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Pepsigeddon: why bloggers shouldn’t be paid

July 9th, 2010 · 25 Comments

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I’m baffled. Why is it that beautiful, high quality blogs like Orac’s Respectful Insolence, wanted to be on a commercially-run site in the first place?

Scienceblogs is such a site and it recently caused a crisis when it accepted a paid PR piece by Pepsico (without warning its bloggers first). This was not to be with the obvious advertisements in the side bars, but published like any other blog, Scienceblogs is a commercial organisation, owned and operated by the Seed Media group. The response to the crisis by Adam Bly was leaked and can be read here. It is, in my view, not anything like good enough. One of the great beauties of the internet is that it is really quite hard to keep things secret.

ScienceBlogs was offensive enough even before Pepsigeddon. I go there to read Orac, not to be bombarded with adverts for phone companies and the very sort of quackery that Orac so eloquently exposes. Perhaps Americans are more inured to constant mendacious advertising through their TV and radio. Thank heavens for the BBC which makes (some) good programmes and never has advertisements.

Should people be paid to blog?

I have no objection to people being paid for work that they do. I have had occasional payments from newspapers (and the BMJ) for articles that they have commissioned. This makes a nice change. Scientists usually work for nothing but their salary, and that is how it should be. We write up our results in papers, and then, quite often, we pay the journal to publish our work, and then pay again to buy the journal in which it appears. [That, together with the crisis in peer review, is what persuades me that the current publishing system is broken, but that is a different story.].

We travel the world to give talks for nothing (well just occasionally a small honorarium). Not infrequently we don’t even get paid the full cost of travel.

And those of us who blog, mostly do that for free too. This site costs nothing but a few pounds a year for the domain name, and that comes from my own pocket [and a lot more of my time than I could have afforded when I was doing full time science).

I’m not grumbling about any of this. On the contrary, I enjoy the science and I enjoy the blogging. I am (or was) adequately paid. What more can one ask? The great virtue of not being paid is that you are behoven to nobody. The whole point of science, and the whole point of blogging, is to provide an independent opinion, your own opinion, on matters of science.

I’m only grateful that so many people seem to feel that some of the things I say are worth reading. I do it because it is interesting, it is fun, and it might even do a bit of public good.

Any hint that you may be selling a story on behalf of someone else is the kiss of death, both in real science and in blogging. It doesn’t have to be real, just the perception is enough to ruin your credibility.

To expect independent scientific views from Pepsi is whistling in the wind. Everyone knows about the hugely powerful lobbying by the food industry. The ruthlessness of the industry is, one might argue, counter-productive, because even if they were to produce a totally honest assessment of the evidence, nobody would believe it.

Anyone who has been involved in the battle against junk medicine knows that one is always accused of being a shill for Big Pharma. Of course the purveyors of junk medicine are not very good at checking their facts. If they were, they’d be in a more honest job.

Bhopal report blocked by Seed Magazine

The interesting thing about this sort of kerfuffle is that it brings new facts out of the woodwork.  In today’s Guardian, Gala Vince wrote ‘This isn’t the first time Seed has sacrificed editorial independence‘ A piece she wrote about one of the major shameful disasters of the 20th century, the Bhopal catastrophe, was not published by Seed, because it might have endangered advertising income from the Dow Chemical Company (they are the nice folk who made Agent Orange and Napalm). There is no doubt about this, because Vince quotes an email from Seed that told her.

“As for Bhopal, it’s a cautionary call on our part as we’re in the midst of advertising negotiations with Dow”

This sort of behaviour is much scarier than taking paid blogs from Pepsico, if only because it was secret at the time. The wonderful thing about blogs is that it isn’t secret now. It shows that, notwithstanding their fine words, Seed is not serious about scientific independence if it endangers their income.

Science and commerce don’t mix

Seed pay their contributors per page view, though I haven’t yet been able to discover how much (will anyone tell me?)

Most of the people who write for Scienceblogs do not rely on what they get paid by Seed for their bread and butter. Many of those I like best are practising physicians and surgeons. No doubt they are far richer than I have ever been. In my view they should leave Scienceblogs right now, before they lose any more credibility. Several already have.

If anyone doubts the corrupting effects of commercial interests in medicine, listen to this year’s Sense about Science lecture by Fiona Godlee (editor of the BMJ). The podcast has appeared on The Guardian’s web site. And if you are interested in the corrupting effects of commercial pressures in the alternative medicine industry there are plenty of sources in the links at the bottom of the right hand sidebar.

Or just read the admirable Orac, lately (I hope) of Scienceblogs.

Follow-up

Interesting. I got a direct message from one blogger on Twitter, in answer to my question about how much Seed pays bloggers.

“Seed pays peanuts: I usually get $100 – $200/ month, depending on # of page views. It goes up in increments of $25 per 10,000 extra visitors”

That’s a bit more than I’d guessed, but hardly a significant contribution to the pay of most people who write for them.

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25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 rosemary // Jul 10, 2010 at 19:35

    “I’m baffled. Why is it that beautiful, high quality blogs like Orac’s Respectful Insolence, wanted to be on a commercially-run site in the first place?”

    Call me naive, but I was surprised to learn that they were paid and happy to finally learn in your follow-up above how much. I think that information should be prominently displayed on the site and the blogs themselves. It certainly would be one of the things I’d weigh in giving credibility to the blogs.

    $100 to $200 a month is not insubstantial to a lot of non-scientists. Where I live $100 would cover the cost of 4 nice restaurant meals. $50 would cover the cost of one month of a cellphone subscription.

    However, the biggest credibility problem I see with blogs is that so many are written by anonymous authors. While I can certainly understand why many would feel the need to do that, I think it should be obvious to them that it does create a credibility problem and that in fact someone working for industry could already be doing it already on the site as an anonymous blogger.

    These are some of the reasons why I suspect and hope that blogs will never be as influential as journal articles or articles written for respected, if there are any left, print publications or books published under the author’s real name.

  • 2 xenomed // Jul 10, 2010 at 20:15

    Some interesting issues here.

    The stated desire of SB to include views from industry appears laudable but an individual company’s decidedly concentrated (and necessary) interest in its own success is not compatible with the needs of scientific inquiry in a more general sense. And how could any company allow its scientist-employees to blog freely about the company’s doings? All those people doubtless sign nondiclosure agreements, don’t they? And wouldn’t it hurt a company – and help its competitors – for it to divulge what it’s working on? Not to mention that if one of these company scientists let slip some suspicion that the company’s products could hurt someone it could help some plaintiff suing the company then or in the future.

    As for bloggers, it seems to me that it’s not about whether bloggers are paid but who pays them and what the condition(s) of payment, if any, may be.

  • 3 PalMD // Jul 10, 2010 at 23:20

    While I agree with you strongly that it is easy to lose a perception of independence, many blogs and bloggers are “real” writers and “real” journalists, and some of us consider ourselves somewhere in between. I can get far more reach being part of a larger network than I can on wordpress on my own, and I do not think I have to sacrifice a perception of independence.

    I wrote very critically of Pepsipocalypse, and have not lost my gig, nor do I think I will. I may walk away, but if I do so, it is for my own reasons and not because i feel my independence has been fatally wounded.

  • 4 While I’m still away at TAM8…the 100 greatest movie insults of all time | The Skeptics Resource // Jul 11, 2010 at 06:02

    […] before I get a chance to comment on it, perhaps you'd like to comment on David Colquhoun's taking me to the woodshed for not immediately dropping my association with Seed. Personally, I think his argument that […]

  • 5 gregladen // Jul 11, 2010 at 07:37

    Your thoughts and post are not very well organized, so I hope you’ll forgive me if my comments aren’t either.

    I am not a practicing university scientist nor am I a physician. A lot of Sblings (that is a blogger on Scienceblogs.com) are like me in that regard. These days, I get paid to write. One of the things I write is my blog on Scienceblogs.com. I’m sorry if you a) think I should work for free and b) think I must be biased in my writing because I am paid. I prefer to get paid for the work I do, and my biases or lack thereof are evident in my writing. It is sort of a self documenting system.

    Most of the stuff you read is produced by all sorts of people who are getting paid along the way. In non-academics, that even includes the actual writers in many cases. Photographs too. Photographers don’t, or at least shouldn’t, refuse payment because of some hypothetical bias. Many people doing many kinds of things get paid for their effort. It is not really your place to decide that certain things should be unpaid.

    You compared the BBC to ad-drenched scienceblogs. I recommend an ad blocker if the ads bother you that much. I also recommend that you look up BBC in Wikipedia or someplace. It seems to be some sort of governmental entity of some kind. Nice work there, UK … having most of your news and stuff collected, reWRITTEN (emphasis mine) and distributed to you by your government.

    (Yes, yes, that dripping you feel on your shoes is the irony coming off that last paragraph.)

    I am annoyed by many of the Sb sponsors, and in some cases I intentionally blog ‘against’ them for that very reason. (This has mainly applied to shell oil.) You may assume that what I write is influenced by seed magazine’s advertizers (though I have nothing to do with Seed, really) or Sb’s advertizers. But you would be wrong. There isn’t even a mechanism in place for that sort of influence to happen.

    If Sblings were influenced by the advertisers, then how is it that we Sblings made such a ruckus over the Shell blog that Sb lost credibility? Once you are able to explain that to yourself, you will begin to have a more realistic and nuanced understanding of how this all works.

    Which brings us to another issue: Why do you think SMG tried to implement the Pepsi blog the way it did? I think there is a knowable, describable explanation for it that decides in favor of a subset of possible reasons. I suspect (from reading your post) that you have an explanation that is leaning specifically towards the more nefarious subset of possible reasons. And, I’m convinced by the tone of your post that a reasoned argument would not change your mind. You just don’t like scienceblogs.COM (emphasis mine) and you just don’t like people getting paid for what they do.

    (Except yourself. You do your work for a salary, apparently. )

    I’m not going to give you the reasoned argument. In time, it may be that Scienceblogs figures out a way to meet the goal of bringing industry scientists to the table while managing the very obvious and very serious problem that they are obliged to say and not say certain things (though that will vary greatly from industry to industry).

  • 6 David Colquhoun // Jul 11, 2010 at 09:41

    @gregladen

    I expected that some people might not agree with me, but it’s disappointing that you feel obliged to be abusive about it.

    First a matter of fact.  If you believe that the government controls the BBC then all I can say is that you haven’t bothered to look into the matter, and/or don’t travel enough.  Do you really prefer Fox News as your unbiased source of news?

    You write almost as though I were being un-American for failing to love the ads.  I’m reminded of the Chicago Sun-Times columnist who yelled at some little girls who ran a lemonade stand for giving away the lemonade free.

    I think that if you had read what I wrote before getting so angry, you would have realised that i wasn’t talking about professional writers, but about scientists who blog in their spare time for fun. I guess that a majority of the blogs that I like best come into that category. They tend to be livelier and better informed that those from professional scicom people who are onlookers.  Scientists who blog are already paid adequately (or in the case of US physicians, generously) and they obviously don’t need the modest amount the get from people like Seed. That really only leaves the ideological argument that it is somehow ‘wrong’ to do anything for nothing.  Personally, I see nothing evil about free lemonade. "In giving drink away, girls ignore rules of economics -and sum up what’s wrong with U.S.”.

    It should also be obvious that I’m not condemning advertising outright. If I write for the BMJ or for newspapers, they have lots of ads and newspapers in particular would die without them. That would be a bad thing. But there are several differences from blogs. For a start there is good separation between ads and editorial content in journals and newspapers. Second, it is obvious that I’m not responsible for the ads, In contrast, on this site, it’s obvious that the aim is for me to be able to express my own views about things. Equally it’s obvious that if it carried ads it would be because I wanted them. I don’t and it doesn’t. Perhaps (though this is unlikely) it would be different if the Google ad software weren’t so dumb that it can’t tell which side of the argument you are on: I’d be plastered with ads for homeopaths and chiropractors.

  • 7 gregladen // Jul 11, 2010 at 11:04

    David, if I write like I think you should love the ads, then why did I say that I hate the ads? Did you read my comment?

    I happen to like the BBC and think they do fairly well for a state-sancitoned/run news agency. but still … there is that perception thing. You have, essentially, condemned all of us (rather abusively) at Scienceblogs because we are blogging on a commercial site. I may have been too subtle, but I was suggesting that the BBC can’t be trusted at all by the same standards because …. well, I think by now you must get that point.

    Yes,I did in fact read what you wrote, and I saw that you were speaking about a small range of possible writers-of-blogs, and extending that logic to all sciencebloggers. I, in turn, pointed out that you had that wrong. If you want anyone to take seriously the idea that you really meant to exclude, well, what would actually amount to almost every blogger on the planet in your post subtitled “why bloggers shouldn’t be paid” then you should have chosen a different, and less broadly abusive, title.

    “They tend to be livelier and better informed that those from professional scicom people who are onlookers.”

    I’m sure they are, but you have once again seriously narrowed down the range of bloggers that you are talking about (either lovingly or abusively) For instance, I don’t fall into the professional scicom category either, and again, only a few sciencebloggers do.

    “It should also be obvious that I’m not condemning advertising outright.”

    If that is what you meant to say then, yes, it should have been made obvious. I, myself, have totally condemned advertisement, but I know that in some areas we have to live with it. Unless you want to be a monk or something until the rest of the world fixes itself and goes totally OpenSource/OpenAccess.

    “For a start there is good separation between ads and editorial content in journals and newspapers.”

    We have a perfect separation between ads and editorial contents in science blogs. This even goes to the extent that Sblings have no idea how the whole stupid ad thing works or even who does it.

    “Second, it is obvious that I’m not responsible for the ads, In contrast, on this site, it’s obvious that the aim is for me to be able to express my own views about things.”

    Yeah, that’s us to, exactly. Except when we notice some extra nasty or horrific ad and we complain and they get rid of it .

    “Equally it’s obvious that if it carried ads it would be because I wanted them. I don’t and it doesn’t. ”

    In order to be disassociated with ads, one would not want to blog as scienceblogs.com, because even though we meet the first two criteria, alas, not your third dictum of purity.

    “I’d be plastered with ads for homeopaths and chiropractors.”

    We had that problem, and we fixed it. Google ad software can work properly but first you have to get Google’s attention.

    Anyway, I’m glad we’ve had a chance to clarify this. Your blog post was only saying that professional active full time scientists (as in academics and research scientists at universities or other institutions) and active full time physicians should not get paid to blog.

    I’m fine with that. Orac, PalMD, DrugMonkey, PZ Myers, others like them at science blogs should not be paid. The rest of us can be paid.

    Yesss!!!!!!! Finally, a plan to split up PZ’s fortune!!!!1!! Bwahahaha!!!!

  • 8 ellieban // Jul 11, 2010 at 11:19

    Wow. Greg Laden really has gotten his knickers in a twist hasn’t he? That’s a pity, because I think he raised a valid point, which he has rather marred by throwing ignorant insults around that show he clearly doesn’t understand a lot about that of which he speaks. I occasionally follow Greg’s blog, IMO, he is not in a position to be criticising this one for the quality of its content.

    The ads on Sciblogs are annoying in that they are often for quack cures, that is a shame. It would be better if Sciblogs had some sort of ethics filter that ensured the ad revenue was secured from sources that apply the same high standards of evidence and truth to themselves as the bloggers at the site do. That said, as long as it doesn’t interfere with what is in the middle column, I do not have a big problem with a site like that making itself viable with ad revenue and, as Greg points out, you can always install an ad blocker so you don’t have to have your eyes abused by them.

    Sciblogs have crossed a very serious line with the Dow chemicals story though, and I hope that one becomes more widely known; it is FAR worse than Pepsigeddon in every way.

    As for bloggers being paid to write; if Sciblogs have a bit of spare cash left after the ad revenue is in and they see fit to pass that onto the people supplying content, good for them! Blogging provides a very important service to the world, and if those doing it can make a bit of extra pocket money to keep them in the game, then so much the better.

    As long as, as you point out, there is a separation between the editorial content and the ads I don’t see any problem and I do not see why blogs are any different in that regard. Sciblogs organise the ads, they do not (or, at least, I used to believe they did not) try and influence the content of individual blogs. Meanwhile, the bloggers carry on writing whatever suits them with no influence over where the revenue comes from. To my mind, there is really no different between Seed and the sales department of a newspaper.

    It’s not perfect, and there’s always a risk that someone will abuse the system, but if that’s what we have to have to get all those great bloggers in one place, then, for now, I am of the opinion that the benefits outweigh the costs.

  • 9 jdc // Jul 11, 2010 at 12:10

    You compared the BBC to ad-drenched scienceblogs. I recommend an ad blocker if the ads bother you that much. I also recommend that you look up BBC in Wikipedia or someplace. It seems to be some sort of governmental entity of some kind. Nice work there, UK … having most of your news and stuff collected, reWRITTEN (emphasis mine) and distributed to you by your government.

    Was your distortion of the nature of the BBC deliberate (and done for rhetorical effect) or are you guilty of writing about something of which you lack understanding? If you genuinely believe that the government are responsible for the content the BBC produces, I suggest you look up “Andrew Gilligan” – he, and other BBC reporters, have on occasion caused the British government quite some discomfort. This might be of interest to you: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3082323.stm

    I’m left uncertain as to whether that dripping I feel on my shoes is irony or paranoia. Perhaps you could clarify?

  • 10 David Colquhoun // Jul 11, 2010 at 12:32

    @gregladen
    Fair enough. Anyone for whom $150/month is a matter of life and death is welcome to the money.

    I hadn’t really noticed Scienceblogs existence at all before this came up, and have only just noticed that PZ Myers is there too. I started reading him regularly after the marvellously irreverent piece about “It’s only a frackin’ cracker”, but I have noticed rather a lot of posts with rather little content. Is this a way to maximise income?

  • 11 Margaret // Jul 11, 2010 at 14:52

    David,

    I agree with you. It all seems rather obvious to me.

    @gregladen
    Any research on the BBC? Hope your paid-for homeowork is more thorough before you hit the keyboard!

    This guy had a great time working for the BBC and I had a ‘great time’ watching this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUc24oOGPyo and this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjaguXX3GfE

    Oilmen giving out health advice! Democracy!

    Now, where is that Mark Thomas book on soft drinks and money? I’m off to re-read it.

  • 12 LizDitz // Jul 11, 2010 at 21:12

    I agree that Pepsigeddon was a terrible mistake on the part of Seed managment. I think Abel Pharmboy of Terra Sigillata had the best initial response:

    http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/2010/07/pepsico_blog_food_frontiers_is.php

    You ask

    I’m baffled. Why is it that beautiful, high quality blogs like Orac’s Respectful Insolence, wanted to be on a commercially-run site in the first place?

    Part One:
    There’s one simple answer for blogs that address anti-vaccination issues: Presence on Google News.

    Age of Autism (a group blog that despite its name focuses almost exclusively on “vaccine injury” and “autism as vaccine injury” is listed as a news source by Google News, and has been since 2008.

    I can’t now find the source as to when ScienceBlogs became indexed, but I think it was after Age of Autism.

    Part Two (which is related):

    As far as I know, in terms of search engine rankings, being part of ScienceBlogs gives each individual blog the same status as the most influential blog that’s part of ScienceBlogs. This gives more niche or less popular blogs (like Terra Sigillata or The Pump Handle) a degree of visibility they wouldn’t otherwise have.

    I suppose I’ve trained myself to ignore the ads on ScienceBlogs, as I can’t say I even notice them. For me as a reader the tradeoff (some ads vs. greater visibility) is worth it.

  • 13 gregladen // Jul 12, 2010 at 01:42

    Well, DC, I think you and your improbably commenters are rather willfully missing my point, and I love the part where where I’m told in mean and snarky terms to not be mean and snarky. Quite an interesting subculture you’ve got going on here.

    Anyway, since this conversation is going nowhere, I thought I’d point you to my recent post on this.

    http://tinyurl.com/277kv8n

    Even you, after reading this, will probably have to understand that when I say five or six times that I hate the adverts too, that means that I hate the adverts too.

  • 14 David Colquhoun // Jul 12, 2010 at 11:08

    @gregladen
    Thanks for the link -it’s an interesting post, and I agree with much of it. But it is not quite what i was talking about here.

  • 15 ellieban // Jul 13, 2010 at 04:41

    @gregladen

    Please give some examples of mean and snarky comments aimed at you.

    All I can see is several people calling you on your rather ill-judged and ignorant attack on the BBC, which you followed with a somewhat cowardly retraction. Apart from that, on the major issues of bloggers getting paid to blog and adverts on SB, the majority of commenters actually seem to be agreeing with you.

    Haven’t you read the other comments? That would be amusing considering not reading comments is one of the accusations you made of DC. Accusing people who are actually agreeing with you of “wilfully missing [the] point” is a touch foolish (what is an ‘improbably commenter’ by the way?).

    I see nothing in DC’s original post that is offensive towards SB bloggers. Controversial? Yes. Confrontational? Probably. Inflammatory? Maybe. But not abusive. The only person I have really seen being abusive on this page is you.

    As for my opinion that DC is a better writer than you, that is my opinion and I stand by it. Perhaps I’m mean and snarky for expressing it in an open forum, but this is the Internets; people tell the cold hard truth here. If you can’t take it, get out of blogging.

    If no-one tells you when you are missing your mark, how can you improve? Nothing you have written here has done anything to improve the view your own blog had given me of you as a writer or as a person. You could reach many more people if you dusted that hefty chip off your shoulder and stopping seeing every criticism made of you as a personal attack.

    For the record, my first post appears below yours chronologically, but we were writing at the same time, so I didn’t get to see your second post before mine was published. This is the first time I have ever visited DC’s blog, does that make me part of the ‘subculture’ or not?

    @DC

    You raise an interesting question about PZ’s blogging style. It is possible his page views are inflated by making lots of short, content light posts, but personally I doubt very much that is a deliberate money-spinning scheme.

    His posts are separated by their topics and if he amalgamated the short ones, it wouldn’t work as well. Occasional light posts are a part of blogging and PZ’s readers seem to like the variety.

    He enjoys an astronomical readership and, consequently, if he uses one of his short entries to suggest his readers visit another blog, it gives an enormous boost to that sites readership. I have benefitted from this largesse twice now and it provides a valuable service to small-time bloggers who would otherwise find it very hard to get known.

    On the whole, I think PZ deserves the amount of money he makes from SBs; his writing is that much more popular than everyone else’s because it is that much more enjoyable.

    I hesitate to say ‘better written”, because Orac is, as you say, an excellent blogger, but PZ’s lighter posts tend to make him more accessible and readable and provide a route in to reading the heavier stuff without overloading people.

    An aside: the words in my captcha are “fetid dump” :)

  • 16 why should professional science blogs be taboo? « weird things // Jul 13, 2010 at 05:30

    […] Pepsi’s attempt to buy a blog on the network, skeptic and alt med watchdog, David Colquhoun, wrote a gentle rebuke to science bloggers who get paid to blog, arguing that the publicity alone should be enough and that the money generated by being in a […]

  • 17 Dudeistan // Jul 13, 2010 at 17:08

    A few points about the BBC.

    Firstly, it does run ads (of a kind). Over the last ten years programmes have been commissioned to run a little shorter so that the BBC has more time to advertise future shows or programmes, i.e. its own ads.

    Secondly, its independence from the UK government should be in no doubt as highlighted prior the recent UK general election, when Tory MPs quite openly talked about reigning in in the BBC because it didn’t support Tory values (also because the Tories wanted to suck up to Murdoch who would like to see the BBC completely disbanded).

    As for paid bloggers, I have no problem if the site concerned is transparent and makes it clear any commercial arrangements, however small.

  • 18 David Colquhoun // Jul 13, 2010 at 19:17

    @Dudeistan
    It may also puzzle US readers that the BBC’s North America service does run real advert. While in Buffalo I recall seeing appalling adverts for some quack pet remedy on the BBC channel.

    The fact that the BBC is regularly attacked by all governments is surely tribute to its independence. No attack could have been more vicious, and more unjustified, that that of Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell in the wake of the death of Dr David Kelly. That did some real, but temporary damage to the BBC. In the long run, I suspect, the greater danger comes from Tories who would like to see it change into Fox News, the ultimate parody of appalling broadcasting.

    Concerning payment I can only repeat rosemary in the first comment. “Call me naive, but I was surprised to learn that they were paid”. I had no idea either, though it turns out to be so little as not to matter much. I suppose one assumes journalists are paid, but it would have seemed a bit odd if my obituary for the late great Bernard Katz in the Independent had been labelled “DC was paid £250 for this obituary” (call me naive again, but I’d supposed it was a labour of love and the payment came as a shock to me).

  • 19 Dudeistan // Jul 13, 2010 at 22:38

    @David Colquhoun
    I forgot about the Dr Kelly debacle. Interesting how Campbell ran straight to Channel 4 News to get a his pennyworth in.

    There is no doubt that Murdoch’s influence is corrosive. The split between the right and left in both the US and the UK is testament to his corrosive money spinning shenanigans (its even indirectly infected the French media).

    But it starts with small corruption and lack of transparency and maybe that is why we need to be have clear guidelines as to what is unpaid free speech as opposed to (i) a small renumeration and (ii) competitive commercialisation.

    It’s not that small fees are not kosher, but where do you draw the line between what is reasonable renumeration and exploitation?

  • 20 rork // Jul 15, 2010 at 15:32

    Maybe the money paid to bloggers isn’t that much, but shouldn’t they disclose how much it is, and what the formula is? I’ve never seen it mentioned in a single disclaimer, and in matters of science, find that shocking.
    Until I know the amount, I will be somewhat worried that it biases content toward more sensational matters. (I am suspicious of such bias, but perhaps it is caused by desire to be popular, rather than the money.) Saying it’s a small amount or not influential is not the same as saying how much it is. Also, I do not want to help fill the pockets of crappy writers.

    Aside: For scientists spending a good deal of time and getting paid for blogging, I am curious how their institution feels about it. Mine would not tolerate the commitment I presume is required by some of the writers I read, if I took money for it. (As one’s position in the institution rises, it may be more tolerated, finally ending in conflicted-to-pieces.) Does one hide the effort from the institution?

  • 21 David Colquhoun // Jul 15, 2010 at 19:55

    @rork

    The question of time is interesting. I certainly would not have had time to write this blog when I was doing full time science and running a group.

    As so often, ‘management’ is confused. On one hand we are encouraged to do “public engagement”. On the other hand we are told we must publish vast numbers of papers, teach etc etc. And then, to add insult to injury, the wellbeing gurus tell us we must have work-life balance (post coming up on that topic soon).

    In some cases, though, staff have been told explicitly or implicitly that the purpose of public engagement is to put the institution in a good light. That is every bit as corrupting as a bit of pocket money.

  • 22 The PepsiGate linkfest « A Blog Around The Clock // Jul 18, 2010 at 19:46

    […] David Colquhoun […]

  • 23 Ronanthebarbarian // Jul 20, 2010 at 17:07

    David

    What do you mean by:

    ‘together with the crisis in peer review’

    What’s going wrong with peer review? Any links or interesting commentaries on this ?
    Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Ronan

  • 24 David Colquhoun // Jul 20, 2010 at 20:02

    @Ronanthebarbarian

    I mean that, because far too many papers are submitted, the load of work on comptetent reviewers has become quite impossible. The result of that is that many reviewere are done by people who really aren’t very critical. And that is why just about any paper can get published in some “peer-reviewed” journal or anothers

    To take an extreme example, Pubmed lists at least 60 alt med journals, all of which, no doubt, claim to be peer reviewed, but which publish mostly the same old delusional fantasies (peer reviwed by other delusional fantasists)

  • 25 Ronanthebarbarian // Jul 21, 2010 at 15:31

    OK. Thanks for that. If you feel like a blog piece about it I’ll look forward to it.

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