Here are replies to George Monbiot's article. Funnily enough, they all come from people or institutions that are in our new Biotech Brigade directory:
First, there's Peter Marsh of the Social Issues Research Centre which as the British Medical Journal has noted is not what it seems: 'on closer inspection it transpires that this research organisation shares the same offices, directors and leading personnel as a commercial market research company called MCM Research.' It's one that takes money from the pharmaceutical industry, the drinks industry and the food industry, but apart from that it's completely independent.
There's Fiona Fox
of the Science Media Centre
Fiona suggests journalists, including those at The Guardian, would have noticed if she'd been using the SMC to forward an industry-friendly agenda. Well, Fiona, they did. Within months of its launch the SMC was embroiled in controversy, standing accused of operating 'a sort of Mandelsonian rapid rebuttal unit', and of employing 'some of the clumsiest spin techniques of New Labour'.
Then there's the Royal Society which says it's not chairing or hosting a Sense About Science Working Party. It's an interesting denial because the SAS Working Party is known to have met at the RS, is chaired by a leading Fellow of the RS - in fact, its former Vice-President. Then, there's the Society's Biological Secretary, Patrick Bateson, who has been assigned to liaise with the Working Party, as has Bob Ward, a Senior Manager for Press and Public Relations at the Royal Society. Several members of the Working Party are also leading Fellows of the Royal Society, including the notorious Sir Peter Lachmann FRS. But apart from that, there's no connection.
Finally there's Joe Perry from Rothamsted Research
Joe says we can all have dodgy pasts butr so what. By way of example Joe quotes Patrick Moore who says a load of communists took over the environmental movement after the Berlin Wall came down. Joe forgets to mention - or perhaps who ever fed him this, forgot to tell him - about Patrick Moore's long history of attacking the environmental movement as a paid front man for the Canadian logging industry.
The real expert at exploiting the media
Wednesday December 10, 2003
George Monbiot claims that Sense About Science, the Institute of Ideas and other organisations that happen not to share his personal agenda constitute a "bizarre and cultish network", which seeks to "dominate scientific and environmental broadcasting" (Invasion of the entryists, December 9).
This seemingly conspiratorial cabal must have been reading Monbiot's pamphlet, An Activists' Guide to Exploiting the Media. To get journalists hooked, he suggests, "create an atmosphere of secrecy, excitement and intrigue... All journalists love to imagine they're in the Famous Five."
Columnists too, it seems.
Dr Peter Marsh
Social Issues Research Centre
George Monbiot assumes that scientists are so "politically naive" that they have failed to notice that I have "used the Science Media Centre to promote the views of industry and to launch fierce attacks against those who question them". I suspect this would have been spotted by the vast array of national media journalists who use the centre on a regular basis - not least the Guardian's excellent science and health team.
Fiona Fox Science Media Centre
Contrary to George Monbiot's claims, the Royal Society is not chairing or hosting the working party on peer review set up by Sense About Science. The Royal Society has established its own independent working group to investigate best practice in communicating the results of new scientific research to the public, including the role of peer review. It was established by the Royal Society science in society committee, of which Monbiot was formerly a member. If there really are the sort of shenanigans going on within the scientific community that he alleges, Monbiot appears to be part of them.
The Royal Society
George Monbiot's article recalled another in which Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, pointed to the Trotskyists and anti-capitalists who ditched socialism for the environmentalist bandwagon when the iron curtain fell, and became influential within Greenpeace and similar pressure groups. Many of us do things when we are young that we regret later. But then we grow up and become professors - like you, George.
Prof Joe Perry Harpenden, Herts