Blessings & Thanks to Merry for compiling this before it went missing from the World Wide Web
Early origins of TASSC / Junk Science PR
Mickey Edwards (Chairman)
Kennedy School of Government
Dr. James Steele
Prof. Emeritus, School of Public Health
University of Texas
Dr. Bruce Ames
Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
University of California Dr. Michael Gough
Director, Science and Risk Studies
Honorable Clayton Yeutter
Hogan & Hartson Dr. Alice Ottoboni
California Department of Public Health (Retired)
Dr. John D. Graham
Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Dr. Frederick Seitz
The Rockefeller University
The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) is a not-for-profit
organization advocating the use of sound science in public policy
decision making. Its membership includes scientists, academicians,
former public officials and representatives from business and
TASSC members believe science that is used to guide public policy
decisions should be based on sound principles not on emotions or
beliefs considered by some as politically acceptable. Too often,
public policy decisions that are based on inadequate science impose
enormous economic costs and other hardships on consumers, businesses
and government. Furthermore, these decisions may fail to protect the
public's health and safety.
TASSC's Role Is To:
Design a set of principles to help guide the application and use of
good science in public policy.
Inform public officials, the media and the general public about the
consequences of inappropriate science through focusing attention on
current examples of unsound government research used to guide policy
Establish an educational outreach program to communicate the
importance of applying sound scientific standards to public policy
decisions and the costs to society resulting from science that is
manipulated to achieve political objectives.
Anticipate when science should be used to help support public policy
decisions and offer resources to ensure that sound scientific
principles are applied.
THE ADVANCEMENT OF SOUND SCIENCE COALITION
THREE YEARS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
A Solid Foundation of Knowledge, Experience
To assure the organization operates on the basis of a firm grounding
in common sense and reason, TASSC established an Advisory Board
including eight noted opinion leaders from the scientific, academic
and policy-making communities. The Board is chaired by former Oklahoma
Congressman Mickey Edwards. Board members include: Dr. Bernadine
Healy, former director of the National Institutes of Health, and now
Dean of The Ohio State University Medical School; Dr. Bruce Ames,
professor at the University of California at Berkeley; Dr. John
Graham, director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis; Dr.
Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences;
Michael Fumento, author of Science Under Siege; Dr. Lester Lave,
professor of economics, Carnegie Mellon University; Dr. Alice
Ottoboni, retired toxicologist; and the Honorable Clayton Yeutter,
former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Highlighting Responsible, Constructive Uses of Scientific Data
As part of an ongoing effort to call attention to the use of sound
scientific data in the public policy arena, TASSC conducted a
conference in Columbus, Ohio, highlighting the city's innovative
program to respond to and manage regional environmental challenges.
More than 100 participants attended the event, Cooperation -- Not
Confrontation, which focused on Columbus' successful effort to engage
community stakeholders in the local policy making process. The
speakers included national, state and local policy makers and TASSC
Advisory Board members Dr. Fred Seitz and Dr. Bernadine Healy.
Setting the Record Straight on Silicone Breast Implant Issues
TASSC conducted a roundtable meeting on the use of junk science by
lawyers to meet one of our most important aims -- demonstrating the
negative impact the use of junk science can have on important public
policy debates. The round table meeting focused on the use of junk
science by lawyers pressing silicone breast implant litigation. The
coalition brought together 10 experts -- rheumatologists,
immunologists and epidemiologists, among others -- to examine how
TASSC can best educate the public and the media about the lack of
sound science linking silicone breast implants to disease. Following
the round table meeting, TASSC initiated an ambitious media outreach
effort on this issue.
Combating Unfounded Scares
It is often difficult for the public and the news media to get at the
scientific facts. To help, TASSC brought together 10 scientists to
produce a fact sheet, What Scientists Are Saying, in reference to the
book Our Stolen Future. TASSC was concerned that news media coverage
of the book would prompt an unnecessary public health scare. The
statements provided by toxicologists, endocrinologists and others
attracted significant media interest.
Facts, Not Fear
TASSC launched a national Facts, Not Fear campaign to highlight the
worst examples of health-related distortions and distractions each
year, and to award kudos for the best news coverage of sound science.
TASSC also commissioned a study on how the news media cover scientific
issues and granted the following awards: "Media Manipulation Award" to
the Center for Science in the Public Interest Deli Study; "Vindication
of Science Award" to Silicone Breast Implants; "Fabricated Health
Crisis Award" to Norplant; "Potential Exaggerated Scare of 1996 Award"
to Electromagnetic Fields; and "Sound Science in Journalism Award" to
New York Times Reporter Gina Kolata.
Concerns of the Scientific Community
In recent years, scientists have become increasingly concerned about
the manipulation of scientific data in public policy debates. To
highlight the concerns, TASSC commissioned a poll in 1994 of
non-member scientists and medical doctors. According to the results,
62 percent believed public confidence in scientific research has
decreased in the last 10 years, and 83 percent agreed policy makers
use science to achieve their personal policy goals on controversial
TASSC Speaks Out
As part of the effort to inform the public and the news media, TASSC
scientists and members have written a series of opinion articles that
have been published in newspapers around the country. Each participant
wrote about the risk assessment portion of the regulatory reform
debate that was taking place on Capitol Hill.
Focus on the News Media
During the most critical phase of the debate over regulatory reform,
TASSC commissioned Dr. Robert Entman, professor of communication at
North Carolina State University to look at the way the media was
covering this issue. According to the final report, there was a
three-to-one imbalance in negative assertions about reform. The media
coverage of the Congressional debate over regulatory reform slanted
clearly against the regulatory revisions. Study results were mentioned
by then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole during deliberations of
regulatory reform legislation.
Joining Policy Debates
In June 1994, TASSC called on the Environmental Protection Agency not
to mandate the use of ethanol in reformulated gasoline because the
scientific data do not support such a decision. Joining TASSC Chairman
Garrey Carruthers at a Washington, D.C., news conference was Dr.
Donald Stedman of the University of Denver who agreed that the
scientific evidence does not exist for the EPA to base its mandate for
ethanol on the provisions of the Clean Air Act. Ultimately, the U.S.
Court of Appeals rejected the EPA ruling.
Challenging Junk Science and Special Interest Groups
CSPI -- Food Police Scares
TASSC responded to a report released by the Center for Science in the
Public Interest (CSPI) which said that butter, sausage and eggs are
high in fat. TASSC issued a statement, including a comment by TASSC
scientist Dr. Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute
at the University of Wisconsin, that "at a time when responsible
nutritionists are working to educate the public about the complexities
and importance of balance in our diets, CSPI is trying to make
everything look simplistic and one-sided."
Environmental Working Group -- Pesticide Study
In the summer of 1995, the Environmental Working Group released
studies on the amount of pesticides in baby foods and issued a warning
against drinking tap water. Both demonstrated that organization's
priority to seek publicity, rather than be concerned about the
soundness of their findings, according to TASSC and Dr. Bruce Ames,
professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and director of the
National Institute of Environmental Health Science Center at the
University of California at Berkeley; and Dr. Roy Spalding, director
of the Water Science Laboratory, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Nader's Dirty Dozen
Ralph Nader and the Cancer Prevention Coalition published a book to
coincide with the release of his "Dirty Dozen" list of household
products that contain carcinogenic and other toxic ingredients. TASSC
Chairman Dr. Garrey Carruthers, along with Dr. Bruce Ames, and Dr.
Michael Kamrin, professor at the Institute of Environmental Toxicology
at Michigan State University, noted that the public learned nothing
about preventing cancer and that Nader and his allies hold press
conferences such as these regularly to ride the popularity of many
brand names so they can garner some publicity at the expense of
offering views based on sound science to the public.
Supporting Sound Science
Pressure on consumers to boycott dairy products made with
bio-engineered growth hormones is a disservice to the institution of
sound science. That was the message from TASSC Chairman Garrey
Carruthers and three scientists when TASSC spoke out on the BST issue
in early 1994. Joining Dr. Carruthers were Dr. Manfred Kroger,
professor of food science at Penn State University; Dr. Margaret
Maxey, professor of bioethics at the University of Texas at Austin;
and Floy Lilley, charter member of the Advisory Council of the
National Education Forum on Food Safety Issues.
Flavr Savr Tomato
TASSC praised the decision by the Food and Drug Administration and
Calgene to assure that a genetically engineered tomato is safe for
consumers. This was an instance where a corporation went above and
beyond the regulatory guidelines to ensure the safety of its product.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Steve Milloy
Media Reports Slanted Against Regulatory Reform Efforts, Study Shows
(Washington, DC -- July 7, 1995) Media coverage of the Congressional
debate over environmental regulatory reform slants "clearly against
the regulatory revisions," according to a study released today by The
Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC).
"While some outlets refer in favorable terms to the general idea of
reform, most devote far greater space and time to denouncing the
specific legislation calling for rigorous application of risk and cost
benefit analysis," according to the study, conducted by Dr. Robert M.
Entman, Professor of Communication, North Carolina State University
and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, University of North Carolina
"This study demonstrates once again that the media, whether it is
consciously aware of it or not, is portraying important, scientific
issues in the same 'who's up, who's down' play by play style of
reporting that they use in describing political campaigns or football
games. While all stories deserve more balanced treatment, stories
involving science cry for more fair reporting," said Dr. Garrey
Carruthers, Chairman of TASSC, a national organization of scientists,
researchers, academicians and others.
The most striking finding in Dr. Entman's study is the "negative
imbalance in covering the proposed reform legislation." Dr. Entman
said that there was a three-to-one negative imbalance in news stories
about reform. Fully 74 percent of paragraphs that evaluated the
reforms were critical. On editorial pages, criticism reached 87
percent, a seven-to-one negative ratio. Among his other findings:
70 percent of the stories on the commercial television networks
Weekly magazines surveyed also were 70 percent critical.
Certain key words function to reinforce negative impressions. For
example, the word "lobby" or related words show up 10 times as often
when referring to those supporting reform as those opposing it, even
though both sides are lobbying the Congress.
Headlines, which frame the audience's emotional response to the
content of the story, were often emotional or slanted opposed to the
reform ideas. For example, Time magazine's "Congressional Chain Saw
Massacre" or Newsday's "GOP Frenzy Is Gutting Safety Rules."
Visual images portrayed supporters of reform as enemies of the
environment. For example, scenes of industrial plants with numerous
pipes and tanks; smokestacks spewing smoke; a large bulldozer. Viewers
were repeatedly exposed to "archetypal images of pollution and
danger," the report states, images likely to "stir negative emotions
While analysis of the "why" of this media slant was beyond the scope
of Dr. Entman's study, the report says, "reasons go beyond the
standard interpretation of liberal bias. They include the media's
tendency to oversimplify; journalists' lack of training in policy
analysis; and the commercial incentives that news organizations
interpret as requiring appeals to emotion over cognition."
Dr. Carruthers said TASSC commissioned the study because "we want to
offer information on how scientific issues are communicated to the
public as another means of ensuring that only sound science is used in
making public policy decisions."
"Too often, legislation or regulations are the result of political
decisions, where the science does not back up the action. One way to
better understand this phenomena is to understand how the media
portray scientific issues. TASSC is committed to pointing out not only
when unsound science is used to make a decision, but also to point out
the media's important role in the public's understanding of science
and research," Carruthers said.
To conduct his study, Dr. Entman examined 29 major newspapers across
Time, Newsweek and the three broadcast network evening news programs.
Stories reviewed included those published or broadcast between
November 1, 1994 and May 11, 1995.