Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Scientificacious Integritude

Elizabeth Whelan has yet another bone to pick with the Scientific Establishment:

Medical journals now routinely attempt to ferret out what they perceive as "conflict of interest" by requiring that authors disclose any funding they have received from drug companies.
While I'd like to think that these journals have some degree of highmindedness about science, there's no doubt that the appearance of objectivity and transparency helps them to compete in their field. Whelan wants them to forgo this advantage, even though their readership demands it; what she offers in return, besides her personal Certificate of Purity, is unclear.

Oh, and remember that stuff she said a moment ago, about how people are making too much of a fuss about conflicts of interest and guilt by association? Well, don't get too carried away by it.
The Nader-inspired Center for Science in the Public Interest touts its "Integrity Project," which separates what they perceive as integrity-rich scientists (who do not accept industry funding) from the integrity-challenged scientists (with some type of link to corporate dollars).
If it's important for us to know that CSPI was "inspired" by Ralph Nader, you'd think it'd also be important for us to know that a study on coal-plant emissions was paid for by the coal industry. But for some reason, Whelan's brand of kneejerk green-baiting and circumstantial ad hominem doesn't qualify as "scientific McCarthyism." To be guilty of that crimson sin, a journal must attempt to shore up its credibility by strengthening editorial standards that it only relaxed thanks to years of corporate influence.

Whelan managed to overcome her own objections to accepting corporate money quite some time ago, but don't take that as evidence of bias. Her concern is fundamentally humanitarian: she worries that if these journals don't accept her diktat on Scientificacious Integritude, it'll deal a deathblow to Progress.
The current obsession with corporate ties as a "conflict of interest" is not harmless. It has led to regulations and restrictions in government and academia that have restricted scientists, preventing collaboration with external scientific experts and slowing development of new technologies. Such arbitrary guidelines stifle the progress of public health.
Fever-dream laissez-faire horseshit does that too, last time I checked, in part by insisting that public health goals should be set by a handful of catastrophically corrupt private firms that buy scientists as casually as I'd buy a bag of peanuts.

Again, many of these journals are published privately; surely Whelan's splendid libertarian principles would allow them to set strict editorial guidelines, even if scientific ethics didn't oblige them to do so.

As for the scientists who are griping because they can't get published in a respected journal, just because they saw fit to spend a decade or two suckling with robotic fixity at Monsanto's teat, I'd say they deserve the sort of readymade answer libertarians have for the grievances of the poor: Recognition is a privilege, not a right, and you made bad personal decisions.

But then, I'm biased.


Anonymous said...

Notice the use of rhetoric and buzz words harvested from the language of First Amendment and civil rights advocacy, turned on its head and being made to serve the corporate elite. That's not something that Whelan alone specializes in. It's one of the more discouraging limits of reasoning on the left that they look at the language, don't look any farther and end up figuring that "they've got a point". Or some similar weasle position.

Look at the outcome, it's the results that matter, not the language raided from the Standard Lexicon of Liberal Usage.

She's been around for ages and ages, isn't it about time for her to fade away?

Anthony McCarthy said...

Sorry, that anonymous was me. Not used to this computer yet.