

  64. #64 "GrrlScientist"
    July 8, 2010

    chuck c: i changed the title of this blog entry because i was worried i’d offended my readers. however, the original title is maintained in the base URL. the sentiment still stands. emphatically, might i add.

    drmeow: i do despise the self-serving money-grubbing of H$U$ and PETA, and the misrepresentations perpetuated especially by H$U$. if you are interested, there’s plenty in the archives here to read. but now is not the time or the place to talk about that. because, quite frankly, if this corporate whoring that you are seeing here on SB doesn’t stop, none of us will be able to say anything about anything unless it has a corporate logo stamped onto it as a seal of approval — can you say big brother?

  65. #65 FatSkeptic
    July 8, 2010

    I have no desire to see blogvertising and astroturfing and the likes of Pepsi giving Kwality ‘nutrition’ advice and so on. Utterly laughable.

    But did you really have to use that cartoon up the top of the post? The one that simultaneously mocks, shames, blames and pities fat people? Seriously? Using fat stereotypes isn’t witty political satire, it’s just lazy. My heart sinks every time I see something like this. My body is not your thing you can use for making a point about stuff. Thanks.

  66. #66 "GrrlScientist"
    July 8, 2010

    actually, i did choose that image. i can see your point, although that wasn’t the point i was trying to make. i see pepsico and other “food” corporations as committing acts of assault upon people by providing foods that damage us and hasten our deaths. the fact that a goodly number of us are either overweight, fat or obese, is simply an external manifestation of a societal problem perpetuated upon us by corporations whose only concern is enriching the bank accounts of its shareholders, board of advisors (or trustees or whatever they’re called) and especially the CEO and his pals. those of us who are impoverished are especially vulnerable. those of us who live in developing countries are especially damaged by rampant corporate greed. then after we all are suffering, society and corporations attack us for our health and social and economic situations. i was using that image to slap them across the face, to force them to look into the mirror of society, to see what their bloodless soulless quest for money-at-all-costs has done to all of us.

    but that said, i’ll look around for something else. if you have a suggestion, please do email it to me and i’ll replace the image.

  67. #67 Carlie
    July 8, 2010

    but that said, i’ll look around for something else.

    Thank you so much for that. I’m a lurker here, and the image bothered me for the same reasons but I didn’t want a first post to be a complaint. I’m posting now just so you know there are other readers who really appreciate that you took the comment in stride, explained what you meant by using it, and then did change it anyway out of consideration for the alternate negative way it could be interpreted. That’s something I honestly don’t see very often, so thank you.

  68. #68 Drmeow
    July 8, 2010

    They’re not doing it for themselves though, but for animals with no voice or vote. I mean even if you think they’re wrong, it’s clearly not a selfish agenda. They’re not getting rich, they are constantly being opposed, and they are occasionally villified (from both sides). Self-serving is really not the right word. You can disagree, and call them misguided, you can dispute their slant on things and call their leaflets propagandist, and you can disagree with their tactics. But they are not driven by profit at all costs like the other companies mentioned. I think it’s an important distinction.

  69. #69 "GrrlScientist"
    July 8, 2010

    drmeow: well, as i said, this is not the time or place for this discussion, but you clearly wish to talk about this. so i will gather my evidence (again) and write another piece about this issue in the next week or so, and we can discuss/argue the points then, okay? if i am slow (i might be, because i am still very upset and heartsick about this current crisis), send me an email or pop in and make a comment to give me a nudge and i’ll get moving on this. (all comments from both of my blogs are sent to my email account).

  70. #70 Pierce R. Butler
    July 9, 2010

    The first graphic for this post was much better: the current one is just a lame visual pun (wow, something circular can be used to depict eyes!!1!).

    Using the Pepsi icon to show an extremely obese human is no more mocking fat people as such than showing cripples with crutches on the logo of a corporation that makes land mines would be disrespectful of those (like me) who walk with a limp.

  71. #71 "GrrlScientist"
    July 9, 2010

    pierce: i’ve looked and looked and for the life of me, i cannot find a pepsi logo on crutches! but it would be nice, since i can use to to say, graphically of course: “pepsi is lame lame lame!”

  72. #72 Bite Me
    July 9, 2010

    This is a giant mistake. Adding a PepsiCo “nutrition” “blog” damages the credibility of those of us who have invested literally years of our lives into building ScienceBlogs up into something special, something with integrity, something to be proud of. Not only is the addition of this “blog” an insult, but the skanky clandestine manner in which it was executed is a fucking slap in the face from Adam Bly and the ScienceBlogs overlords, reflecting their overall (lack of) respect for our collective contributions and investments. This shortsighted decision will have negative consequences for Seed Media Group, ScienceBlogs and, sadly, for all of us.

    And another self-important drama queen blogger has a tantrum about a food blog. Get over yourself already.

  73. #73 "GrrlScientist"
    July 10, 2010

    Bite Me: well, was that good for you? i hope so. that comment was probably the best sex you’ve gotten all week, actually.

  74. #74 Marilyn Terrell
    July 11, 2010

    I applaud your integrity.

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