Mike the Mad Biologist

You might have heard that ScienceBlogs has rolled out a new blog about nutrition sponsored by Pepsi and that will discuss some of the things Pepsi is doing (so far, I’ve seen responses here, here, and here). Never mind shattering the credibility of someone who wrote this:

…keep in mind that most of the problems we face, from healthcare, to information privacy, to environmental degradation, stem in part, if not entirely, from the imbalance between capital and labor, or between capital and the individual citizen.

After all, I run a shitty little blog, and my problems don’t amount to a hill of beans, as Bogey would have said. But it undermines ScienceBlogs’ (and my) credibility regarding a range of health issues.

At times, my career has been a little harder than it needed to be because I realized that integrity is like virginity–once you lose it, you don’t get it back (although unlike virginity, losing integrity is a bad thing).

I’m waiting to see how the Pepsi blog shakes out (and to see what else happens), but this is not a good thing–and I had no idea it was happening (I found out about it on Twitter).

I’m fine with selling ads–bills have to get paid. And if a corporate sponsor wants to put up a blog that accepts unedited, unaltered contributions from people, fine (in my experience, it usually backfires as PR–we’re an unruly bunch). I’m even fine with having someone from Pepsi blog for us, but as themselves, not as official representatives of the Pepsi corporation. After all, some people here are employed by for-profit companies: they’re allowed to have opinions too (duh).

I’m disappointed because I like blogging here, and I’m trying not to burn bridges, but, to basically sell the middle of the page–the content–leaves the rest of us in an untenable position. How is anyone to know what is corporate propaganda versus what is the true opinion of the blogger? Hopefully, ScienceBlogs will come to its senses (if nothing else, Sb touts itself as a news source, which the Pepsi blog by its very existence obliterates).

So until this is resolved (or if it is resolved), I’m working to rule.

Science is corporate culture, I guess.

Comments

  1. #1 JohnV
    July 7, 2010

    I appreciate the chance that we’ll get to hear about science from outside the world of academia or its relative, non-profit(…emia?).

  2. #2 Bill
    July 7, 2010

    It’s amazing how everybody is freaking out before anything has actually been posted. Let’s see what actually happens first…if the posts are obvious marketing and/or factual rebuttals don’t make it into the comments, then we’ll really know what we now only think we know.

    (There’s a testable hypothesis in there. That’s science, right?)

  3. #3 Mike the Mad Biologist
    July 7, 2010

    Bill,

    When you receive money for content, that’s advertising. Even the deadwood media get that.

    JohnV,

    I don’t mind that someone in industry blogs here-Mark at Good Math/Bad Math works for Google (hardly a non-profit). But again, this is simply serving as a funnel for corporate propaganda; check out the Food Frontiers blog as currently constituted.

  4. #4 JohnV
    July 7, 2010

    RE: Industry science blog – I’m looking for the positives in all of this.

  5. #5 Art
    July 7, 2010

    Grow up, calm down, give it time.

    Why should an openly Pepsico sponsored blog have any more effect on you than the fact that Pepsico has a web site on the www.

    What … you only want to be in a club if it only allows blogs written by people doing science entirely untainted by corporate money? Good luck finding those people. Would it have been better if the people at Food Frontiers had covered up their corporate entanglements. They could sock puppet the corporate views and I suppose you would have been less vocal in your opposition. Is being honest More of a threat than being a shill with the money moving under the table.

    This reminds me of the idea that gay marriage degrades the institution of marriage. So … some blog exists that openly admits a corporate connection. How does that mess with your blog?

    If it is just a corporate PR operation the content will show it and few people will view it. If it is the voice of scientists within a corporate system who can discuss things outside the corporate PR box it might be an interesting view into that system.

    I see no gain in dismissing the blog out of hand or throwing a fit because they are honest about their sponsors and connections.

  6. #6 Joel
    July 8, 2010

    Food Frontiers is an existing Pepsi blog, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get an idea of the content of the new blog from the contents of the old one. I think “marketing” is a good description of a great chunk of their posts.

  7. #7 Emet
    July 8, 2010

    As I read this argument, one group of critics is arguing that their biases are purer than the biases of others who work for Pepsico, because the critics get their money, or positions, or ego gratification from public agencies or non-profit organizations or peer back-scratching, while the Pepsico players get theirs from their corporate employer.

    Personally, I see no difference. Everyone has biases — even me.

    My dissertation supervisor taught me to read between the lines, to question everything — every number, every “fact”, every reference, every footnote, every experiment. Regardless of the source.

    And when I forget that and cite something simply because it agrees with my preconceived views, I am fortunate to have friends who call me on it.

    Rather than whining and taking their ball to play elsewhere, let the critics show that the quality of their work is superior to that of the Pepsico players.

    Unless they are afraid of the competition.