[ASC-media] Fresh Science - is breast cancer caused by a virus?]

David Vaux vaux at wehi.edu.au
Tue Oct 7 09:45:12 EST 2003

At the risk of going over old ground, I will state some of the principles
I have used in deciding my actions. (in no particular order)

In science communication, that the science is sound takes precedence over
the communication of it.

If claims are made as part of science in a public forum, criticism of them
must not be discouraged.

Just because something has been published in a peer reviewed journal does
not mean it must be correct.

All science, past and current, should be open to question and criticism.

Scientists who see incorrect statements made should be encouraged to rebut
them, and if these statements have the potential to cause distress, they
have the resposibility to correct them.

The validity of a scientific claim rests on the evidence, not on who
belives it.

Those seeking to promote and communicate science will do a better job if
they understand the science or seek advice from those who do.

I have asked Caroline Ford to perform southern blots of non-amplified
genomic DNA. This is an easy experiment and will resolve the issue one way
or the other. If she can confirm her PCR results, she will have made a
discovery of monumental proportions (that will also necessitate the
immediate quarantining of all people and animals carrying the MMTV virus).
If she cannot confirm the results she should retract her paper. Let the
data be the judge.

David Vaux

On Thu, 2 Oct 2003, Niall Byrne wrote:

> I agree wholeheartedly with David's general comments on science
> communication.
> However I take some offence at the implication that I and Fresh Science
> are guilty of the sins he describes. My reputation in the business is
> built on responsible issues management relating to calicivirus, BSE, HIV,
> Johne's disease and many other hot scientific issues.
> Fresh Science helped Caroline report her peer reviewed science responsibly
> and ethically. Caroline has had favourable feedback from many researchers,
> clinicians, and the NSW Cancer Council. The only criticism has been from
> David and we responded to his initial concerns openly and honestly.
> In fact we even offered David a platform to raise his concerns about the
> original media alert. My reply to him included the following:
> "If you'd like to suggest an opposing voice I'm happy to offer them to the
> media. You'd be welcome to attend the press conference and ask questions
> and/or respond at the conclusion of the press conference."
> While this has been a valuable debate on ASC list, the potential impact on
> Caroline bothers me. The tone of the exchange has been far too personal.
> A young PhD student makes her first foray into the media, and an eminent
> scientist and Vic Prize winner drops on her like a tonne of bricks
> describing her work as junk science and accusing her of promulgating
> falsehoods. Of course she will take it personally.
> Niall
> __________________
> Niall Byrne
> Science Communication Consultant
> PO Box 199 Drysdale 3222 Australia
> (185 Scotchmans Road Portarlington 3223)
> Ph +61 3 5253 1391, fax +61 3 9923 6008, mobile 0417 131 977
> niall at scienceinpublic.com, www.scienceinpublic.com
> Other useful webs:
> http://www.freshscience.org
> http://www.geneticsmedia.org
> http://www.cluniesross.org.au
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