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How litigation undermines the ability of science media to provide honest results

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From skeptical science journalist Alex Berezow at American Council on Science and Health:

Consider Mark Jacobson, the climate scientist who is suing a prestigious journal for $10 million because it hurt his feelings. There is good reason to believe that the lawsuit will be dismissed, but not before lawyers have collected a nice fee for themselves. Jacobson’s attorneys and the journal’s attorneys can both make a lot of money arguing with each other, even if the suit never actually goes to trial. Routinely, lawyers are required to solve problems that they themselves created. If something like this were to occur in any other area of life, it would be called racketeering.

Recently, RealClearScience wrote an article that covered a paper published in the journal Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine about how a particular herbal tea was linked to acute liver failure. The maker of the tea threatened to sue RealClearScience, which pulled the article because it didn’t want to deal with a lawyer.

In both examples, the scientific enterprise is collateral damage. The mere threat of a lawsuit can be used to shut down scientific debate. More.

On the other hand, the folk at RealClearScience haven’t been hounded out of their jobs, like Bret Weinstein or had their research targeted by deans, like Robert Marks.

It would help to start by seeing the bigger picture. Hurt feelings and political concerns have begun to matter far too much generally and the result is naturally bad for responsible science media.

See also: Biology prof Bret Weinstein’s persecutors face sanctions from Evergreen State College
and

Evolutionary informatics has come a long way since a Baylor dean tried to shut down the lab

One Reply to “How litigation undermines the ability of science media to provide honest results

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    As I noted before, the Jacobson case is basically a brand-defamation suit, just like the herbal tea case. Neither is really about science. Journalists have always needed to be cautious when favoring one brand over another.

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