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The science blogosphere erupted in a furor this week, when Seed Media’s ScienceBlogs announced a new blog — Food Frontiers, a paid, sponsored blog about nutrition written by employees of PepsiCo.  ScienceBlogs described the content as:

. . . a look at the role the food industry plays in health issues, and how industry research into chemistry, physiology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, medicine, and nutrition can improve health outcomes around the world.

Others were less kind:

Yesterday, PepsiCo placed a full-page, semi-permanent advertorial on the ScienceBlogs network. (The Consumerist)

They aren’t going to be doing any scienceblogging — this is straight-up commercial propaganda. (PZ Meyers)

Multiple bloggers either suspended their blogs or quit ScienceBlogs altogether over their concerns that adding this blog undermined the credibility of the platform and their credibility as individual writers.

Eventually, ScienceBlogs caved under the pressure and removed Pepsi’s blog.

Did ScienceBlogs sell out to commercial interests, or was this just a continuation of what they’ve always done?

Social media in general has a history of difficulty in finding working business models.  You can’t charge for content, so alternative revenue streams must pay the bills.  This is less a problem for smaller, low-budget sites not run for profit, but for big, high-profile sites backed by investors, pressure mounts over time to supply the return those investors demand.  Often the business model is in clear opposition to the best interests of the site’s users.  Facebook is the current best example, and their recent moves toward eliminating privacy and selling user data to advertisers and others have come under scrutiny.  Despite the recent uproar, Facebook activity doesn’t seem to be declining all that much, and users have weighed the balance, deciding that the service provided is useful enough to overcome the negative baggage that it brings.  World of Warcraft users are facing similar issues.

This is the dilemma faced by anyone using any such service, including ScienceBlogs, and one of the real dangers in becoming completely dependent on something that’s out of your personal control.  Many claim that their entire lives revolve around Facebook, that it would be impossible to quit — thus they have no options other than to acquiesce to Facebook’s new policies, regardless of their effects.

There’s great advantage in controlling your own destiny, both on a personal and a business level, and it often pays to rely on either purchased platforms or open source software that you can keep in-house and continue to use and modify without reliance on someone else.  But those larger platforms come with great advantages as well.  Being a blogger on ScienceBlogs means you don’t have to do any software maintenance yourself to keep the site running.  ScienceBlogs pays its blog writers a small monthly percentage of advertising revenue (one wonders if Pepsi’s paid placement fees would have added to that sum).  More importantly, ScienceBlogs does a tremendous job of promoting its content, and there’s great synergy between blogs on the site, as they send one another traffic.  As a ScienceBlogs blogger, your writing reaches a much greater audience than it likely would if you hosted it by yourself on something like WordPress.

And the value of that traffic gets to the heart of the problem, and this is why it was hypocritical for ScienceBlog’s bloggers to have objected so strenuously.  ScienbceBlogs has never been a temple of purity, free of bias or agenda.  ScienceBlogs is, and has always been, an advertising platform.  In the past, they’ve run sponsored blogs from Invitrogen, Shell Oil and General Electric (note: these three blogs seem to have been recently pulled from the site as well). Why were these companies acceptable where Pepsi was not?

One of ScienceBlogs’ most prolific bloggers is an employee of the Public Library of Science, and a huge amount of what he writes is advertising for their journals.  Bora is an interesting and compelling writer, but many of his posts are merely copy and paste listings of papers released in PLoS journals and their abstracts.  He’s using ScienceBlogs as a marketing platform for his employer, promoting their content, adding valuable links to help search engine optimization, and actually gaming PLoS’ own system for article level metrics (should it count toward an article’s benefit if it’s blogged about by the staff of the journal that published it, should copying and pasting an abstract count as a blog entry in an article’s favor?).  Why is it okay for ScienceBlogs to be used as a flagrant advertising tool for one company’s products but not another’s?

Dig deeper and you’ll realize that nearly all of the blogs on ScienceBlogs are marketing tools.  Ask any blogger, and if they’re honest, they’ll tell you that part of the motivation for blogging is to promote their own “personal brand.”  That’s certainly a motivation for me writing for the Scholarly Kitchen — it raises my visibility and is good for my career development.  Blogging is an act of self-promotion, as is so much of Web 2.0.  The currently unemployed GrrlScientist notes how important her blog is to her career hopes.  The relentless self-promotion is likely one of the reasons why so many scientists “register active discouragement of blogging — a form of communication that in their eyes carries no stamp of reliability or prestige.” Regardless of how successful this activity may be, why is it acceptable for scientists to use ScienceBlogs to advertise themselves, to promote their own interests and the viewpoints that directly benefit them, yet not acceptable for a corporation to do the same?

It’s particularly ironic that these complaints came from the science blogosphere, which has regularly been a bastion of support for the post-publication review philosophy promoted by journals like PLoS One.  The idea is that it’s wrong for the editorial staff and peer reviewers to try to judge the value or significance of a research paper, that everything technically competent should be published, and the readers should be able to judge the quality of the work for themselves.  Suddenly, that same crowd demanded a heavy editorial hand from Seed Media, asking their staff to make value judgments about what material should and shouldn’t be published.  If commenting and social filtering are good enough for sorting the scientific literature, shouldn’t the same be true for blogs?

ScienceBlogs is not above criticism here — the move should have been made in a more transparent manner, and they really seem to have read their constituency wrong.  From the tone of their announcement of pulling the Pepsi blog, it sounds like they’re interested in finding a more accepted manner of posting this type of content (one assumes the lure of advertising dollars is difficult to resist).  Medical journals have long included similar practices, with sponsored supplements publishing papers from sponsored meetings consisting of sponsored research.  In these cases though, great care is taken to point out the potential for conflicts of interest. ScienceBlogs would likely be well served by a similar policy (though realistically, it should be applied across all of their blogs, not just Pepsi’s).

ScienceBlogs does provide a great deal of entertaining and informative reading material.  But ignoring the site’s commercial nature is perhaps wishful thinking.  In the end, the question should not have been “How dare they?”  It instead should have been, “Why haven’t you been paying attention?”

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David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He serves on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.

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42 Thoughts on "The Pepsi Syndrome: Did ScienceBlogs Sell Out, or Was This Just Business As Usual?"

Nice one! I think this case is a great example of Cognitive Dissonance. As a side note, the dismisal of scholarly blogging on the grounds of self promotion is probably another example (Scholars don’t self promote their thinking chops via papers and the conference circuit? really?).

  • David Smith
  • Jul 9, 2010, 6:04 AM

Scientists promoting themselves through discussing their own discoveries is likely seen as somewhat different than promoting themselves through talking about other people’s discoveries. Selling one’s results versus selling one’s personality seems more substantive and accepted. But you’re right in that it’s delusional to pretend it’s not happening. The current job market for science is brutal and while many like to imagine that all scientists are above it, the reality is that everyone is scrambling and the successful ones strictly limit the use of their time to activities that further the career pursuit. That usually means generating more results and raising more funds though, not so much talking about oneself.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 9, 2010, 7:57 AM

A very interesting analysis that I’ve not seen addressed in this whole episode. I can only speak for myself as a member of the ScienceBlogs network since June, 2006, as part of the second group of bloggers recruited to the site.

The reason I did not object to previous corporate sponsorship of a blog is that the content was provided by non-company bloggers, many times existing independent bloggers at SB. In essence, the company was sponsoring the topic for discussion. Nevertheless, several bloggers expressed heated opposition to the idea but I do not believe that any bloggers left the network solely as a result.

Bora’s case is also interesting but, in my opinion, a different case than PepsiCo. Bora is on the record for many years as a proponent of Open Access publishing, long before he took his current position with PLoS. Yes, he promotes PLoS and their papers but I do not feel that he is gaming any system. I view his efforts at the most as a public information officer. I have not worked the percentage of Bora’s posts on PLoS papers, but it is not his sole content. (Disclosure: I am a long-time local friend of Bora’s).

But ethically, Bora does not pay for space to post on PLoS issues as did PepsiCo. Even if one were to consider his posts advertisement or marketing, Bora is doing so based on his recruitment to ScienceBlogs as a remarkable writer and commentator on science education (and as an educator himself) and the future of general and scholarly scientific communication.

However, I do not dismiss your argument that being at ScienceBlogs allows for self-promotion. Some bloggers have earned book deals as a result of their international presence via ScienceBlogs.

For me, I’ve had to write under a pseudonym because of my previous employer. As a result, I’ve not been able to promote my professional career through the blog. In fact, people in real life who meet me will still call me Abel even if introduced by my actual name. But you are correct: Abel Pharmboy is a brand, albeit one I have not capitalized on (I don’t even have a CafePress store with my logo as do many bloggers) and I might even lose some recognition if I were to blog under my real name somewhere else until I built up a following through my content.

Nice post – I’m sure this will be an excellent discussion.

  • Abel Pharmboy
  • Jul 9, 2010, 8:26 AM

David: I think you are missing an important element of why the departing bloggers felt that they’d been let down by Scienceblogs. The original premise of the platform was that these were *invited* bloggers who had already been vetted for the quality of their content. That translated in the minds of the blogging participants to a sense of credibility to the platform.

Naturally, they were somewhat dismayed to see that corporate entities were not held to the same standard. The Pepsico blog (on its original site) was clearly unrelated to scientific research in the field of food nutrition. What had been posted was instead advertising drivel — pure sales and marketing of corporate product — rather than posts with even a vague relation to food science. The blog also lacked in its timeliness of publication. The last posting on the Pepsico site had been back in March of this year to promote their involvement at SXSW.

Had the Pepsico blog ever had something more substantive to its content and therefore some semblance to credibility, I don’t think there would have quite the same negative reaction. But there was going to be no vetting of the content posted to the blog while on the ScienceBlog platform. Its poor quality would have reflected poorly on those writers who saw their quality blogging at SB as an extension of their professional presence. They want to be sure that their credibility was not tainted by SB settling for marketing twaddle.

This didn’t have to play out this way as you noted. Pepsi could have gotten positive points had they indicated that they were going to try to contribute thought rather than do a hard sell. SB ought to be quite clear in delineating content from advertising. Those who have departed SB’s platform might have wanted to sleep on it a bit before throwing a public rant, but I don’t think they were entirely out of bounds by walking away.

  • Jill O’Neill
  • Jul 9, 2010, 9:04 AM

It’s hard to judge what the content on the new blog would have been though, since it never existed. Was the ScienceBlogs version going to be an exact duplicate of Pepsi’s previous blog? Who knows, though the description when it was announced sounded somewhat different, despite re-using the same old title. Forget pre-publication review, this was pre-submission review or even pre-composition review.

And while the bloggers should certainly keep a close eye on who they’re associating themselves with, I think the notion that ScienceBlogs is some sort of holy, pure and revered source of completely untainted information is a bit naive. Seed Media is a business, one with investors and one that aims to make a profit for those investors. Yes, they do some excellent public work raising awareness of science, but one should never be surprised when a business acts like a business.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 9, 2010, 10:53 AM

Well said. There is little incentive for any company (including but not limited to science publishers) to keep a blog other than to use it as self-promotion. The blog might be used to make their brand more visible, or perhaps just to drive traffic to their website (good for selling advertising). Either way, no company-sponsored blog is agenda-free . . . whether that comapny is Pepsi or PLoS.

  • Allison Goldstein
  • Jul 9, 2010, 9:49 AM

For what it’s worth, I want to make sure that it’s clear that I don’t think Bora is doing anything wrong or unethical. He’s using a valuable tool to promote his company’s products. I do the same thing on the blog associated with my journal, as do many of Nature’s editors and employees of many other journals. It’s important though, to recognize it as marketing.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 9, 2010, 11:07 AM

i do not let any potential employers know about my blog writing activities or pseudonym, so i cannot see how i am using my blog to find employment. in fact, the reason i write under a pseudonym is specifically because i was told that writing a blog would be detrimental to my career.

[let me also point out that i’ve been “outed” a few times, and several of my publications in the scientific literature within the past year mention my blog URL, so at this point, the cat is out of the bag and my scientific career is probably screwed forever anyway.]

  • GrrlScientist
  • Jul 9, 2010, 1:32 PM

I just wanted to say that I think it is so unfortunate that your desire to communicate is seen as something that could be detrimental to your career. I do not understand how that could be (but I realise that clearly it’s the case). There’s a good discusion to be had on that subject, but it’s not part of this conversational thread.

  • David Smith
  • Jul 12, 2010, 8:03 AM

One thing that struck me as interesting–none of the bloggers who announced their departure moved their blogs over to the Nature Network.

Is this because most had previously established blog locations that were easier to return to, or is it indicative of a cultural schism between different science blogging cliques?

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 9, 2010, 2:10 PM

Scienceblogs pays a lot more than anyone else. It is hard to go from generating a lot of traffic for Seed and getting money to generating a lot of traffic for Nature and getting nothing. Nature is a business, like Seed, except a lot more contemptuous of ideas that might cost them money.

Some are departing and not having ads at all, which is certainly a principled stand.

  • Science 2.0
  • Jul 9, 2010, 2:53 PM

Sb pays more than anyone else? NOT TRUE.

  • aidel
  • Jul 12, 2010, 2:49 AM

Which science blogging platforms pay their authors better? I’m sure those leaving ScienceBlogs would appreciate the extra income.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 12, 2010, 7:27 AM

I’d not read too much into where we move. I returned to my wordpress site because I liked blogging there before and returning was easy.

I think you and others who are commenting on this being a hypocritical anti-corporate affair are misreading the psychology of what happened. It’s not that Pepsi is corporate and we are pure as snow. It’s that Pepsi bought the space, thereby damaging the fragile egos of those of us who liked to imagine we were there because we’re good, not because we’re rich and connected.

This isn’t to say that the dynamics of who is trying to sell what over there isn’t interesting. It is. But that’s not as much of the story as you’re making it.

  • myrmecos
  • Jul 9, 2010, 3:41 PM

That’s what I assumed, most were going back to their former haunts, really the path of least resistance for setting up a new home.

It is interesting to me to see so little interaction between the two most visible science blogging networks though, given the internet’s decentralization capability and the lack of a need for such silos.

It’s also interesting to see how valuable so many see the concept of editorial judgments of quality, given the near constant slamming of “glamour” journals that do the same thing. I guess when you’re one of the chosen, it changes one’s viewpoint.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 9, 2010, 9:17 PM

actually, i have a blog there, Maniraptora. at this time, i am the only “scibling” to have a blog at NN, although i have answered emails from several former “scibling” colleagues regarding what it’s like to be part of NN.

unfortunately, NN is going through some really aggravating growing pains. they’ve recently changed the blog platform from an in-house code job to MT4, and there are myriad technical issues (mostly due to the fact their site is distributed across three separate databases) there that make the site clunky and awkward to use. i have been writing on my NN blog a little bit, but honestly, it’s very frustrating to use the platform there.

i think it is easier for departing Sb blog writers to return to their former blog homes, especially those who joined recently. those of us who have been there for 4+ years aren’t so lucky. for example, packing up my blog content and reader comments and moving them all to another site would take a few days, and god knows how long it would take to fix all the annoying formatting problems that pop up after moving an entire blog. and then, of course, there’s the question of where i might go … i certainly do not want to return to my original blog home, but where should i go?

  • GrrlScientist
  • Jul 9, 2010, 3:03 PM

There is a fascinating issue here, that relates to an ongoing SK thread, namely why science does not blog? The ScienceBlogs (SB) people who quite and complained claim that SB is a science journalism site and they are journalists. Having paid corporate content violated the journalistic integrity of the site.

If SB were a science blog site this issue might not arise, as Pepsi runs some good industrial research labs. Journals do not refuse to publish industrial research just because it is industrial. Moreover, what is lost here is the opportunity to discuss and debate Pepsi’s scientific claims. Mind you a blog is not a journal so there is still the concern about non peer reviewed hype, but that is true of all blogs.

So I guess we are still looking for science blogs where industrial research is welcome. Sounds like an opportunity to me, but how do we keep the journalists out? (Just kidding, sort of.)

Maybe science blogs are impossible. Perhaps the intersection of scientific communication and blog language is the null set. It is beginning to look that way, especially if blogs are intrinsically journalistic. Journalism means talking about somebody else. Scientific communication means talking about oneself.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 9, 2010, 4:28 PM

I don’t think anyone precludes industrial research. Science 2.0 and its million readers a month does not and Nature Networks presumably does not. I have an account on NN and started the science blogging group on it so they let everyone sign up.

What neither of us would do, and where Scienceblogs went astray, was taking money for it time and again. Open sites like Science 2.0 and Nature Networks were already doing what Adam Bly said he wanted to do in his letter – include the 40% of scientists who are not academics – but Scienceblogs is big because people are paid and so they get out and network and generate more traffic than anyone else, so this blowup is getting a lot of attention.

It’s not a flaw with science outreach, the rest of us have done just fine making money without the need for ‘long term sponsorship contracts’ to host public relations blogs. Bly lost his way. But I bet he has found it again now.

  • Science 2.0
  • Jul 9, 2010, 5:18 PM

So you are saying Pepsi was blocked because of the nature of the contract, not because of who they are. I see little evidence of that in the protests, which are all about “integrity” (implying that Pepsi has none). Do you have anything to support your claim?

By the same token are there any research based companies on Science 2.0? I have not seen any but it is a big site. For that matter is anyone posting their original research?

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 10, 2010, 2:04 PM

Hi David, a person at INL posts his work on Science 2.0 and the NSF has an account in our video section but if there are other institutions I am not aware because, like I said, we don’t have any formal agreement nor do they pay us. With thousands of members I know I have looked at all of the bios but I can’t remember each one.

Perhaps my comment was unclear – I do think Pepsi was ostracized because they are a for-profit corporate group, they were tried and convicted before writing anything on Sb but everyone seemed to know this was happening for years except bloggers there. The institutional blogs seem to get a free pass, despite the fact that ‘independent’ bloggers like Grrlscientist or anyone else there can clobber Brookhaven or CERN but PR blogs written by those employees cannot. They are simply house organs accessing the Sb audience.

I would have had no issue with Pepsi writing a blog on Science 2.0 because I do not think corporate scientists automatically check their ethics at the door – what I would not have done is called them and offered a payola blog.

Would Pepsi have been successful with us? It depends on content quality. But we trust the community to make that determination. A million smart science readers a month are not wrong all that often.

  • Science 2.0
  • Jul 11, 2010, 12:21 PM

It’s hard to categorically say anything about the content on ScienceBlogs (or in science blogs in general) since it varies so widely in subject, style and quality. There is some superb writing on there, but there’s also a lot of the worst sorts of internet cliches that make readers cringe. I’ve gained valuable knowledge there, but to do so, I had to wade through cake recipes and pictures that some blogger’s kids drew.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 9, 2010, 9:32 PM

I am citing people like David Dobbs (see #10 below) who argue categorically that Pepsi does not belong on SB because SB is journalism, hence subject to the rules of journalistic integrity. But journalism and scientific communication are different modes of communication. So if he is right then there is no room for actual science on SB. I would argue that this consequence of his argument shows that he is wrong.

On this note it is interesting to look at Science Magazine, which combines journalism (front half) with research reports (back half). You can see the tension because the front half is telling readers what the back half means. This is scientific opinion not science. But I suppose review articles have this problem too. They can be wrong when the science is right.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 10, 2010, 11:51 AM

Blogging is a platform, something of a blank slate. Each blogger does something different from the next blogger with that platform. That’s why I don’t think it makes sense for an argument to declare all blogging content in general, or content on ScienceBlogs to be of one particular type or of one particular level of quality. Some use the site to rant against religion, some use the site to discuss signal transduction pathways, some use it to post pictures of their cats.

So any argument should be done at the level of the individual blog, because the sum is such a mish-mash.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 10, 2010, 4:55 PM

I agree, so it makes no sense to ban Pepsi on the grounds of journalistic integrity.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 10, 2010, 7:42 PM

Myrmecos has it right. The issue about the quality of what Pepsi might have delivered is a red herring. The issue is that a commercial interest was invited and allowed to buy space whose value and credibility rested in its nature as published journalism and opinion. Fuller explanation at my posts on why I immediately left SB and moved my Neuron Culture to They bought a voice in a conversation where a voice should be earned through other means. The violation of trust, principle, and ethics was similar to what you’d get if companies could buy seats at Arthur’s Round Table or a city council.

This is the central issue. Others are minor. If this admittedly brief explanation doesn’t suffice, please those at, and referenced at, my blog. You are working a bogus problem.

  • David Dobbs
  • Jul 9, 2010, 6:50 PM

So you sell your services to a for-profit private corporation so they can exploit them and you’re shocked when they start acting like a private for-profit corporation, exploiting the work you’ve done for profit?

It’s also the rare author willing to review his own work, particularly in terms quite so glowing. Are you declaring yourself the Lancelot of science? Does this perhaps speak to the concept of ScienceBlogs as an immodest arena for self-promotion?

As noted in the article, it’s fascinating to see so many from the blogosphere so adamantly against the concept of “author-pays” inclusion in publications, and so in favor of having the editorial staff of a publications strictly screen material for significance and quality pre-publication. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more strident defenses of Elsevier and NPG and attacks on PLoS on ScienceBlogs given this prevailing attitude.

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 9, 2010, 9:28 PM

I don’t understand your “central” claim that “They bought a voice in a conversation where a voice should be earned through other means.” How does one earn a blog on SB? Surely someone with their own research labs qualifies.

The red herring is the idea that Pepsi would publish infomercials, ignoring the fact that these would be subject to public comments. The whole point of blogs is that what people say can be challenged there and then. The ensuing debate would have been useful and fun.

I think the central issue is people who don’t like business and industry, who think it is intrinsically immoral. They blocked Pepsi’s way.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 10, 2010, 7:32 AM

i am not privy to how the SMG/Scienceblogs decides who to recruit into their stable of blog writers, but from what i’ve seen among those who have been recruited, they seek blog writers who have been around awhile (usually a year or more; many blogs are abandoned in their first few months), that have an interesting viewpoint (whatever that is), and of course, that write mostly about science.

there are two research institutes on the site at this time (the weizmann institute of science and the brookhaven national laboratory) and there’s more on the way. these blogs are written by employees of these places about the research and other things they are doing. they are not paid for their presence.

david: i am confused by your assertion of “how valuable so many see the concept of editorial judgments of quality, given the near constant slamming of “glamour” journals that do the same thing” .. who is doing this near constant “slamming” and which are these journals to which you refer?

  • GrrlScientist
  • Jul 11, 2010, 1:38 AM

I’m referring to what are derogatorally called “glamour magazines”, journals at the very top of the Impact Factor food chain where the editors practice a high level of selection for quality and significance (Nature, Science, Cell as examples). A quick Google search turns up the following list of posts on the subject. I quit after the first few pages of results, there are likely more, but hopefully this will suffice. I can find no posts favoring this editorial model though, at least until the recent Pepsi scandal.

Why GlamourMag Science is a Disaster for Scientific Progress, Part Eleventy
‘We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process.’
The secret inner workings of PLoS ONE revealed
Post-publication Peer-review in PLoS-ONE, pars premiere
The Third Reviewer is….you!
PLoS Biology: blogging and academia
Cell on “a unit of scientific advance”
A curious editorial from Nature, defending against “myths”
Anatomy of a scientific fraud: an interview with Eugenie Samuel Reich.
Our problem is an “Avalanche of Low Quality Research”? Really?
Academic Poll: See Longer Blog Post (Forthcoming) for Details
The Nobel Prize conundrum
Nature’s Bubble Business Model
Why Science Journals Need to Move to Online Only Publishing
Why or why not cite blog posts in scientific papers?
The Winner’s Curse and Scientific Publishing
Objectivity, conflicts of interest, and book reviews.
Journal Choice Strategy
What is “the normal way to debate and discuss scientific findings” anyway?
Nature offers a completely objective and unbiased review of PLoS

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 11, 2010, 8:09 AM

There is just as much competition among national labs like Brookhaven (for funding) as in the food industry (for sales). This is just as much a “PR exercise” for the lab as for Pepsi, so the only difference seems to be that Pepsi is a for-profit business. Or is it that they offered to pay? If so then they should come back for free.

As I see it, the Pepsi fiasco is a tragedy. There is a large literature in economics that argues for more scientific communication from industry, as a social good. The technical term is “spillover.”

Pepsi’s precedent got knocked off by anti-corporate bias. The protesting bloggers would have done better to let Pepsi in then jump on them to be honest.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 11, 2010, 9:53 AM

i think i said somewhere in comments that these research institute blogs do not pay SMG/ScienceBlogs for space, unlike pepsico. these research institute blog writers are also not paid by SMG/ScienceBlogs based on the traffic they generate. (you’ll recall that the individual blog writers ARE paid by SMG/ScienceBlogs according to traffic they generate, after they’ve attracted more than a minimum number of page views).

i appreciate what you’re saying about competition and PR, but competition is not what we are talking about here (well, the blog writers at scienceblogs aren’t, to the best of my knowledge). PR, in the case of research institute blogs is actually, in my opinion, a “good thing” because at least some of their funding comes from NSF/NIH/NIMH etc., which are government funding agencies. at least some of this “research institute” work is paid for by the public and as such, the public deserves to know what this research is.

as far as the pepsico blog goes, i’ve been digging through the original incarnation on the pepsico site and it is nothing more than a collection of press releases that are presented as a “blog.” besides being poorly written, borderline inaccurate and downright boring, this sort of writing does not qualify as “blog writing.”

the blog writing that you see on ScienceBlogs is — right or wrong — a personal statement of something that the individual scientist or writer thinks or feels. it’s part of an ongoing conversation, like what we’re doing here.

a couple paragraphs about a new product written by a committee of lawyers and ad execs hardly qualifies as a conversation.

  • GrrlScientist
  • Jul 11, 2010, 12:44 PM

As David C has pointed out several times, we never got to see the Pepsi blog content. You can’t assume it will be like a corporate site blog, with no dialog. I assume they were prepared for discussion. They are not stupid. But we will never know, that is the pity.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 11, 2010, 4:07 PM

oops, i meant to say that these two research institutions do not pay to be present on ScienceBlogs. i have no idea if they are paid by SMG/ScienceBlogs for the traffic they generate, but i’d suspect they are not.

  • GrrlScientist
  • Jul 11, 2010, 1:40 AM

You are overlooking one major qualification: There are lots of industries out there who employ scientists. Before making all kinds of claims about how good a corporate blog *might* have been for SB, ask yourself one question: The purpose of this company is to ________. If the answer is “to develop a new chemo drug and make a profit,” that is very different from the answer being simply “to make a profit.” If PepsiCo really cares about the health of consumers, then why haven’t they launched an add campaign encouraging people to drink water and eat vegetables? The problem with having a “Pepsi-scientist” blog at SB is that the posts would have (necessarily!) been advertisements masquerading as informative science content (lack of transparency). The ethical standards for science blogging mirror both the ethical standards for science and the ethical standards for journalism. PepsiCo PAYING for blog space and MANUFACTURING it’s own content violates both. People become scientists because they are curious. Scientists go to work for industry because they need/want the $$$$$. What don’t you get about that? And by the way, this has NOTHING to do with OA. OA is about transparency, which is consistent with the values of both science and taxpayers!

  • aidel
  • Jul 12, 2010, 3:24 AM

I don’t understand your point about water and vegetables; it seems rather silly. But your claim that for a company to present its research for discussion violates the ethical standards of science is ridiculous. Most applied research is done by industry. This is where the social payoff from basic research comes from.

We should have more discussion of this applied research, not ban it from the blogosphere. What you protesters don’t seem to grasp is that one can’t do hype advertising on a blog, because the comments will kill you.

Industry produces everything we use, which gets better all the time. Industrial scientists are proud of this progress. Your insults are misplaced.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 12, 2010, 6:43 AM

When industry has participated in social media (blogging, community), some funny things happen. First, they learn very quickly to behave honestly. Doing otherwise is punished mercilessly. Second, they learn to be fast and forthright in their responses. Again, being slow and devious is “outed” in a brutal and damaging fashion. Third, they get much closer to their customers, and really understand how their brands, products, reputation, and value are perceived.

In short, getting all high and mighty about industry in social media is short-sighted. It’s probably one of the best places for them to be, since customers control the space.

  • Kent Anderson
  • Jul 12, 2010, 7:29 AM

Well said Kent (I have been struggling to say what you say clearly). Commenting has revolutionized two realms — politics and retail trade.

  • David Wojick
  • Jul 12, 2010, 9:18 AM

What exactly are the ethical standards for science blogging? Who sets them and who enforces them? I’m going to quote someone who I think perhaps understands blogging a bit better and certainly helped my thinking regarding blogs in general:

A blog is just a platform – a piece of software. A science blog is whatever the author wants it to be (there is no one true way to be a science blogger).

  • David Crotty
  • Jul 12, 2010, 7:29 AM

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