Imagine a scenario where a group of people get together to frame the debate about science and even set out to conspiratorially place papers in highly-respected journals, selecting the ideal names to have on the paper and which publications would be most likely to publish it.

It must be those evil corporate chemical shills again, right?

Not this time, it was the International Workshop On Neonicotinoids in 2010 and it explains a lot about how the anti-science contingent has managed to maintain so much mindshare in media: they know how to work the system and created a 4-year plan to do just that.

The meeting notes start off as you expect - how to use Haber's Rule in order to force risk assessment using the US National Research Council's “Red Book” (NRC, 1983) guidelines for studying possible health effects of chemicals on humans and ecosystems. Haber's Rule says that multiplying the same concentration of a chemical compound by the same duration of exposure will yield the same biological response.

Environmentalists love to believe this, because it means that really low levels of any pesticide could be harmful over time, it just isn't true and never has been. In a study of 21 well-known chemicals the lowest observed adverse effect levels (LOAEL) using sub-acute, sub-chronic and chronic durations showed that the value of p, assumed to be 1 in risk assessment methodology, wasn't 1 for any of the chemicals. It's certainly Haber's Guideline For Environmental Activism, but not really a science rule and that is why impartial scientists say it shouldn't be used systematically for risk assessment in public health decision-making, like banning products. Instead, actual studies should be done that are not reviews of other papers.

Regardless, invoking Haber's Rule is just one approach in A time-honored strategy to manipulate science to achieve a political goal. This strategy has worked since the 1960s and I present it to you here, free of charge - because I do not work for an environmental corporation or anyone else so they can't pay me for it:

STEP 1: Get An Environmental Organization To Fund It 

Science in the modern era is done by having a hypothesis and getting someone to pay for the work. Scientists fronting environmental groups know it saves a lot of time to flip that around and get the money first, then create the studies to match the conclusion.

In this instance, they got the International Union for Conservation of Nature and its Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides to foot the bill. You may not have heard of IUCN but they are the world's first  - and largest - global environmental organization, with over 1,000 employees in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in government and NGOs. 

Since IUCN has relationships with all of the other NGOs the conspirators assumed they could get a few friendly groups to pile on after they created the studies condemning neonicotinoids. As shown in Step 4, their secret plan was to get the the World Wildlife Fund (WWF - a non-chemophobe heavyweight) to lend its support.

STEP 2: With Funding In Place, Create A Task Force To Write A Paper

The Secret Activism Recipe:

(a) Be first to publish an incendiary paper so that it will be high impact . It's good for the journal, journals love popular articles, and good for the cause.
(b) Choose the authors carefully from among the true believers but then include a bunch of other names in the section between the first and senior author to look international and interdisciplinary.  You know, like a consensus.
(c) Publish other lower-caliber papers right afterward to support the high-impact paper. You don't want them appearing before the paper with the Big Names you recruit.

This document is courtesy of Dr. Henk Tennekes, who is one of environmentalism's hand-picked critics of neonics and who has rabidly defended a non-expert, Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu, about shoddy neonics claims here on Science 2.0. The comments are his and he was kind enough to post it on the Internet as is, so we can see how they set out to get neonics banned.

They created a committee to map out papers to promote an environmental agenda using science as a "beard". They made sure to remember to include someone "experienced in high-impact publishing" because science is not really the goal, media attention is. Nature can't be happy they were only the second choice for planted stories about environmental hysteria.

STEP 3: Use The Papers To Legitimize A New Funding Campaign

In the 1980s, one seedy section of the stock market became famous for doing what land speculators had mastered in the past - selling swampland in Florida at a profit. With penny stocks, low-priced securities, brokerages modernized the scam and would get a group of 4 to 7 trusted insiders together, buy a stock, sell it to the next company in the chain and so on. Finally, the last company would sell it at the absolute highest price to its customers and the earlier brokerages would dump the stock from their house accounts and get rich. Then the stock plummeted after all of the sales. They took turns robbing their customers this way so no one company ever had a really bad track record.

What environmental groups are doing is instead Penny Stock Environmentalism. Someone writes a paper claiming Product X is harmful and throws in talk about p values and endocrine disruption, a bunch of other people endorse it and then donors for an NGO foot the bill after a snazzy fundraising campaign.

By writing papers citing each other they get media attention and when the claims appear enough times on enough environmental sites - bolstered by newspaper coverage now - that it shows up in the first 10 results of Google search, the science is settled and it's time to raise some dough.

STEP 4: Use The Funding Campaign To Pay Lobbyists To Talk To Politicians, Citing The Paper As Proof

In their 4-year plan, the conspirators note that once they have a study or two saying something suitably damaging, they can get other NGOs to pile on. Maarten Bijleveld, a founding member of WWF in the Netherlands and one of the co-authors of the strategy plan, is likely the one who wrote 
If we are successful in getting these two papers published, there will be enormous impact, and a campaign led by WWF etc could be launched right away.
What is strange is that in their corporate conspiracy fantasy, they think chemical companies know what they are doing and will respond quickly:
A stronger scientific basis for the campaign will hopefully mean a shorter campaign. In any case, this is going to take time, because the chemical industry will throw millions into a lobbying exercise.
If Big Chemical were that smart, would they be kicked around by a dozen activists who created a 4-year strategy and even published it on the Internet so corporations could read it and have time to prepare? 

Corporations are absolutely clueless about how to win against the emotional claims of anti-science groups. Do they end up spending millions? Sure, once the damage is done, but the people proactively preparing the battlefield are the environmentalists, not companies. While I was writing this, an employee at Ogilvy, a $16 billion company, which is getting paid by Intel, a $53 billion company, to engage in social media, wrote me and asked me to write about Intel for free.

That is the kind of dopey strategy corporations have. 

Environmentalists know how things really get done. You get someone to go all Rachel Carson and a modern version of Joni Mitchell or Midnight Oil will write songs about the cause and bans will just happen. Politicians are not in the science business, they are in the anecdote business. Teary stories about dead bees in the Congressional Record count for a lot more than evidence.
It will be much harder for politicians to ignore a research paper and a Policy Forum paper in Science.
This is certainly true, and that is the goal - not accurate science or protecting the public. As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal, over a decade ago a crafty researcher had managed to get his paper hand-walked through Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) publication by getting an Academy member who is his friend to submit it and get it published with barely even an editorial review. The paper contained no data, a suspect methodology and the results have not been reproduced, but it accomplished its goal: The EPA was mobilized to re-investigate the herbicide that was targeted because the National Academy of Sciences was prestigious and politicians wanted to know if boy frogs were becoming girls.

The result: Years of time wasted by EPA scientists and millions of dollars in taxpayer money lost that could have been spent actually examining real environmental issues. Yet the paper is still cited by anti-science activists, who fly the author around to high schools on all-expenses paid junkets to promote fear and doubt about chemicals, because they know how propaganda works: Get to them young and they will most likely still believe when they are old enough to donate.

The roadmap for banning neonics was written in 2010. How did they do?  I couldn't find papers by the conspirators in Science or Nature, which was their goal, so no plan is perfect. Yet they were able, as David Zaruk, adjunct professor at Vesalius College and Facultés Universitaires St-Louis and part of the team that created GreenFacts to encourage evidence-based decision-making about science in the EU, notes, to get neonics banned in the EU 16 months ahead of their timetable. And in the US, the Democrats who have written the EPA calling for a ban all cited the IUCN, even though scientists agree that bees are not dying off, but that the blip in deaths that happened was not caused by neonics.

That's got to be placed in the Win column for environmental groups, even though Zaruk notes that WWF never took the bait. Even without WWF helping, if this group was ever seriously worried about pesticide companies 'dumping millions' into lobbying, it was unfounded. 

If chemical companies actually were as savvy as environmental corporations, someone would be in a boardroom right now, talking about their 4-year plan and me: "That Hank Campbell guy will write about actual science and evidence, even if we are an evil corporation. We should send him a Starbucks gift card or something."

But they are not doing that. When it comes to public relations and manipulating media for their own gain, environmentalists beat private sector companies hands down.


The following can't really be rules because they don't appear in strategic 4-year plans, but they are worth keeping in mind, so if you are from an environmental strategic marketing group and happen to be reading this, you are welcome.

Addendum 1: Peer Review Means Whatever We Want It To Mean

You can get the stamp of peer review approval from an august collection of experts for a Master's thesis now??? You can if you say the right things about a chemical.

And then...
Prof. Ramade complemented Tessa van Dijk on the important result obtained by proving the direct influence of the neonicotionoid insecticide imidacloprid on Diptera abundance. He considered it to be an excellent piece of work and important to be published.
It hadn't even been published but it already had the stamp of peer review. I am surprised astrologers have not figured out this technique; they could be in the Science section of the New York Times talking about Pisces and Libra if they just learned how to do peer review the way environmental activists do.

Addendum 2: Good Laboratory Practice is the enemy

If a study actually followed Good Laboratory Practice, dismiss it as "industry funded." 

Addendum 3: Cite my paper

Let's not forget that we need to grease the wheels by citing the right papers, especially if the commenter wrote them: