“Bad science can be dangerous.” What the frack? U of C School of Public Policy icing AER’s lying frac cake? Researcher says public wants scientific proof but researcher presents in closed-door session and ignores hundreds of damning published studies clearly showing frac harms

Is this the best U of C School of Public Policy can come up with to counter Andrew Nikiforuk’s masterfully researched, “rapid read” Slick Water and the ever growing frac bans, pauses and moratoria?

What the frack? U of C researcher says public wants scientific proof by Colette Derworiz, June 1, 2016, Calgary Herald
A University of Calgary researcher says there’s still big knowledge gaps between scientific research and public policy on fracking across Canada, causing people to question whether it’s worth the environmental effects and costs.

The research, which was presented Wednesday at a closed-door session [More Frac Secrets? So typical of Alberta’s frac & poison you and your loved ones, then settle ‘n gag to shut you up] of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council at Congress 2016, compared scientific and think-tank [Oil patch controlled Fraser Institute? Heartland?] research with regulatory documents and government documents.

“Hydraulic fracturing is a big public policy issue in Canada,” Jennifer Winter, director of energy and environmental policy with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said in an interview after her presentation. “In Western Canada, where we are relatively comfortable with oil and gas development, it’s been going ahead. [Only because industry and regulators were able to keep it secret and lie so successfully for so many years with Env NGOs helping cover-up the damages, harms, and synergizing communities and harmed outspoken “voices” fast and furiously to keep enabling the frac’ing. Ernst began warning Albertans in 2003. Since then, not all in the west are obediently taking the regulator/industry/Env NGO lies and laying down to let their loved ones, health and homes be harmed by fracing. Calgary and Lethbridge loudly and successfully refused fracing

2014 03 25 The Power of No Ernst slide in presentation to No Drilling Lethbridge

Eastern Canada is speaking out loudly asking questions and saying “NO!” because there communities were forewarned of the dangers, fraudulent regulators, contamination and cover-ups. For example, in Quebec by Amisdurichelieu, in the Maritimes by Ingraffea and Ernst.]

“In central and Atlantic Canada, where there’s less familiarity with oil and gas development, there’s been a big question about whether the environmental impacts and costs associated with hydraulic fracturing are greater or less than the potential economic benefits.”

… Winter’s research came after a Council of Canadian Academies report in June 2014 suggested the scale and pace of hydraulic fracturing was challenging the ability to assess and manage environmental effects.

It suggested the industrial activity could threaten groundwater and concluded that it may have greater climate-change impacts than previously thought because of natural gas leaking from wells.

Winter’s latest research shows that the knowledge gaps haven’t been closed [Is Winter, like Dr. John Cherry and his Council Canadian Academies Frac Panel, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and NL frac panels, also conveniently ignoring the damning peer-reviewed published papers out showing clearly the health and environmental harms and risks?] — although she said it is progressing.

“It’s difficult for regulators and policy-makers to keep up with research on hydraulic fracturing to set regulations and enforce policy,” she said. [BOGUS! What kind of crap research is the U of C Enable-Oil-Patch-Harm- No-Matter-What School of Public Policy up to now? If regulators like the AER and Harper government had been interested in adequate research to protect the public interest, ordinary Canadian families and communities, drinking water, environment, health, publicly funded infrastructure like bridges and roads, fracing would have been “paused” as is happening in many jurisdictions around the world while the research took place. Or, better yet, the regulator and Harper government could have easily relied on the hundreds of peer-reviewed published papers out since 2008, and put a stop to the poisoning and health harms.]

For example, scientific research has recently [Not just recently. The first such research took place 2009 to 2011 and was published four years ago. Media, regulators and “experts” like to ignore that too.] shown that earthquakes are being caused by fracturing itself rather than putting the wastewater back into the ground.

“We have this shift of what we know, so now policy and regulation has to adapt,” [Yes, by AER and U of C increasing their fraud, lies and cover-ups for the industry, and AER madly deregulating to make sure the harms continue without any accountability or responsibility and taking away the right of Albertans to sue] said Winter. “It’s a very difficult space for policy-makers to be in with incomplete knowledge.

“It’s incomplete knowledge and the fact that they run the risk of creating the wrong rules.” [!!! The knowledge is there, but regulators, governments, industry, frac panels, Env NGOs like Council of Canadians and Canadian “expert” voices like Dr. John Cherry and the Munk School of Global Affairs Water Program choose to ignore the most damning knowledge, likely because it does not suit their intent to push fracing on Canadians.]

As a result, she said it’s not surprising that some eastern Canadian provinces such as New Brunswick have put a moratorium on fracking.

“In Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba, we’ve had oil and gas development for a long time so the public has a better sense of what the risks and rewards [An entire community’s drinking water aquifers illegally frac’d and contaminated with regulators violating the law and AER violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to cover-up the contamination so that Encana can keep on fracing, polluting and poisoning? Poisoned livestock? Nearly killed by exploding methane and ethane contaminated water well? Poisoned air? Illness and hair falling out? Homes so poisoned they can’t be lived in? ] are,” she said. “In jurisdictions without substantial oil and gas development, you see numbers on paper but there’s no context.”

Her research also showed there’s no explicit link being made between the academic literature and policy or regulatory development across Canada. [Because industry and the regulators refuse it?]

“Governments and policy-makers and politicians say they want to embark on evidence-based [while ignoring the most damning evidence and research!] policy,” she said. “It’s incumbent on governments and regulators and policy-makers, when they are creating these [DEREGULATING] rules, say we know X about hydraulic fracturing . . . and because of that, we are putting this policy in place or we’re putting this rule in place.” [OR MUCH WORSE, EXCHANGING RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR INDUSTRY’S VOLUNTARY, UNENFORCEABLE GUIDELINES OR “BEST PRACTICES”]

Voluntary is unenforceable

Winter said the public wants to hear about the rationale behind those policies or rules.

In Alberta, she said there’s a good [AND EXTREMELY FAST DE-] regulatory system in place. [THAT IS COMPLETELY LEGALLY IMMUNE, INCLUDING FOR GROSS NEGLIGENCE, CHARTER VIOLATIONS AND ACTS IN BAD FAITH]

“They do adapt to change,” [AS SOON AS EVIDENCE THEY WANT KEPT SECRET IS MADE PUBLIC, CHANGING THE RULES TO FURTHER HARM THE ENVIRONMENT, PUBLIC INTEREST AND FAMILIES] she said, “but, again, there’s no explicit link between regulations and the scientific literature, so it’s about engendering increased public trust and public confidence. [BY IGNORING VITAL RESEARCH ALREADY PUBLISHED AND CONDUCTING OIL INDUSTRY CONTROLLED U OF C SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY CRAP ( MORE LIES AND PROPAGANDA) RESEARCH INSTEAD? SYNERGY ALBERTA? PROPAGANDA? FRAUD? LIES? SECRETS? CLOSED ROOM SESSIONS AND MORE SECRETS?]

“People want to know that their concerns are being addressed and that the solution is not a knee-jerk reaction and that it’s based on something.” [Emphasis added]

From the Comments:

Doug Matthews
Having a “closed door session” is a great way to help inform the public. [Comment later removed. By the Calgary Herald?]

Diana Daunheimer
Incredulous that public policy work, supported by public funding, is kept private. Ms. Winter’s presentation and research donors must made public, or better yet, fully retracted and any public funding returned to taxpayers.

The science is there on hydraulic fracturing. Hundreds of peer reviewed papers. Hundreds of thousands of daily drilling and completions reports. Millions of records, on all levels of operations. It is being concealed by the U of C, the NDP, the AER, AHS, CAPP, Synergy Alberta and complicit eNGO’s, because of the known hazards, terrible harms and failed economics.

Peoples concerns are not being addressed, nor is there a good regulatory system. The AER is deplorable.

I suggest Ecojustice file an action against the U of C-rightly should include the AER, Synergy Alberta, GoA and AHS- for deceit and false misrepresentation, with respect to the environmental, regulatory, financial and public health impacts of the unconventional oil and gas sector. [Emphasis added]

Sophie Lorefice · Calgary, Alberta
The funding for the paper on hydraulic fracturing was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Check it out :http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/…/ksg_energy-ssc_energie…

Diana Daunheimer
Sophie Lorefice
Thanks so much for the link! Interesting read.
Knowledge Synthesis Grants, from the SSHRC, federal funding, making the “closed door” presentation of this project, even more confounding.

Furthermore, I fail to see how this project met the funding objectives, when it delivered nothing but a misleading confirmation of supposed knowledge gaps relating to hydrualic fracturing.

To think, that this is the standard of post secondary, professional level projects, that are granted federal funding dollars. Disturbing.

From the link:

“Communication of results

Research offices will be informed of the competition results pertaining to their applicants by way of SSHRC’s secure site.”

Diana Daunheimer
Because it is impossible to cover all the collusion in 1000 characters, here are some must read links:

http://ernstversusencana.ca/what-the-frack-u-of-c-school-of-public-policy-icing-aers-lying-frac-cake-researcher-says-public-wants-scientific-proof-but-researcher-presents-in-closed-door-session-and-ignores-hundreds-of-damnin

http://ernstversusencana.ca/2016-aer-admin-fees-capp-a-begging-what-fresh-hell-is-this-research-to-con-public-to-give-social-licence-while-wiping-out-legal-liability-for-companies

http://ernstversusencana.ca/methane-a-flash-fire-third-degree-burns-and-an-investigation-without-end-the-reason-were-not-seeing-a-determination-is-because-theres-really-only-one-determination-they-can-make-and-they-do

http://ernstversusencana.ca/the-cost-of-justice-project-legal-system-problems-cost-canadians-billions [Comment also later removed. By the Calgary Herald?]

Is Canadian fracking policy based on sentiment or science? Supported by SSHRC grant, Jennifer Winter explores how provinces legislate in a landscape of unsettled research by Andrea Kingwell, June 1, 2016, U of C UToday

There’s no pause button on science, which can put lawmakers in a bit of a bind.

Take hydraulic fracturing. It’s a more than 100-year-old technology whose use, combined with horizontal drilling, has proliferated exponentially since the 1990s. University researchers in Canada and around the world are assiduously studying its pros and cons; the science is constantly evolving, but legislators can’t wait. They need to regulate now. 

“Hydraulic fracturing is a big issue is Canada; and what’s really telling is the different policy reactions to it, from a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick to the ongoing fracturing in a majority of wells drilled in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.” says Jennifer Winter, an assistant professor and director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Area at The School of Public Policy.

With support from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Knowledge Synthesis Grant, Winter and her research team have looked at that issue of regulation in an environment of evolving science.

2016 06 02 snap taken Govt Canada Social Science and Humanities Research Council Knowledge Synthesis grants

In a soon-to-be-published research paper, they explore the state of existing academic literature, and look closely at how much that evidence-based work informs policy, regulation and the discussion around hydraulic fracturing across Canada.

Emissions or emotions?

Through this review, Winter identified gaps and best practices, and then considered why governments have reached vastly different conclusions on the use of hydraulic fracturing. “We chose hydraulic fracturing because the science is unsettled, and there are strong emotions around the topic,” Winter says. [Or because the oil and gas industry needs some lying, research ignoring propaganda posed as science to con Canadians into accepting the abuse and poisoning that is hydraulic fracturing?]

What Winter uncovered is that while there is significant available research on hydraulic fracturing, there are gaps in that knowledge. Just as important, she says, is the gap in trust people have in oil and gas companies, and the difficulty scientists have in communicating their findings. [The real reason for Ms. Winter’s research comes to light. Credible scientists at PSE have no difficulty communicating their findings from tracking and reviewing hundreds of published papers showing harms and risks from fracing. Yes, scientists in Canada were bullyingly muzzled by Steve Harper, and had great difficulty communicating because of Steve’s fear of the truth and his profound prejudices and ignorance.]

Those knowledge gaps, and that public skepticism and fear [The public and families about to be frac’d are educating themselves in eastern Canada. They know they’re legally required to protect their children, which is why they refuse fracing in their communities], leave politicians uncertain of how to proceed, and it’s not clear what the current rules we have are based on. [Politicians know they will get voted out, as happened in Nova Scotia, if they allow fracing, and voted in, if they say no to it, as happened in New Brunswick.]

One challenge on the research front, Winter says, is the lack of baseline data. [Really?] “You want to know what’s in the groundwater before you drill the well, but that information hasn’t always been available,” Winter says. [Or, in fact, companies and regulators need that baseline data destroyed because it proves pollution from drilling and fracing, as in the many contaminated water cases in Alberta: Zimmermans, Jacks, Ann Craft, Hawkwoods, Signers, Lars Lauridsen, Ernst lawsuit against Encana, AER and Alberta government and all the cases gagged and shut up so that companies can go on down the street and do it again, and again and again. In about 2010, the regulator in Alberta altered the historic water well records, replacing those that used to say “Gas Present: No” with records that are now blank. Has Ms. Winter studied that fraudulent “science” by the Alberta regulator? Will she include it in her paper? Will the School of Public Policy allow it in her paper if she did?]

It’s also difficult to quantify the cost-benefit analysis of hydraulic fracturing. “It’s fairly easy to make assumptions about the impact on the economy,” Winter says. “But the associated environmental costs — everything from the consequent noise pollution, increased traffic, or [and?] emissions — that data is harder to generate, and expensive to fund.” [Companies are expected to – including cumulative impacts, but don’t because they know mitigating the impacts would eat up all profits, and triple then some]

How and whether to move past an all-out fracking ban [Is this “how” the real reason Ms Winter received funding?]

Winter says it makes sense that if governments don’t feel they have sufficient information in place, some will decide to go with an all-out ban on hydraulic fracturing.

“But there doesn’t seem to be movement past that,” she says. The political will isn’t there to explore further because sentiments run high, because the science can be difficult to understand and convey [Typical U of Calgary School of Public Policy research? Insult families, communities and jurisdictions smart enough to say “NO!”] , and because the costs of further research is prohibitive given the complexity of hydraulic fracturing. [The research is in, more is not needed. Only ever more propaganda posing as “research” is needed, to try to force the truth back into industry’s frac secret box.

“They can’t just sit and wait for all the information to become available,” Winter says. “At some point government is going to have to bite the bullet and make decisions; they shouldn’t be afraid of making a wrong decision [AND LET COMPANIES PROFIT FROM POISONING THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT CANADIAN FAMILIES AND DESTROYING DRINKING WATER SUPPLIES AND PUBLICLY PAID INFRASTRUCTURE LIKE ROADS AND BRIDGES?] if it’s based on what is currently known.”

“Jennifer Winter’s research demonstrates the critical importance of adeptly bridging research on policy development and energy innovation, to move the dial on answering the questions that so many communities are asking,” says John Reynolds, acting vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary.

The SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Grants (KSG) fund innovative researchers who connect existing academic knowledge on key challenges facing Canada. The program also focuses on ensuring findings are shared across communities for better decision-making. Twenty-one Knowledge Synthesis Grants were awarded across Canada in November 2015 to respond to the future challenge area within SSHRC’sImagining Canada’s Future initiative on What effects will the quest for energy and natural resources have on our society and our position on the world stage? Read more about Winter’s and other KSG holders’ findings on the Federation for Humanities and Social Scienceswebsite.

Located in the heart of Canada’s energy sector, the University of Calgary has built a reputation as a global leader in energy research and innovation [AND HOW MUCH PROPAGANDA USED TO CON CITIZENS INTO ACCEPTING OIL PATCH ABUSE?]. With a focus on our low-carbon future, diverse teams are also assessing the effects of energy-related processes while harnessing unconventional hydrocarbon resources through the Energy Innovations for Today and Tomorrow research strategy. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

New Study: Majority of Peer-Reviewed Science Shows Public Health, Water & Air Quality Concerns from Shale & Tight Gas Development

Public health: Of 31 studies, 84% contained findings that indicate public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse public health outcomes.

Water quality: Of 58 studies, 69% had findings that indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination associated with UNGD.

Air quality: Of 46 studies, 87% had findings indicating that UNGD increased air pollutant emissions (such as volatile organic compounds (VOC)) and/or atmospheric concentrations (such as ground level ozone).

13 May 2016 Letter Physician, Scientists, Engineers to Ft. Cherry School District

RE: Proposed Well Pad Near Fort Cherry School District Campus

Dear Township Supervisors,

We write to you in regard to the proposed permitting of the most recent Range Resources well pad near the Fort Cherry School District campus. As you know, there has been much discussion concerning the potential impacts of shale gas development to the environment and human health. While there is still a limited amount of epidemiology that assesses associations between risk factors and health outcomes, there is a growing body of peer-reviewed science that provides ample evidence of hazards, elevated risks, and associated health outcomes [1–4]. These hazards are of particular concern to our most vulnerable populations, including children, who may be disproportionately exposed and adversely affected [5].

The peer-review process is the cornerstone of scientific inquiry. Our organization, PSE Healthy Energy (www.psehealthyenergy.org), is committed to providing citizens and policymakers with objective, evidence-based information on energy production methods. Towards this end we have compiled a near exhaustive database of all the peer-reviewed articles on shale gas development. This library is open to the public and can be accessed at
http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/site/view/1180. We have learned several very important points about the environmental and public health implications of shale gas development in the creation and review of this collection of scientific literature.

First, there are clear, well-defined pathways of exposure from shale gas operations to human populations, including air, water, and soil. Numerous investigations have linked modern natural gas operations to surface and groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania; this is well documented in the peer-reviewed literature [6–9] and in PA DEP reporting [10]. Emissions of health damaging air pollutants such as aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other ground-level ozone (smog) precursors occur throughout the life cycle of shale gas development. Research has shown that at least five air pollutants associated with shale gas (benzene, formaldehyde, ozone, particulate matter, silica dust) produce well known respiratory health effects in children [11].

Air pollution is caused not only from activities in and around the wellhead, but also from the transportation of water, sand, and chemicals to and from the well pads, from separator tanks, compressor stations, and other ancillary processes. Although a well pad may not be directly adjacent to a particular population, air pollutant emissions can extend beyond its immediate vicinity. Studies suggest trucking and other activities deliver significant impacts not only on local air quality [12], but also on regional air quality [13]. Air pollutants known to be health damaging have been measured in concentrations elevated enough to contribute to an excess public health burden for human populations living near natural gas operations [14–16]. Benzene has been identified as a major contributor to elevated cancer risks from air emissions associated with the development of natural gas [15]. Previous studies have identified an association between this hazardous air pollutant and childhood leukemia [16].

There are a number of other considerations as well. Besides air and water pollution, the shale gas industry also brings heavy truck traffic (over 1,000 truck trips for each well for a high-volume hydraulic fracturing event), noise and light pollution, and a number of other probable ramifications that affect community wellness, such as traffic accidents, social stress, and anxiety [18]. Noise pollution is a particularly relevant concern for schools, as evidence has suggested that noise can impact children’s cognitive function in a number of ways and can be detrimental to comprehension, memory, and attention/perception [19,20].

The science has grown tremendously in the past several years and the research community is now beginning to understand the implications of this industry for the environment and human populations. Of the nearly 760 peer-reviewed journal papers contained in the aforementioned database, more than 640 (84%) have been published since the beginning of 2013 and over 60 papers have already been published this year. There are still significant information gaps that would provide better evidence on the relative safety of shale gas development and new data will continue to emerge. However, based on the available evidence, precautionary measures are warranted with regard to the permitting of new wells in close proximity to schools.

The issue of determining a safe distance to develop shale gas from sensitive receptors is complex. However, evidence suggests an increased risk for nearby populations, particularly in areas with larger quantities of well pads. Several studies suggest a greater prevalence of some adverse birth outcomes for neonates born to mothers living in areas of higher density or closer proximity to natural gas development [21–23]. Qualitative case studies have also suggested harm to human and animals populations [24,25]. The epidemiology is still limited and it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the extent of health burdens attributable to shale gas development. However, as
the scientific literature suggests, there are clear pathways of exposure as well as some evidence to suggest elevated health risks and associated health outcomes. In addition, numerous reports of common health symptoms have been independently surfacing throughout the United States in areas with active natural gas development. Unfortunately, some of these reports involve children, who effectively serve as sentinels for adverse health outcomes.

Children are a particularly vulnerable population who may exhibit different health outcomes from adults when exposed to environmental pollution [26,27]. From an exposure perspective, children drink more water, breath more air per unit body weight than adults, and often put objects and their hands into their mouths more frequently than adults. For this reason, children can be more exposed to environmental pollution. Additionally, children are less able to metabolize and excrete environmental chemicals and their young ages provide longer durations for diseases with long latency periods to develop. Because of these differences children warrant greater protection from
environmental risks and therefore greater precaution in natural gas permitting decisions.

Finally, it is worth bearing in mind that there is no scientific way to determine the optimal
distance between shale gas operations and schools; this is ultimately a question that involves a complex set of value judgments [28]. Science can, however, inform our decisions by identifying hazards and quantifying risks, creating an empirical foundation from which rational decisions can be made. Simply put, a greater quantity of well pads surrounding a particular population will elevate their risk of adverse health outcomes. Given the body of scientific literature that is now available, we believe policy makers should exercise the utmost precaution when making decisions that could potentially impact our most vulnerable populations.

Our organization, PSE Healthy Energy, is dedicated to supplying evidence-based, scientific information and resources on unconventional shale oil and gas development, renewable energy, and other novel energy technologies to a variety of stakeholders. PSE’s mission is to bring scientific transparency to important public policy issues surrounding such methods by generating, organizing, translating, and disseminating objective, evidence-based information.

In addition to the bibliography mentioned earlier in this letter, we are more than willing to offer our own research and expertise on this subject. We maintain formal affiliations and partnerships with faculty members across a range of disciplines at a number of national institutions, including Cornell University, Weill Cornell Medicine, Stanford University, George Washington University, and The University of California, Berkeley. We invite you to visit our website at www.psehealthyenergy.org, where we provide high-quality resources and analyses on shale gas development and other forms of energy production.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Seth B.C. Shonkoff, PhD, MPH
Executive Director | PSE Healthy Energy
Visiting Scholar | University of California, Berkeley
Email: email hidden; JavaScript is required
Phone: 510.899.9706

Adam Law, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine | Weill Cornell Medicine
President | PSE Healthy Energy

Jake Hays, MA
Program Director | PSE Healthy Energy
Research Associate | Weill Cornell Medicine

2016 0419: MJ editor Fiona Godlee takes on corruption in science , ‘Medicine and science are run by human beings, so there will always be crooks,’ says journal editor 

It’s unusual to watch one of the world’s most powerful editors in scientific publishing play with a marionette puppet.

But Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ, specializes in the unexpected.

The puppet she’s holding is dressed as a doctor, complete with a stethoscope around its neck. Its strings represent the hidden hand of the pharmaceutical industry.

‘I think we have to call it what it is. It is a corruption of the scientific process.’
-Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor, BMJ

Godlee keeps it on her desk to remind her of the dark forces at work in science and medicine. And she is blunt about the results.

“I think we have to call it what it is. It is the corruption of the scientific process.”

There are increasing concerns these days about scientific misconduct. Hundreds of papers are being pulled from the scientific record, for falsified data, for plagiarism, and for a variety of other reasons that are often never explained.

Sometimes it’s an honest mistake. But it’s estimated that 70 per cent of the retractions are based on some form of scientific misconduct.

“Medicine and science are run by human beings, so there will always be crooks,” Godlee says.

“There will be commercial pressures, academic pressures, and to pretend otherwise is absurd. So we have to have many more mechanisms, much more skepticism, and much more willingness to challenge.”

As the editor of one of the oldest and most influential medical journals, Godlee is leading several campaigns to change the way science is reported, including opening up data for other scientists to review, and digging up data from old and abandoned trials for a second look.

She has strong words about the overuse of drugs, and the influence of industry on the types of questions that scientists ask, and the conclusions that are drawn from the evidence.

“It’s not my job to be popular, I’m very clear about that,” she says from her office in the historic British Medical Association building in central London.

“She’s taken her licks, as it were, because other people don’t like the level of transparency she is bringing to the process,” says medical writer Dr. Ivan Oransky, who writes about flawed science on his blog Retraction Watch.

Based in New York City, Retraction Watch is fascinating reading for anyone interested in what goes on behind science’s closed doors.

Every day there are one or two new examples of research that has been quietly withdrawn.

“People leak us things, people send us documents, we get reports from universities that aren’t supposed to see the light of day,” Oransky says.

“There does remain a really entrenched problem with institutions, when asked to investigate allegations of misconduct. They will tend to close down, will tend to prefer not to investigate, will tend to hide any evidence and see it as a damage to their own reputation if they were to take action,” [Or, bye bye big oil perks, fancy dinners and donations?] Godlee says.

So retractions are, paradoxically, a good thing.

‘I think this trend toward journal retraction is a positive sign.’
– Dr. Fiona Godlee

“I think this trend toward journal retraction is a positive sign against what we’ve known to be going on for quite a long time,” Godlee says.

Godlee admires Oransky’s work, although they’ve never met.

“It’s doing a good and important job,” she said. “It’s doing more than retractions, it’s looking at misconduct in research.”

In that sense, Godlee says, they are on the same page. But Godlee says the journals themselves are part of the problem.

It is up to the journals to decide what science gets published, and they usually choose positive findings. That means a study showing that a treatment or theory doesn’t work rarely makes it into a high-profile journal.

It’s called “publication bias” and it distorts the scientific record.

“All along the way, the system tends to encourage a sort of optimistic positive view of new drugs and drug treatments generally,” Godlee says

Her solution? Transparency. Throw open the windows, let everyone see everything.

“I do have a belief in the fundamentality of science to correct itself. We can’t do that under the blanket of secrecy,” she says.

“We also need to have more independence in science, less commercial bias, less ability of academics to follow their own biases. [No more academics with frac patents being on every frac review panel in Canada?] All sorts of checks and balances of that sort. But in the end, transparency, to me, seems like the only correct route.”

Her policy is already changing the scientific record.

Just last week, the BMJ published the results of a second look at a long abandoned clinical trial testing the hypothesis that a diet high in unsaturated oil would reduce heart disease and death.

The new conclusion? Not only did corn oil not improve health, the data also showed a higher risk in death from the high corn oil diet. [How many years before we find out the frac panels across Canada deliberately ignored damning data and evidence showing how harmful, damaging, and uneconomical fracing is?]

Two years earlier, the BMJ published an analysis of another lost trial, by the same team. After digging the data out of a box in an old garage, they came to a similar conclusion about the effect of a so-called “healthy” oil on health.

The case of the missing data

And there was the re-analysis of Study 329, a controversial clinical trial into the use of the antidepressant Paxil to treat teenage depression. The new findings contradicted the original industry-funded researchers, concluding that the drug wasn’t safe and didn’t work.

It took a court case to get access to the hidden Paxil data, which was protected by corporate secrecy.

And that raises another controversial question about who should be testing drugs in the first place.

‘Patients do get hurt.’
– Dr. Fiona Godlee

“It’s led me and others to increasingly question the idea that the manufacturer of the drug could ever be considered the right people to evaluate its effectiveness and safety,” Godlee says. [Why do regulators and governments let polluting, law violating oil and gas companies test water wells, air, soil, families, homes and communities the companies contaminate, and let them choose how to test, and what toxic chemicals to test for and avoiding testing for, and keep their questionable testing methods and results secret?]

“That seems to me to be very mad idea which has grown up historically, and we have to start questioning it and we have to come up with alternatives, which would mean independent studies done by independent bodies.”

And it matters, Godlee says, because bad science can be dangerous.

“Patients do get hurt. Drugs [Frac & drilling chemicals?] that shouldn’t be available are available. Drugs [frac & drilling chemicals?] with harms are used and patients are unaware of those harms. Devices [fracing?] that shouldn’t be on the market are on the market. So yes, we do know that patients [innocent families?] are harmed, and we know that the health systems are harmed as a result of poor science.” [Emphasis added]

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