Blog Suspended

Until Science Blogs decides whether it wants to be a platform for science writers or a platform for corporations to buy credibility, this blog is on hiatus. You can find my work at Ye Olde Blogge aka www.sharonastyk.com. Updates as events warrant - or rather, if events warrant. If you'd like to find out the secret evil backstory of my defection, you can read it here.

Sharon

More like this

I'd been planning to write this post for several days, and then late last night, got a nasty surprise that changed the focus of it for me. By now many of you will have heard that Pepsi bought a blog on science blogs and is using to to establish credibility by writing a blog focused ummm...on food…
Some of you may have noticed that ye olde blogge, www.sharonastyk.com has been down for a while due to a nasty virus. Well thanks to a reader, Josh, who did a buttload of work out of the kindness of his heart, we're back in business! Woo hoo! I've finally also figured out how to divvy up the…
As a lot of you probably knew long before I did (we loaned our computer to our housemate who is frantically prepping for his orals ;-)), Scienceblogs took down the Pepsi blog. This actually exceeded my requests to management as parameters for me coming back. I had asked that Scienceblogs create a…
Betcha giving head to a movie star betcha gotta llama riding in Your car betcha u gotta tv built in your jet skis, betcha giving Head to a movie star betcha gotta llama riding in your car Betcha u gotta tv built in your jet skis. Hidee high, lowdy low, get up and go to the show. Ain't it funny how…

And so Sharon's peregrinations continue... where will she end up? Dear Reader, stay tuned for the next installment.

What a stupid SNAFU for ScienceBlogs. Thanks, PepsiCo!

Good on you, Sharon - I'm looking forward to your writings from your natural habitat.

As elsewhere, I don't know whether I'd do the same in your situation and it doesn't matter. I have nothing but respect for what you're doing and wish you nothing but the best.

Be well, Sharon!

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

Mad respect to you. Good that you have the principal to stand by your convictions. Fuck Pepsi.

Sharon - May I just say: YOU ROCK! Thank you for telling Science Blogs how it is. For saying yes to ASPO's Board invitation. For having good friends like TAE. And for sharing all these details. Integrity - what a fine thing!

While this certainly enhances her anti-business cred, it does nothing for her integrity one way or another.

PepsiCo is the only entity in the top 200 that has committed to taking all manufacturing off grid. They are utilizing every alternative energy system available in concert to achieve it and spend over 30 million a year in implementation.

The portion of research and development devoted to sustainability, biodegradability and recyclable packaging is so big that it has merged with one of the largest recycling technology companies in North America.

Indra Nooyi, their self made CEO has risked taking PepsiCo out of the top 100 to reinvest and make hers the first multinational sustainable,low impact, energy independent mega corp on earth.

I am kind of curious to see how that is working out.

I thought Sharon would be curious too.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

I am curious - that doesn't mean I think they get a science blog. If they set it up as full "advertorial" in a separate area, I can live with it, and I will be interested.

Sharon

Mrs. Astyk,
Please, please, please, ... Don't delete your posts. There is wonderful information contained here that I have linked to, so others could read and get informed about an expensive energy future.

What Pepsico doesn't can't have serious and conscientious scientists in its hire? These scientists don't have something to say?

What bothers you more? The idea that scientists get money for their work and that corporations, who have lots of money, play a part in keeping science funded. Or that they openly stated their sponsorship by Pepsico. Would you be happier if they had characterized their science as 'food science' and covered up their corporate connections?

If you track all the money going into science research your going to find that very few scientists are entirely untouched by corporate largess. A good part of being a good researcher has to do with your ability to walking the line between who funds you and their interests, and maintaining scientific integrity and objectivity.

I'm sorry you have decided to stop posting. Your posts will be missed. While your action, inaction, may cause changed on scienceblogs it won't do a thing to illuminate or modify the ongoing conflicts and issues scientists face getting funding and maintaining integrity.

The opening of Food Frontiers could have been an opportunity to explore and discuss this very real issue but you have instead decided to get passive/aggressive with silent treatment because they aren't pure enough for you. So be it.

PepsiCo may not be evil - but there is a fuzzy line of a campaign a year ago that caught my attention.

They announced this "high fructose corn sweetner free" Pepsi and Mountain Dew - back to regular sugar. Yeah - HFCS gives me stomach cramps.

Except I stopped a couple of Pepsi-shirted sales folk a month ago or so, and asked for HFCS labels for the fountain at our local theater. Oops.

It seems that the sugar-version only applied to 12 ounce and 20 ounce bottles. Never for two-liters, never for fountain beverages. That part must have been in the small print; I sure missed it.

The people I spoke with - in passing, on the street - thought that the campaign had been a success, and might be back this summer or fall, perhaps adding a third line. But still just for the (plastic! Non-Returnable!) 12 ounce packages.

Well, color me unimpressed. I will be impressed when Pepsi clearly labels their HFCS-containing products, and offers the sugar version where bulk sales occur - 1 and 2 liters, and fountain syrups. That will impress me.

And maybe return to re-usable bottles. That would be closer to sustainable and low impact. Maybe waxed-paper packages for Doritos.

Art - I would have no trouble with an actual Pepsi scientist having a blog about food on science blogs, presumably after he'd accumulated an audience and had a body of blog writings to read, just like everyone else who blogs here.

What I have trouble with is "advertorial" - which is what this is. At this point, no Pepsi scientist has stepped forward and claimed this blog - the person who has been the public face is a PR guy. There's no accountability, no access to Pepsi's policies on editorial freedom, and the blog is a freakin' nutrition blog by people who sell soda and chips.

If you can't see the problems, there's probably not much point in discussing it - feel free to enjoy the new blog, for as long as it lasts.

Sharon

That should say "what I have a problem with is advertorial masking as independent blog content." It has been a long day.

Sharon

Art:

As a scientist working in industry, please go read any of the blogs written by industry scientists: In The Pipeline, PharmaConduct, Peter Rost, and Damn Good Technician. Then go observe the online presences of Vertex, Wyeth (now Pfizer), Pfizer, and Merck. Contrast and compare.

If I posted, tomorrow, "OMGZ my structure on [protein X] is getting published in Nature because it demonstrates [long-correlated but never-before causally demonstrated]'s relationship through function Y! PDB reference number A123 everybody!" that is one thing. In fact, Employer might be mildly annoyed at my less-than-slick tone and chastise me for outing myself as their employee, they are wont to do that sort of thing. My only goal in posting that is to say, I am awesomely smart.

If Leadership Team Member, posting on my behalf, sends out a press release that says, "Corporate Scientists have recently discovered a key relationship in Disease Z that will enhance target identification and enable pipeline efficiencies," they have alternative motivations. They want a stock bump, they want more money for their site/group (which I will never see, the actual scientists rarely get more than a certificate of appreciation), maybe they want to put more money into a pet project and de-fund (and lay off) another project team and they want to use this as an excuse.

See, the way I just KNOW it is going to be horsecrap is this: It will be Pepsi's Leadership Team doing the write-ups.

Leadership Teams in a large company are like VP-level people. They don't know the actual research, not really. They don't read anything in detail. They know a sort of condensed Reader's Digest version of things, spoon-fed to them by their underlings (me!). They haven't been near a lab bench in decades, their primary function is to pound on desks and frighten people. They look good in suits. They may be very well-read, but that's about the best you can hope for. Being able to talk sciencey stuff is sort of a bonus, not required for the job. They are listed on publications as a courtesy, not because they had jack shit to do with them, sort of like the PIs of those labs with 30+ postdocs are listed as authors--their real contribution was getting the money, not doing any actual work, FSM forbid you ask them actual questions.

If they were smart, they would have let a few of the more productive, writerly bench scientists or PI-level folks have a blog that admitted working for Pepsi, and they would have simply given a big hunk of ad/sponsor money to Seed Media. They are not smart. Ergo, it will be horsecrap.

I was really hoping you would stay around as a counter post and a critical eye and mouth to any of the content they do post, since there is none at the moment. :(

This whole messy "everyone leaving" seems to be much more about how this was handled by ScienceBlog management than the corporate entity involved in a blog.

But I understand and respect that many bloggers here feel like they have been blindsided and in effect the rug pulled out from under them in how this corporate blog was set up and put out.

What Pepsico doesn't can't have serious and conscientious scientists in its hire? These scientists don't have something to say?

I have two words for you to chew on:

Cherry.

Picking.

I applaud this blog author's decision to lament Seed's decision with action, instead of words.

I am outa here, why give my clicks to the Seedy? Until this is resolved.

This is the first time I've heard of this conglomerated blog - and having just read the appeal (posted on The Guardian's website) it sounds to me that Adam should have put his plans to public opinion first.

Still, the fact that 'ScienceBlogs is a registered trademark of ScienceBlogs LLC' should say it all about his intentions... Hhis site doesn't use anywhere near the server capacity of a site like The Pirate Bay, so Adam's apparent insistence on relying on sponsorship is false - not least because TPB relies on donations from a mainly young and non-affluent userbase.

A good programmer could make this site profitable with individual sections being open/closed/limited thereby offsetting extensive use against all sorts of variables - contributions, posts, donations etc.

All the best with it. Just don't let the corporate dependents whine too much.

If the Food Frontiers blog turn out to be useless platitudes and vacuous I will stop reading it. If it lies it will be pointed out and embarrassed. In other words its reputation will not ride on Scienceblogs reputation but on its own.

I would have liked to see people like Sharon Astyk asking the hard questions and nailing it fails to deliver but, evidently, she can't handle the pressure of actually dealing with people who have hands dirtied by corporate money.

Yes, Pepsico produces a lot of crap. So nail them on that. As far as I can tell scienceblogs wouldn't have much to say if she made every third post one detailing how Pepsico screws up the world, your waistline, your health. She could strike a blow for what she believes. Instead she runs away.

I would have thought as a farmer and mother she was made of sterner stuff. Unless she reconsiders and makes good it will undercut her reputation for making the best of a bad situation and adapting.

two thumbs and both big toes up. i'll follow you back to your other blog, if this clusterintercourse doesn't get resolved.

Yes, Pepsico produces a lot of crap. So nail them on that. As far as I can tell scienceblogs wouldn't have much to say if she made every third post one detailing how Pepsico screws up the world, your waistline, your health. She could strike a blow for what she believes. Instead she runs away.

but that's not the point of this blog, and would waste her time and effort, when what she could be doing is informing people on how to extract themselves from the grip of big corporations like PepsiCo, in the first place. Letting PepsiCo derail her blog would not be a good thing.

And on the other hand, no one stops her, or any other blogger or poster, from criticizing them anyway; but this can be done without the taint of association that comes from being a SciBling with a corporation.

Good move Sharon. And to whomever it was that said "this does nothing for her integrity one way or another", I urge you to reacquaint yourself with the dictionary.
Best,
Heidi

Art writes: If the Food Frontiers blog turn out to be useless platitudes and vacuous I will stop reading it. If it lies it will be pointed out and embarrassed. In other words its reputation will not ride on Scienceblogs reputation but on its own.

Er, if Scienceblogs's reputation is irrelevant, why did Pepsico want to move their blog here? They already have a blog on their own site.

Scienceblogs has (or had) a very good reputation, built up by the efforts of the people who blog here. Pepsico wants to buy part of that reputation. Apparently pretty much everyone who's commented on this issue on the dozens of blogs where it's being discussed understands this. I'm not sure why you don't, or why you feel that insulting Sharon Astyk repeatedly is going to convince the rest of her commenters of the rightness of your views.

Perhaps because a significant minority of Scienceblogs commenters think that insulting their opponents is an adequate means of refuting their views, or at least discouraging others from considering them. Which is one reason why I'm happy to see Sharon leave.

Glad to see that Sb has come to their senses and pulled the plug on Pepsiblog.

Sharon wrote:

"I am curious - that doesn't mean I think they get a science blog. If they set it up as full "advertorial"...."

And they did and the precious snowflakes and "free lance science journalists" (content recyclers)continued to pout.

That opportunity to directly engage/confront industry in a conversation about accountability, sustainability, science etc. went poof in a tribute to the power of thin skinned mewling.

I wonder how willing Sciencebloggers would be to have the ADVERTORIAL stripe across their own mastheads, or are the books, seminars, unguents, tinctures, t-shirts, coffee mugs and hand painted neck ties free for the asking these days?

I hear the nice Hindu lady who is in charge of Quaker Oats is actually a Balrog and the secret ingredient in Pepsi is baby blood.

On the subject of integrity, I don't find your past policy of spirited discourse about fossil fuels, agribusiness and the future of manufacturing industries, consistent with insisting on an environment where those are always one sided conversations.

Your distaste and aesthetics got the better of your curiosity. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I just know I don't feel good about any boycott of any voice (even the vetted robotic voice of a mega corp).

As for transparency from the bloggers-only back board, to anon-bloggers, to who gets paid what....this is about as opaque as you can get but nobody complains because they like money, not being accountable for their charachter assasinations and secret soap operas/censorship parties that don't effect their popularity/hit count with the gullible rubes.

I will of course read and enjoy your writing (if you come back) but forgive me if there is a more vivid yellow in the jaundiced eye of this particular hick.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 08 Jul 2010 #permalink

[quote]And on the other hand, no one stops her, or any other blogger or poster, from criticizing them anyway; but this can be done without the taint of association that comes from being a SciBling with a corporation.[/quote]

What taint? Shall we run away from every posting by anyone who has contact with a corporation; running like frightened children when anyone with corporate cooties shows up? Fact is that major corporations are involved in most research. They are second only to government itself in providing funding. This point gets disguised by much of the corporate spending on it being subsidized by government. That and it is tax deductible.

And by the way, I found her blog by reading the 24 hour postings at Scienceblogs.com, not the other way around. As a science based blog aggregator scienceblogs brings eyes to this blog. Not so much the other way round. While I find this blog interesting, informative and entertaining, and read it every time it comes up on the feed, the simple fact is that if she disappears from the scienceblogs feed I won't remember to read her blog.

In the end, good blog posts are good blog posts. Every blog rises or falls on its own merits. Corporate blogs tend to be luke-warm, blandly optimistic, and short of substance. If Food Frontiers follows that path I won't spend much time reading it. A lot depends on what they put into it. Food Frontiers is not going to be easy to write or maintain. The tendencies of pure science and corporate desires are always in conflict so watching how they square that circle will be interesting to watch. As you have shown, there is also the mater of overt hostility which likely will require a full-time moderator.

If Pepsico wishes spend money maintaining a blog that is going to be a a difficult test of corporate intention and tolerance for abuse it may have merits al its own. SMG makes enough money off the deal to stay open that alright by me.

Art writes: Shall we run away from every posting by anyone who has contact with a corporation; running like frightened children when anyone with corporate cooties shows up?

In general, I find people's arguments much more compelling when they don't rely on hyperbole or absurd distortions of others' positions.

If you were able to make a case for letting PepsiCo run a blog here without this kind of silly hyperbole, I assume you would do so.

In general, I find people's arguments much more compelling when they don't accuse others of hyperbole absurdity distortion or silliness.

Just kidding.

I love that stuff.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Based on enlivenment of discussions across the boards by the mere threat of it's presence Pepsicoevilcorporatemonsterblog would have been like hooking scienceblogs up to a rocket sled driven by meth weasels.

Old Rome would have envied the spectacle.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 08 Jul 2010 #permalink

Shall we run away from every posting by anyone who has contact with a corporation; running like frightened children when anyone with corporate cooties shows up?

I see the concept of journalistic integrity, as well as of "conflict of interest" is foreign to you. not much that can be discussed on this topic without understanding of these concepts

In the end, good blog posts are good blog posts. Every blog rises or falls on its own merits.

if that were true, PepsiCo wouldn't have needed to buy themselves into SciBlogs, since they already had a blog with exactly the same name, of which this one was supposed to be an "extension". They wanted the reputation of sciblogs; if there were no such thing, there wouldn't have been a PepsiBlog.

I wonder how willing Sciencebloggers would be to have the ADVERTORIAL stripe across their own mastheads, or are the books, seminars, unguents, tinctures, t-shirts, coffee mugs and hand painted neck ties free for the asking these days?

oh yeah, because the mugs can fire them, the ties are editors on the blog, and the t-shirts contractually obliged them not to talk about the unpopular t-shirt designs, as well as their future designs, to prevent the competition from getting a glimpse.

Seriously, you can't tell the difference between an individual individually padding their income with inconsequential crap*, and being an employee paid to blog about the very thing one's company is attempting to look good about?

*granted, if the blogger was an extremist anti-capitalist, that might look funny, but I don't think there are any around here :-p

For the record, I don't object to science blogs offering advertorial (there is absolutely no debate about whether this *was* advertorial - everyone in the process admitted it including Adam Bly and Pepsi), as long as there is no way of confusing the fact that this is advertorial.

I didn't ask science blogs to take down the blog - I asked only that they indicate clearly what it was, and separate it out from independent blogs in some clear way, as is the standard in print media. There's a reason why those awesome "Come to Kuwait" or "I lost 40lbs in 20 minutes" things have language indicating they are ads - because that's the basic standard for these things.

Art's hyperbole is irrelevant - I have many colleagues here who work for industry and don't object to them. I don't object to people taking corporate funds, although I do prefer transparency about where one's money comes from (and am willing to do the same with my work).

I also would have no objection to a Pepsi scientist blogging at science blogs - presuming, of course, that they came to science blogs having built up a readership and meaningful traffic. But this wasn't a researcher blog - it was a blog about how great Pepsi products were going to be (quite explicitly) and how Pepsi products were responding to food research.

Again, this was advertorial content, and if science blogs needs to take advertorial money to stay afloat, that's ok with me - so does the New York Times, so do most magazines. But within basic journalistic parameters.

Sharon