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The market-model university:
March 15, 2001 8:57 AM   Subscribe

The market-model university: '...by looking at research on the health impact of tobacco, the "science" behind global warming or breast implants, or the effectiveness of a drug, we can see that it is not unusual for sponsored academics to fudge the data, suppress unfavourable evidence, and otherwise "torture the numbers till they confess"...'
posted by talos (7 comments total)

 
...by looking at research on the health impact of tobacco, the "science" behind global warming or breast implants . . .

Huh? One of these things is not like the other.

While I don't really have an argument against the article posted (I get to be smug, as I work for a non-profit cooperative cancer research facility--no corporate or academic ties), what in the world is "breast implants" doing in that sentence?

The breast implant/health scare was a complete botch, a bullshit public health scare-job brought about by terrible media coverage, knee-jerk luddism, credulousness, puritanism, and the disintegration of whatever meager spine the FDA might have had. A company was brought to its knees with nothing more than anecdotal evidence. There were never any health risks ever actually documented by any clinical studies on breast implants. But by the time the media bothered to find this out, nobody cared--everyone by that time was too worked up over the whole EMFs-are-parbroiling-my-children fearmongering. Which, of course, was another load.

Bad Science and Bad Media: Working Overtime To Alarm You!
posted by Skot at 10:02 AM on March 15, 2001


This is one of the saddest things. It trickles down to the students too. There is a feeling that Basic Science and Engineering majors are the real academic superstars. And the business majors make fun of the humanities students because they know they will be making more when they graduate.


See this, Codrescu's take on education in the 21st. (From Dr. Menlo) Coincidentally, he mentions our emergency culture, Skot.
posted by mblandi at 10:58 AM on March 15, 2001


This is a subject near & dear to me. IMO, one of the saddest days in our history occurred in September of '95 when the plug was pulled on the Office of Technology Assessment. Since then, our legislators have had to rely on lobbyists for information, with no nonpartisan source to consult. At this time, with the emergence of so many complex and potentially dangerous technologies, we need the OTA more than ever to help policymakers get a grasp on issues beyond their areas expertise.

posted by gimli at 11:31 AM on March 15, 2001


The breast implant/health scare was a complete botch, a bullshit public health scare-job brought about by terrible media coverage, knee-jerk luddism, credulousness, puritanism, and the disintegration of whatever meager spine the FDA might have had.

You really think this only happened to Dow Corning? Your sentence applies to about 85% of the health scares to come down the pike in the last 30 years.

And the idea that all this false data massaging is limited to the corporate side of things is beyond ludicrous. Vested interests are vested interests, whether they're those of corporations or of special-interest pressure groups. Professional activists want to keep their jobs, and score big successes, just as much as any CEO.
posted by aaron at 1:29 AM on March 16, 2001



Aaron: "special-interest pressure groups" have a significantly smaller budget to work with, no? I can't remember the last time Greenpeace or Amnesty International negotiated a multi-million dollar deal with a university...
I would also point out that a large part of real health problems (85%?) never make it to the media because of large corporations literally blocking the story out of the news. Or do you really think that Bovine Growth Hormone is good for you?
The breast-implant scare was in all probability bogus. But the problem is that its becoming harder and harder to find scientific opinion on this that is not tainted by money.
posted by talos at 2:13 AM on March 16, 2001


aaron, no, I don't believe that it only happened to Dow Corning. It's just that implants in particular were mentioned in the same sentence as tobacco and global warming, where it manifestly does not belong. I mention later the complete EMF fiasco as well. Also, I thought I was fairly clear that I empathized with the corporation in question, although I could have said "A company was unjustly brought to its knees."

And I share talos' curiosity about the 85% figure. Can you back this up, or was that just a satisfyingly high percentage for you to pick out of the air?
posted by Skot at 8:30 AM on March 16, 2001


Remember Alar? Meryl Streep tearfully addressed Congress. A 60 Minutes piece had people pouring juice down the drain and small-time apple growers going bust. Later, the "Alar Hoax" strategy was used effectively by the chemical industry to stymie protesters with legitimate concerns about other substances. To this day, both sides still claim they were right. Without input from an impartial body like the OTA, how does a legislator make a decision on an issue like this? Coin toss? Go with the high bidder?
posted by gimli at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2001


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