2.Coincidence or Conspiracy?
EXTRACT: ...of the 120 odd press releases the SMC has issued... only about four have been on climate. This compares to over 40 on issues to do with genetics and roughly another dozen each on animals in research and GM crops. (ITEM 2)
NOTE: For more on the SMC and its controversial director: http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=121
1.Science Media Centre Accused of Pro-Nuclear Bias
SPINWATCH, 22 January 2008
Just over two years ago, I gave a talk on climate skeptics and included in passing the fact that the organization, the Science Media Centre, networked with known skeptics, including those from the LM crowd.
In the audience at the Royal Society of Chemistry event was science writer, Vivienne Parry, who is on the board of the SMC. Parry asked me to justify my comments and said, in an email 'if you have any material which you think demonstrates bias, political/corporate pressure or whatever in relation to the SMC - send it to me, and we will discuss it at the next SMC board meeting.'
I sent the SMC a dossier of material on various aspects including the issue of bias, especially in relation to its work on climate and genetic engineering. My concerns were dismissed by the SMC's board. In an email Alan Winter Chairman of the SMC board wrote, 'Whilst we note your concerns, we are reassured by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have had about the Director and her team from the hundreds of leading scientists, press officers and journalists who make regular use of the Centre.'
Sadly for the SMC the ugly head of bias has surfaced again, but this time on nuclear power. Earlier this month, the British government gave the go ahead to a new generation of nuclear power plants. In response the SMC issued a press release, entitled 'Major energy and engineering institutions support new nuclear build'. This was picked up by the Nuclear Industry Association which ran the same headline on its website.
However both the SMC release and the NIA follow up prompted a group of academics to write a contradictory statement entitled: 'No consensus on new nuclear: Energy experts urge greater attention to the facts'. It stated: 'Despite pronouncements by several scientific bodies, there is no scientific consensus in favour of nuclear power.'
One of the scientists involved wrote to the SMC's director Fiona Fox. The email has been leaked to SpinWatch. It reads: 'It probably won't come as an enormous surprise to learn that the release you issued in support of nuclear power has caused considerable consternation within UKERC and in the wider academic community, particularly given the further embellishment provided through the quote in the version that runs on the NIA website. Many of us (members of several of the bodies on your statement) disagree with the statement. I am intrigued to learn why SMC felt it appropriate to participate in such an obviously partisan activity, and who instigated it.'
He was not the only one outraged by the SMC's pro-nuclear statement. One of the organisations on the list of the SMC release was the UK Energy Research Centre. It has now taken the unprecedented step of issuing a press release stating:
'The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) regrets that its name became associated with a recent statement that can be interpreted as signalling UKERC's advocacy of nuclear power. We must underline that we are not pro- or anti- nuclear power or any other technology.'
Maybe the SMC's board should look at the issue of bias once again...
2.EXTRACT from: Coincidence or Conspiracy?
SPINWATCH, 10 May 2007
...people have asked me why such a pro-science organisation as the SMC [Science Media Centre] has done so little on climate, given that it is emerging as quite possibly the most important scientific issue of our time. Climate change is also one where there is massive anti-science lobbying, much of which is ending up in publications like the Mail, the Telegraph and the Spectator. Yet, if my memory serves me correctly, of the 120 odd press releases the SMC has issued and which are on its website only about four have been on climate. This compares to over 40 on issues to do with genetics and roughly another dozen each on animals in research and GM crops.
I also think there is evidence that the SMC is failing in the mission it has set itself. In its consultation report it says: 'the Centre will be free of any particular agenda within science and will always strive to promote a broad spectrum of scientific opinion especially where there are clear divisions within science'.
As well, 'the SMC will provide access to the wide spectrum of scientific opinion on any one issue. We can provide an anti-GM scientist and a pro- GM scientist, a pro-legalisation of cannabis scientist and an anti-, etc, etc'.
But on the exact issue it quotes, GM, it is difficult to see much evidence of the SMC promoting or providing such a spectrum. The views of scientists critical of GM are all but absent, whereas pro-GM scientists are routinely quoted. The SMC also includes quotes from the Chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) - a corporate lobby group for the biotech industry. Its chairman is clearly neither an eminent nor an independent scientist.
The independence of others whose views the SMC has promoted is also open to question. Some of the pro-GM scientists quoted could be regarded as campaigners or lobbyists on the issue, eg Anthony Trewavas and Vivian Moses, who are both on the Scientific Advisory Forum of the Scientific Alliance. Vivian Moses is also the Chairman of Cropgen an organization funded by industry and which has a 'mission to make the case for GM crops and foods.' Moses is quoted more than once in SMC media briefings. In once case as the Chairman of Cropgen, but in another purely as 'Visiting Professor of Biology at University College London' without any mention of the fact that he is the head of a pro-GM lobby group.The SMC's consultation document also states: 'The following is a list of the kind of events the Centre has been approached to host all of which the staff are happy to accommodate ”¦ the press launch of ABC the new public information campaign on GM foods set up by the European biotechnology companies'. I think most people would assume that any organization that hosts the launch of a corporate front organisation for the biotech industry is also pro-GM.
The SMC has used a media briefing to attack a report by GeneWatch UK, an organization that has raised legitimate concerns over GM and cloning and whose former director, Dr Sue Mayer sat on the government-appointed Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission. Included in the SMC's 'responses from the scientific community' are quotes from representatives of several pressure groups as well as the CEO of a private company - Ardana Bioscience Ltd.
This is not a one off. For instance, in a press release on therapeutic cloning licences some of the quotes are either from pro-biogenetics campaign groups or industry, including the BioIndustry Association. Two of the people quoted: John Gillot of the Genetic Interest Group and Juliet Tizzard, then of the Progress Educational Trust, are also part of the same RCP/LM network as Fox [the Director of the SMC]...