Friday, July 09, 2010

Science: Brought to you by Pepsi

If you've been watching the blogs this week, you may have noticed an uproar at ScienceBlogs over a new corporate blog, Food Frontiers paid for and featuring bloggers from PepsiCo's R&D department.

In some ways, this was a cool idea. There's a lot of food science that we don't hear about, and it would be fascinating to get a glimpse, even through a filter, of what kind of stuff is being done by the R&D department of a major multinational. After all, they have scientists and do research too. Better Off Ted was a great sitcom, but somehow I don't think weaponizing pumpkins is really typical of what goes on.

In other ways, it was a terrible idea. Or at least badly implemented. Part of the mission of the blog was to discuss advances in nutrition and health policy. There's an obvious conflict of interest here for a purveyor of junk food. This source of potential bias, and the concern that this might simply be a propaganda arm for Pepsi loomed over the project.

Whether the blog would be more the former or the later (or some [un]acceptable mix), we'll never know. Several ScienceBloggers took issue, and made a fuss threatening to leave the network (and in some cases following through). Others took a wait-and-see approach. After all, this all happened before any real content appeared on the offending blog. Sb admin scrambled to fix the mess, first changing the format so it was more obviously paid content but eventually scrapping the whole thing.

A round-up of ScienceBlogs posts about the Pepsi fiasco, including admin response can be found here (scroll down)

A list of bloggers leaving the network (and new digs) is being maintained here.

The role of industry at a collective like ScienceBlogs, and how to properly include them is a complicated and interesting issue. As made clear by the range of responses to the initial introduction of the Pepsiblog, not an easy one to get people to agree on.


Anonymous Coward said...

I think we need some balance on those issues, so I would accept a Coca-Cola sponsorship. I'm pretty sure Rob would enjoy a lifetime supply of products...

rob said...

Seriously, the food industry scientists would probably have some interesting things to say. However they would use the prestigious Bayblab name to help peddle their wares, by taking quotes out of context and other typical manipulation of science. If it's not good enough for ScienceBlogs then clearly it's not Bayblab material and that's probably why Coke isn't banging at our blog door.

Kamel said...

What about Dr. Pepper? He's got a PhD. Or is that an MD?