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Monsanto funding the Science Media Centre

1.Extracts from new article on the SMC
3.Fiona Fox – a profile
3.Fiona Fox – a hoax call
4.Submission to the Board of the SMC

NOTE: Monsanto is now among the funders of the UK's Science Media Centre. 
http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/pages/about/funding.htm

More information about the SMC can be gleaned from the extracts from a recent article by a science journalist who thinks the US media would be less accommodating to such an institution (item 1). He may be overly optimistic.

Items 2 and 3 give more detail on the extraordinary background and activities of the SMC's director, Fiona Fox. Item 4 looks in detail at that background in the context of the SMC and its activities.
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1.EXTRACTS from: Two nations divided by a common purpose
Nature 483, 247, (15 March 2012) doi:10.1038/483247a 
http://www.nature.com/news/two-nations-divided-by-a-common-purpose-1.10224

*Plans to replicate Britain's Science Media Centre in the United States are fraught with danger, warns Colin Macilwain.

[The] Science Media Centre began in London in 2002... On its own terms, it has been an outstanding success... Science media centres similar, but not identical, to that in London already exist in locales as far apart as Australia, Canada and Japan... 

...The London SMC was set up because UK scientific leaders were upset that environmentalists had successfully fought the introduction of genetically modified food; they felt that the UK media were too susceptible to environmental scare stories about new technologies.

...US journalists, justifiably or not, have higher self-regard than their British counterparts and are likely to take strong issue with the 'churnalism' aspects of the SMC... If an organization in Washington or New York, co-funded by government and big business, tried to sell them a line, they would recoil.

The London SMC's narrow approach to risk assessment if you want to hear about the risks of nuclear power, say, just ask your local nuclear engineer (see Nature 471, 549; 2011) sits happily with the prevalent ethos of British journalism. This was, of course, immortalized by the otherwise-obscure poet Humbert Wolfe: "You cannot hope | to bribe or twist, | thank God! the | British journalist. | But, seeing what | the man will do | unbribed, there's | no occasion to."

Despite the fears of the SMC founders, the British press led by the BBC, which treats the Confederation of British Industry with the deference the Vatican gets in Rome is overwhelmingly conservative and pro-business in its outlook. It is quite unperturbed by the fact that SMC sponsors include AstraZeneca, BP, Coca-Cola, L'Oreal, Monsanto, Syngenta (as well as Nature Publishing Group) but not a single environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) or trade union.

...the perception that the environmental group Friends of the Earth constitutes a bigger threat to scientific truth-telling than some of the corporate names on the SMC's sponsorship list is not one the US media would accept.
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2.Fiona Fox – a profile
http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=337

Fiona Fox is the director of the Science Media Centre (SMC).

Despite having no previous background in science or science communication, Fox has been afforded, since her appointment in December 2001, the status of expert. She has, for example, been included in a working party on peer review set up by Sense About Science, and in a steering group on improving communication over science policy and risk set up by the Office of Science and Technology. In 2003 Fox delivered a lecture at Green College, Oxford, on the challenge of adapting science to the mass media.
Controversy over Science Media Centre

Within a matter of months of Fox becoming director, the SMC was embroiled in controversy over its activities. It was accused of operating as 'a sort of Mandelsonian rapid rebuttal unit' [1] and of employing 'some of the clumsiest spin techniques of New Labour' [2]. There have also been controversies about both the SMC's funding and Fox's background.

According to the profile provided by the SMC, Fox previously ran 'the media operation at the National Council for One Parent Families' and was 'Head of Media at CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency'. In addition, the SMC says, Fox 'has written extensively for newspapers and publications, authored several policy papers and contributed to books on humanitarian aid'. [3]

What they do not say is that throughout much of that time Fox led a double life. It's one which seriously undermines the SMC's claims to be open, rational, balanced and independent, not to mention its being in the business of ensuring the 'that the public gets access to all sides of the debate about controversial issues.'

It's a double life that connects the SMC's director to the inner circles of a political network that compares environmentalists to Nazis and eulogises GM crops and cloning. More disturbingly it is a network whose members have a long history of infiltrating media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote their own agenda. It is also a network that has targeted certain media organisations and sought to discredit them or their journalists.
Denying genocide in Rwanda

Fox's double life was first exposed after an article entitled 'Massacring the truth in Rwanda' appeared in the December 1995 issue of Living Marxism [4]. The magazine subsequently reported receiving 'a stream of outraged letters from the Nazi-hunters of the prestigious Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, the Rwandan embassy, the London-based African Rights group and others.'

Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal of African Rights wrote to the magazine to express their outrage at the article:

    "Investigating crimes against humanity gives one a high threshold of shock. But the article by Fiona Foster on Rwanda (Massacring the truth in Rwanda, December 1995) was the sort of writing that we never expected to appear in print. We each read it with a growing sense of outrage, leaving us at the end simply numb. Had your paper been entitled Living Fascism we might have been less surprised, but even then we would have expected something a little more circumspect. Not only do you make an apologia for the genocide the first to appear in print in a widely sold English language publication but go so far as to question its very reality. This is not only an affront to the truth, in defiance of the fundamentals of humanity, but deeply offensive to the survivors of the third indisputable genocide of this century."

Omaar and de Waal, who now works for the U.N., describe the article as 'shoddy journalism' and the ideas advanced in it as 'absurd'. All of which 'would matter less if you were not dealing with one of the greatest crimes of the century, and playing into the hands of genocidal killers'. Omaar and de Waal subsequently established that 'Fiona Foster', the author of the article, was Fiona Fox, then a press officer for CAFOD.

Those trying to understand Fox's bid, in the words of a Guardian article, 'to rewrite history in favour of the murderers', have focussed on her media role at a Catholic aid agency, linking this to the embarrassment of the Church over the role of some priests and bishops in the mass murder. What has received less attention is the nature of Fox's relationship with Living Marxism.

By the time of the Rwandan article Fox had, in fact, been regularly writing for the monthly review of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) for at least two and a half years. Living Marxism was first published in 1987 and although the LM archive only goes back to 1992 and not all issues are accessible, it is clear that Fox's articles in Living Marxism stretch from at least 1992 to 1999, ie to not long before it was forced into closure. Indeed, prior to her Rwanda article, Fox was one of Living Marxism's most prolific contributors, on one occasion even contributing two articles to a single issue (LM 75).

Her use of the Fiona Foster alias may have reflected a need to keep her Living Marxism connections hidden, although the use of aliases was also a standard practice among leading RCP supporters. These aliases typically involved retaining first names and altering surnames. For instance, Frank Furedi was Frank Richards, James Hughes was James Heartfield, Joan Hoey was Joan Phillips, Keith Teare was Keith Tompson and Claire Fox, Fiona's sister, was Claire Foster.
Northern Ireland

The main focus of most of Fiona Fox's articles was the troubles in Northern Ireland. In her pieces Fox makes reference to both the Irish Freedom Movement and the Campaign Against Militarism, both of which were front groups for the RCP. The line Fox advances in the articles is precisely that of the RCP which unequivocally supported the IRA in its armed struggle against 'British imperialism'.

According to a former RCP supporter, Fiona Fox became the head of the Irish Freedom Movement which had a position of never condemning the IRA even when it committed terrorist atrocities aimed at civilian targets. In the end, her support for the 'armed struggle' was to outflank even that of the IRA.

After the start of the peace process, Fox's articles provided a platform for the dissident republican Tommy McKearney (See: Irish republican speaks out LM 66, April 94 Opposing the 'peace process' LM 75, January 95). Like the RCP, McKearney saw the peace process as 'a historic defeat for the liberation movement', or as he puts it in one of Fox's pieces, 'a cynical ploy to dupe the republican movement' into surrendering unconditionally to the British.

Fox writes:

    'First and foremost I don't believe that it is a peace process at all.' That was how Tommy McKearney, a former IRA prisoner of war, began his speech to the Campaign Against Militarism conference at Wembley in March 1994. He concluded by calling on his audience to expose Britain as a warmonger not a peacemaker in Ireland. 

In spite of providing a platform for someone who was opposing the peace process in Ireland, in June 2003 Fiona Fox [http://www.terrorismresearch.net/chairbiographies.htm chaired] a session at the two day conference Communicating the War on Terror which took place at the Royal Institution, as did Bruno Waterfield and Bill Durodie, who organised the conference for the Centre for Defence Studies at Kings College London. All have had connections to RCP/LM as had conference speakers like Frank Furedi, Phil Hammond, Michael Fitzpatrick and Mick Hume, LM's former editor. LM contributor and Assistant Director of Sense About Science, Ellen Raphael helped Durodie organise the event. Their LM connections do not appear to have been disclosed to conference participants or fellow contributors.

Fox's last article for LM, which was on Africa, was in 1999 but she appears to have continued her connection with the group, chairing a meeting, for example, for the Institute of Ideas (IoI), the organisation formed by her sister Claire when LM was sued out of existence, in February 2002.

Claire Fox's LM connections and role within the RCP have been much more public than her sister's, but interestingly in terms of Living Marxism, Claire Fox's contributions to Living Marxism do not begin until December 1993 eighteen months after her sister's and they are at first only very intermittent.

Fiona Fox's presence in the SMC also needs to be seen in the context of LM contributors holding senior positions, in a series of organisations which lobby on issues related to biotechnology, e.g. Sense About Science (managing director: Tracey Brown; director: Ellen Raphael), Genetic Interest Group (former policy director: John Gillott), Progress Educational Trust (former director: Juliet Tizzard), and the Scientific Alliance (advisor: Bill Durodie).

This background has to be an immense cause for concern in relation to Fox's role as director of the SMC. Fox's Green College Lecture was titled, 'The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: so where does that leave journalism?' But neither Fox nor the Science Media Centre have been willing to disclose any of the truth about her long years of involvement with a network of extremists who engage in infiltration of media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote their own agenda. It is also a network which eulogises GM crops and cloning and is extremely hostile towards their critics.

Fox's own journalism might also suggest that she is none too fussy about either truth or openness when it comes to pushing her agenda It is perhaps revealing that someone whose own journalism has been called 'shoddy' and 'an affront to the truth', and has proved enormously controversial, has been selected as the director of an organisation which claims the role of making sure that controversial scientific issues like GM crops are reported accurately in the media.
Notes

[1] Ronan Bennett, The conspiracy to undermine the truth about our GM drama, The Guardian, 2 June 2002, accessed March 22 2009

[2] Alan Rusbridger, Fields of ire, The Guardian, 7 June 2002 accessed March 22 2009

[3] Staff, Science Media Centre website, version placed in web archive 17 January 2004, accessed March 2009

[4] Massacring the truth in Rwanda, LM, December 1995, accessed in web archive March 23 2009
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3.Fiona Fox – - a hoax call
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Fiona_Fox
[embedded links at original]

In October 2010 Fiona Fox was in the news as a result of the disgraced former Labour politician Jim Devine being ordered to pay his former office manager 35,000 pounds in damages after she won an employment tribunal claim against him. Devine was already facing a criminal trial over allegations he fiddled his expenses as an MP.[9]

A key part of Devine's former office manager's case centered around a hoax call. The telephone call was made to the office manager by a friend of Devine posing as a journalist looking into MPs' expenses. This friend, in reality, was Fiona Fox.

Eventually the office manager realised the call had been a hoax. But this was only after she came across an e-mail to Devine marked urgent from Fiona Fox, Director of the Science Media Centre. The e-mail was mostly about the Human Fertility and Embryology Bill but at the end was a PS referring to the hoax call Fox had made to Devine's office manager.[10]

Fox and Devine seem to have struck up their close friendship while working together to win public support for animal-human hybrid embryos during the passage of the Embryology Bill. The fact that Devine was a Catholic was particularly useful, and he even brokered a special meeting between the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland and scientific supporters of hybrid embryos.[11]

The Science Media Centre was involved in co-ordinating the media work in support of the Embryology Bill, and Fox and her collaborators were particularly anxious not to see the Bill bogged down by public opposition, as happened with GM.[12]

Fox's involvement in the Devine hoax has not gone unnoticed in science communication circles. Ian Sample, the science correspondent of The Guardian, has written:

    "Though appalling from the off, it was not the top line [of the employment tribunal story] that shocked many of my colleagues most. What came as a surprise was the revelation far down the story that the fake call in question was made by Fiona Fox, head of the Science Media Centre in London, a prominent venue for press conferences on all matters scientific and medical. Otherwise articulate people who read the story struggled to say more than three letters: WTF?"[13] 
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4.Submission to the Board of the SMC
Andy Rowell
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7761

What I said in my talk was that the people behind Spiked and the Institute of Ideas (IOI) are pro-corporate libertarians who are climate sceptics. I said that this network includes people working in other organisations such as Sense About Science and the Science Media Centre. I also said that the Spiked network had collaborated with [Exxon-funded] TechCentralStation, the Royal Institution [closely associated with the SMC – see below] and the [Exxon-funded] International Policy Network (IPN).

* Firstly that the Institute of Ideas (IOI) and Spiked collaborate with known climate sceptics such as Roger Bate and Julian Morris of the IPN

Their collaboration began in the late nineties when two key Living Marxism activists, Frank Furedi and Bill Durodie, started writing for the European Science and Environment Forum and Roger Bate, ESEF's founder, began writing for Living Marxism (the forerunner of Spiked and IOI).

Bate has also contributed to Spiked-Online, writing on issues such as DDT, GM[1] and depleted Uranium. The latter article by Bate is co-written with Professor Zbigniew Jaworowski,[2] who writes for 21st Century Science and Technology – the magazine of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, a scientist who believes that 'The Ice Age is Coming.'[3]

Julian Morris first spoke at a Spiked conference in May 2002.[4] In January 2003, Morris debated the benefits of recycling on Spiked[5]. Two months later, in March 2003, Spiked held a conference on 'GM food labelling' – co-hosted with the global PR company, Hill and Knowlton and the IPN. Pro-GM speakers included Gregory Conko, the director of food safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and co-founder of the avidly pro-biotech AgBioView, and Tony Gilland, ex-Living Marxism and now the Science and Society director at the Institute of Ideas. The following month, Morris spoke again at a Spiked event[6].

* Spiked/IOI are Climate Sceptics

If you look at Spiked's section on global warming7 it is consistently sceptical and includes articles from known sceptics such as Philip Stott[8] [who appeared in the recent documentary by the LM-linked director, Martin Durkin, The Great Global Warming Swindle] and from people associated with the International Policy Network, such as Dominic Standish.[9]

It has also held conferences with known sceptics and this is the one I mentioned in my talk. In May 2003 Spiked, TechCentralStation and the Royal Institution held a conference on risk, called 'Panic Attack'. It was co-sponsored by the IPN, the Social Issues Research Centre (see below) and Mobile Operators Association, amongst others.[10] The afternoon session, titled the Heated Debate was about global warming and included Bjorn Lomborg – author, The Skeptical Environmentalist and Sallie Baliunas a science co-host of [the Exxon funded] TechCentralStation[11].

* Ex-LM Network

There is a network of ex-Revolutionary Communist Party/Living Marxism people concentrating on science-related issues, particularly those involving either genetics and/or the environment. It is very difficult to tell what their exact shared aims and objectives are but this degree of concentration and activity in such a specific area seems beyond the possibility of coincidence.

The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) was a small extremist faction. Living Marxism, the RCP's monthly review which went on to become LM magazine, had only a small number of contributors, but RCP supporters/LM contributors not only turn up at Spiked/IOI, but hold the following positions:

SMC director: Fiona Fox
Sense About Science director: Tracey Brown
SAS's programme manager and Brown's deputy: Ellen Raphael
Scientific Alliance advisor: Bill Durodie
Genetic Interest Group policy [former] director: John Gillott
Progress Educational Trust (former) director: Juliet Tizzard
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority policy manager: Juliet Tizzard
HFEA (former) director of communications: Anne Furedi
Wellcome Trust advisory group on Public Engagement with Science: Claire Fox

Fiona Fox has no science background. Tracey Brown's background is likewise almost entirely unconnected to her current post – her previous specialty was sociology of law. Ellen Raphael also has a social science background. I think it is a legitimate question to ask what drew them all to the same highly specific area of activity.

While a number of people may have contributed on occasion to an IOI event or Spiked debate, all of these three have multiple involvements. For example, Fiona Fox appears on Spiked's website[12] and is quoted in Spiked articles[13]. She also appears at IOI events[14]. Tracey Brown appears on the Spiked website[15] and appears at IOI events.[16] Ellen Raphael also appears on Spiked and is credited with helping at IOI events.[17]

More importantly, all three contributed to LM, which was the forerunner to Spiked/IOI. LM's co-publisher, Claire Fox, launched the IOI on the day that LM folded; shortly afterwards, LM's ex-editor launched Spiked with LM's other co-publisher, Helene Guldberg, as managing editor.

This has been written about by a number of commentators including myself and George Monbiot in the Guardian. For example, in Monbiot's Guardian article, Invasion of the Entryists – he wrote about Sense About Science[18]:

"The phone number for Sense About Science is shared by the "publishing house" Global Futures. One of its two trustees is Phil Mullan, a former RCP activist and LM contributor who is listed as the registrant of Spiked magazine's website. The only publication on the Global Futures site is a paper by Frank Furedi, the godfather of the cult. The assistant director of Sense About Science, Ellen Raphael, is the contact person for Global Futures. The director of SAS, Tracey Brown, has written for both LM and Spiked and has published a book with the Institute of Ideas: all of them RCP spin-offs. Both Brown and Raphael studied under Frank Furedi at the University of Kent, before working for the PR firm Regester Larkin, which defends companies such as the biotech giants Aventis CropScience, Bayer and Pfizer against consumer and environmental campaigners. Brown's address is shared by Adam Burgess, also a contributor to LM. LM's health writer, Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, is a trustee of both  Global Futures and Sense About Science".

And Science Media Centre:

"SAS has set up a working party on peer review, which is chaired and hosted by the Royal Society. One of its members is Tony Gilland, who is science and society director at the Institute of Ideas, a contributor to both LM and Spiked and the joint author of the proposal Frank Furedi made to the supermarkets. Another is Fiona Fox, the sister of Claire Fox, who runs the Institute of Ideas. Fiona Fox was a frequent contributor to LM. One of her articles generated outrage among human rights campaigners by denying that there had been a genocide in Rwanda.

"Fiona Fox is also the director of the Science Media Centre, the public relations body set up by Baroness Susan Greenfield of the Royal Institution."

Other Monbiot articles have appeared on the LM network[19]. I have written about the group in the Guardian[20] and PR Watch.[21]

* More on Fiona Fox [the SMC's director]

In George Monbiot's article he credits much of the work exposing the LM network to the researcher, Jonathan Matthews. His profile of Fiona Fox is accessible at: http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=45

In that profile, you will see she wrote a hugely controversial article playing down the genocide in Rwanda under her "pseudonym" Fiona Foster. The Guardian called this article a "bid to rewrite history in favour of the murderers"[22]. The Guardian also noted that the article was written by Fiona Fox under the Foster alias. A piece in the Guardian Diary later quoted Fox as admitting involvement in the article.[23]

This article is far from an isolated example of Fiona's writing for the RCP. Indeed, during a time in the 1990s she was one of LM's most frequent contributors. It is also worth noting that although her public role in the group's activities was less than her sister's [Claire Fox], her known contributions to the group's political activities were far more controversial.

For example, a document from 1997, under the headline "Contribution to OTAM" (which stands for On Tactics and Methods – a discussion process within the RCP on its future), contains some interesting views. "Fiona Foster" writes about a friend, Carol, who was suffering from ME and is on anti-depressants.

She wrote: "There are plenty more like Carol ... I often think 'there but for the grace of the RCP go I'. This secret thought is even present when I meet up with those mates who have dropped out of RCP politics. Slowly but surely they have lost their framework for understanding the world... I do feel that being one of the few people in the world who can really understand imposes a certain burden and a definite isolation. But I also feel it is a great privilidge [sic] and quite frankly, if it is [sic] choice between carrying the burden of RCP politics or ending up like my old friend Carol there's no choice involved!"

* Irish Freedom Movement – Peace process in Ireland an "act of war"

Fox was also active in the Irish Freedom Movement (IFM – another RCP front) which was totally opposed to the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland. In the OTAM document, Foster wrote about Ireland: "To the IFM remembering exactly what you were doing when the IRA ceasefire was announced has taken on Kennedy-type proportions. Knowing for too long that the republican movement was going to compromise with imperialism didn't seem to comfort in those first few weeks ... Within weeks those of us who had really understood IFM politics were back on our feet, fighting against those who said that the ceasefire was a step forward, arguing that the peace process was an act of war, a victory for the British".

* She also said that Oxfam are a threat to world peace

She also wrote that: "I stood on the streets of Covent Garden every Saturday for a year...I had some cracking arguments and I really believe that I sent some people away with something to think about, but in the end I just couldn't get people to accept that Western humanitarianism and Oxfam are a bigger threat to world peace than Iraq and the serbs".

At the time that she wrote that about Oxfam she was working for [the Roman Catholic aid agency] CAFOD. I can send you a copy of this document if you want, but it will have to be in hard copy.

These views are similar to others expressed by "Foster" in LM. In one, she interviewed Tommy McKearney, an Irish Republican jailed for the killing of a British soldier[24]. A year later LM published a highly sympathetic profile of McKearney by "Foster"[25]. It should also be noted that the RCP and the IFM never condemned any IRA atrocity even where it involved civilians.

I know that everyone has political views, and people's views change over time. I am not interested in some McCarthyite witch-hunt. The reason for quoting these examples is simply to raise the question as to why individuals known to have been involved in a small extreme political group have clustered in this science and society area. I do not pretend to know the answer.

In response to Monbiot's piece in the Guardian, Furedi has argued that it is wrong to think there is some kind of "revolutionary cell" out there. Maybe it is. The article in which Furedi is quoted is the Times Higher. It continued:

"So why, asks Laurie Taylor, Times Higher columnist and visiting professor of politics and sociology at Birkbeck College, London, do all these former Trotskyists agree in detail on what appears to be in essence a right-wing platform and how can they call themselves academics if they appear to deny independent thought? You might have expected them to travel in a variety of directions after the collapse of their revolutionary dream in the Nineties, but many peddle similar lines"[26].

Richard D. North, with whom I publicly disagree on many issues, has argued that "London's scientific and cultural Establishments... were so glad of the energy and intelligence of these new arrivals – and their capacity to field numbers of highly-motivated young people – that they overlooked the possibility that the group had an agenda which was unpalatable."[27]

* From Bosnia to biotech

This same kind of repositioning has occurred elsewhere in their network. The RCP established a parallel group in Germany which produced a sister publication to LM, called Novo. When the RCP were opposing intervention in Bosnia and denying Serb atrocities, Novo's editor, Thomas Deichmann, "reinvented himself as a fully-fledged Bosnia expert", in the words of the Guardian. Deichmann gave evidence for the defence in the trial of a Serbian war criminal at The Hague and also wrote a lead article for LM attacking ITN's journalists over their Bosnia coverage. It was this article that led to LM's demise in the ensuing libel action[28].

Post-LM, Novo is still going strong and now works in tandem with Spiked and IOI – see, for instance, the Battle of Ideas event that is happening next week-end[29]. But as issues like Serbia, Rwanda and Ireland have faded into the political background, Deichmann has reinvented himself. He has become an expert on biotechnology. To that end, he has co-authored a book on biotechnology, Das PopulSre Lexikon der Gentechnik, and has contributed articles to Novo and Spiked[30]. He also contributed to the IOI's Genes and Society Festival[31].

* Bias

You raise the question of bias in your email to me. As you know, I quite deliberately did not label the SMC or SAS as climate sceptic organisations. This said, people have asked me why such a pro-science organisation as the SMC 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 as "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... etc, etc"[32].

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)[33] – 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[34] and Vivian Moses[35], who are both on the Scientific Advisory Forum of the Scientific Alliance[36]. 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."[37] Moses is quoted more than once in SMC media briefings.[38] In once case he is identified 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[39].

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"[40]. 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[41] and whose director, Dr Sue Mayer sat on the government appointed Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission.[42] 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 (see above) but this is not disclosed.

* Susan Greenfield

Finally, there is also public confusion as to the exact relationship between Baroness Susan Greenfield and the role of the Royal Institution (RI) in the running of the SMC. The Baroness has described herself as the midwife of the SMC, and while the SMC is a supposedly independent entity, it is housed within the RI.

Certainly, Baroness Greenfield and the RI have allowed themselves to be associated with climate sceptic organisations and other pro-industry campaigns. For example, the RI and Greenfield have held events with the climate-sceptical Scientific Alliance, chaired by the Baroness[43]. They also co-hosted an event with [the Exxon funded] TechCentralStation, that was co-sponsored by the [Exxon funded] International Policy Network and the Social Issues Research Centre, as I have already mentioned.[44]

Professor Greenfield is also a long-time advisor to the Social Issues Research Centre[45], and they describe her as also "centrally involved with us in the development of a Code of Practice for science and health reporting"[46]. An article in the British Medical Journal has raised serious questions about what exactly SIRC and its sister organisation MCM stand for:

"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. Both organisations are based at 28 St Clements, Oxford, and both have social anthropologist Kate Fox and psychologist Dr Peter Marsh as directors, and Joe McCann as a research and training manager.

The scenario becomes even more interesting when one reads the list of MCM's clients. These include Bass Taverns, the Brewers and Licensed Retail Association, the Cider Industry Council, the Civil Aviation Authority, Conoco, Coral Racing, Grand Metropolitan Retail, the Portman Group (jointly funded by Bass, Courage, Guinness, etc), Pubmaster, Rank Leisure, and Whitbread Inns, as well as several Australian brewing concerns and several independent television companies.

The Social Issues Research Centre (whose website is at www.sirc.org) fosters the image of an ultraconcerned, public spirited group ...MCM Research, in contrast, has a commercial approach. It describes itself as an Oxford based company that specialises in applying social science to real world issues and problems. Its website ... asks: 'Do your PR initiatives sometimes look too much like PR initiatives? MCM conducts social/psychological research on the positive aspects of your business. The results do not read like PR literature, or like market research data. Our reports are credible, interesting and entertaining in their own right. This is why they capture the imagination of the media and your customers.'"

The BMJ article asked "how seriously should journalists take an attack from an organisation that is so closely linked to the drinks industry?"[47]

In another BMJ article, SIRC comes in for further criticism in an article on HRT. The article says: "HRT Aware [a pharmaceutical industry funded PR body] also commissioned the Social Issues Research Centre to produce a Jubilee Report (named to coincide with the Queen's Jubilee celebrations), which last month won a Communique award from the magazine Pharmaceutical Marketing in the public relations and medical education category"[48].

References

http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000006DBCB.htm
http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000006DB7D.htm
http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/000000005591.htm

http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000000542D.htm

http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202004/Winter2003-4/global_warming.pdf

http://www.spiked-online.co.uk/event/2002-01.htm

http://www.spiked-online.com/Sections/Science/Debates/Waste/

http://www.spiked-online.com/event/2003-01.htm

http://www.spiked-online.com/Sections/Science/GlobalWarming/Index.htm

http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CAC72.htm

http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000006E027.htm

10 http://www.spiked-online.com/panicattack/

http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=78

11 http://www.spiked-online.com/panicattack/

12 http://www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CAA22.htm

13 http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000006DD11.htm

14 http://www.debatingmatters.com/C2B/document_tree/ViewADocument.asp?ID=20&CatID= 12

http://www.agbioworld.org/newsletter_wm/index.php?caseid=archive&newsid=1015

15 http://www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CA9EC.htm

16 http://www.instituteofideas.com/events/health2005.html

http://www.instituteofideas.com/events/attention.html

17 http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000000548A.htm

http://instituteofideas.com/events/genes2003.html

18 http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2003/12/09/invasion-of-the-entryists/

19 http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2000/03/16/modified-truth/http://www.monbiot.com/archives/1998/11/01/far-left-or-far-right/

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/1997/12/18/the-revolution-has-been-televised/

20 http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,7843,921537,00.html

21 http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2003Q1/gm.html

22 http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,181819,00.html

23 http://www.guardian.co.uk/diary/story/0,,739944,00.html

24 http://web.archive.org/web/20010529171747/www.informinc.co.uk/LM/LM66/LM66_Irish.html

25 http://web.archive.org/web/20010520134057/www.informinc.co.uk/LM/LM75/LM75_Tommy.html

26 C. Bunting (2005) "What's A Nice Trot Doing In A Place Like This?", The Times Higher Education Supplement, 28 January, No.1676; Pg.18

27 http://www.richarddnorth.com/new_stuff/spiked.htm

28 http://listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9703&L=twatch-l&D=1&O=D&F=P&S=&P=7954

29 http://www.novo-magazin.de/battle_of_ideas.htm

30 http://www.spiked-online.com/Printable/00000006DAA7.htm

31 http://www.instituteofideas.com/events/genes2003.html

32 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/downloads/consultationreport.pdf

33 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/press_releases/11-29-02_gmreview.htm

http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/press_releases/01-20-03_sugarbeet.htm

34 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/press_releases/04-19-03_mexicanmaize.htm

35 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/press_releases/03-07-11_GMreview.htm

36 http://www.scientific-alliance.com/about_us_advisory_forum.htm

37 http://www.cropgen.org

38 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/press_releases/05-31-02_fieldsofgold.htm

39 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/press_releases/05-31-02_fieldsofgold.htm

40 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/downloads/consultationreport.pdf

41 http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/press_releases/05-14-02_genewatch.htm

42 http://www.aebc.gov.uk/aebc/about/member.shtml

43 http://www.scientific-alliance.org/events_items/past_events/sciencemeetspolitics.htm

44 http://www.spiked-online.com/panicattack/

45 http://www.sirc.org/about/susan_greenfield.html

46 http://www.sirc.org/news/guidelines.shtml

47 http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/319/7211/716

48 http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/327/7411/400