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PLOS now engaging in blatant scientific censorship in order to bury evidence of Monsanto's corruption of the scientific community


(NaturalNews) In mid-August, the community blog PLOS Biology, which is administered by the journal Public Library of Science (PLOS), published a peer-reviewed post by two journalists arguing in favor of increased transparency by scientists, including public scrutiny of their emails, to make sure that they are engaging in intellectual honesty. The post referenced a recent case in which a freedom of information request revealed that a pro-biotech scientist who claimed to have "nothing to do with Monsanto" had actually received $25,000 from the company.

Following intense objections by this scientist, Kevin Folta of the University of Florida, the blog eventually pulled the initial post.

Backlash against public scrutiny

The post in question, which was published on August 13, was authored by journalists Charles Seife and Paul Thacker. It criticizes a recent backlash against transparency in science, noting a recent series of articles in the New England Journal of Medicine "questionin[ing] whether conflict-of-interest policing [has] gone too far" and a recent campaign by the Union of Concerned Scientists decrying the "bullying" of scientists with open-access requests.

Arguing for the importance of such requests, Seife and Thacker note several recent cases in which transparency requests served the public interest. Among these, they cite a recent article in Nature about Folta's ties to Monsanto. "The story noted that the researcher has received money from Monsanto to fund expenses incurred while giving educational talks on GMOs. The article also noted that the PR Firm Ketchum had provided the scientist with canned answers to respond to GMO critics, although it is unclear if he used them," they wrote.

Seife and Thacker note that even the Nature article did not reveal the full picture; for example, it failed to mention an email that Folta sent to Monsanto titled "CONFIDENTIAL: Coalition Update," in which he offered suggestions on ways to defeat a GMO labeling campaign in Colorado.

On August 17, the authors published a correction, fixing two minor factual errors in the original post and clarifying that Folta did not necessarily write the title of the "confidential" email. They also asked PLOS to post the entire email chain to allow readers to draw their own conclusions from it.

Article pulled over hurt feelings?

Starting with a series of angry posts in the comments section, Folta seemingly launched a campaign to pressure PLOS to retract Seife and Thacker's piece. In one of his posts, Folta calls on other scientists to reconsider publishing in PLOS journals.

On August 20, PLOS Biology published a post affirming that "this is an important, if highly charged, issue that merits discussion." The following day, however, PLOS removed the original post, replacing it with a statement that the article had not been "consistent with at least the spirit and intent of our community guidelines."

"We sincerely apologize for any distress that the content of this post caused any individual," the statement reads.

PLOS Executive Editor Veronique Kiermer stated that "community reaction" was the reason for the retraction.

In response, Seife wrote to Kiermer asking for a clarification of how the site's standards had been violated.

"We were peer reviewed and were deemed to meet the standards of your publication. We endured several rounds of *post-publication* legal and factual vetting — no doubt, a highly unusual procedure — and responded to all of your queries. ...

"Yet not only do you pull our article without consulting us, or even hinting that this was in the works, you also leave critical comments of our piece out there for all to see — silencing us while giving critics full voice. ...

"So, please explain to us how we violated your standards so egregiously that you had to take this dramatic step. And while you're explaining, could you please go into a bit more detail about the increasing pressure from scientists that you received to remove our article from the site?"

The retracted post can still be read at http://gmwatch.org.

Sources for this article include:

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