Edward Archer of the University of South Carolina, lead author of a scathing examination of U.S. federally-funded nutrition research, has written an even more scathing editorial in The Scientist (here) (H/t Margaret Wente of the Toronto Globe and Mail here.)
We may be witnessing the confluence of two inherent components of the human condition: incompetence and self-interest
And while the self-correcting nature of science necessitates failure, the vast majority of nutrition’s failures were engendered by a complete lack of familiarity with the scientific method.
Rather than training graduate students in the scientific method, and allowing their research to serve the needs of society, the field’s leaders choose to train their mentees to serve only their own professional needs—namely, to obtain grant funding and publish their research.
But by not training mentees in the basics of science and skepticism, the nutrition field has fostered the use of measures that are so profoundly dissonant with scientific principles that they will never yield a definitive conclusion. As such, we now have multiple generations of nutrition researchers who dominate federal nutrition research and the peer review of that work, but lack the critical thinking skills necessary to critique or conduct sound scientific research.
The subjective data yielded by poorly formulated nutrition studies are also the perfect vehicle to perpetuate a never-ending cycle of ambiguous findings leading to ever-more federal funding.
Archer culminates with the following allegation (going much further than any of my comparatively mild critiques of climate scientists):
Perhaps more importantly, to waste finite health research resources on pseudo-quantitative methods and then attempt to base public health policy on these anecdotal “data” is not only inane, it is willfully fraudulent… The fact that nutrition researchers have known for decades that these techniques are invalid implies that the field has been perpetrating fraud against the US taxpayers for more than 40 years—far greater than any fraud perpetrated in the private sector (e.g., the Enron and Madoff scandals).
The study was not funded by the U.S. federal government, but by an “unrestricted research grant” from Coca-Cola.
This study was funded via an unrestricted research grant from The Coca-Cola Company. The sponsor of the study had no role in the study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report.
I wonder if federally-funded nutrition scientists will respond with attacks on the Coke Brothers.