Astroturfing and Advertorials: CMRSI sponsoring ICA to host ISV is BAD

The whole process of going of tracking down CMSRI led me to write the last post, but here’s what set it off.

I got my reply. When you go with Kenes, you go with quality!

Dear (my real name),

Thank you for your inquiry. Indeed, we are planning to hold the 4th International Symposium on Vaccines at the 10th International Congress on Autoimmunity. This symposium is an educational course that is supported by CMSRI, a research institute dealing with vaccine safety among other things. The program of the course is determined by the Congress Scientific Committee. In 2014 EACCME accredited the course for 3 credits. We will apply for accreditation also in 2016. Since the support does not come from a for-profit company of the pharma/medical device industry, rather from a non-profit research and patient-advocacy institution, ICA endorses the ISV as part of its official (pre-Congress) program.
You can read more about the 3rd International Symposium on Vaccines and CMSRI on these websites:

http://www2.kenes.com/AUTOIMMUNITY/SCIENTIFIC/Pages/3rdInternationalSymposiumonVaccines.aspx

http://www.cmsri.org/

Best regards,
Anna

Anna (her last name)
Autoimmunity Congress Secretariat and Personal Assistant
Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD, FRCP
Head of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases

OK, guess I’ll take this step by step.

1) CMRSI – Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute

When you look that up, you pretty quickly see that it’s not really an Institute, not how we usually think of them. Institutes do research. CMRSI is a funding agency. And despite the broadish names, their only interest is vaccine safety. And they have a hard-on for aluminum.

2) Claire Dwoskin

She’s the recurrent name on the page. In fact, it seems pretty much she’s the whole thing. Funded by her husband. Championing for “the twins.” (oh, that felt tacky. Yuck, sorry for that. But yeah, probably someone close to her she sees as hurt by vaccination. Whether or not this was a legitimate association, who knows).

Googling her brings you to this guy, Todd W. His site on her goes through how the Dwoskin Family Foundation has moved and shook the scene with their deep pockets.

Then, while on that page, you see some of her pet researchers…

3) Christopher A Shaw

Then you go to his defunct, out-of-date UBC website. Untouched since 2010. But you can Google his personal site next down. And there he upfrontly says that he gave up traditional funding in 2011 (NIH, Alzheimer’s Society) and has been solely funded by Dwoskin since then.

And you see Lucija Tomljenovic. Tomljenovic is one of his post docs. You do what the boss says, but as a post doc, you don’t join unless you agree.

4) Lucija Tomljenovic

She was with him a while. Publishing up until Nov 2013. Here’s a selection of her publications and – the point of this post! – her disclosures.

In that first one, while at UBC with Shaw. In a Dwoskin lab, she declares no conflict. But it’s “no commercial entity” the charitable status gets her out of it.

Aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease: after a century of controversy, is there a plausible link?

The author has no actual or potential conflict of interest in this manuscript or in the work that is the subject of this manuscript. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to the author or to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or non-profit organization with which the author is affiliated or associated

Association between vaccination and Guillain-Barré syndrome

YS has served as an expert witness in cases involving vaccine adverse reactions in the US National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. LT declares that she has no conflicts of interest.

Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine and Primary Ovarian Failure: Another Facet of the Autoimmune/Inflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants

An informed consent has been received from the patients present their cases. Y Shoenfeld has served as an expert witness in cases involving adverse vaccine reaction in the no-fault U.S. National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. LT, SC and CP declare no conflict of interests. The authors thank the Dwoskin Family Foundation for support.

Administration of aluminium to neonatal mice in vaccine-relevant amounts is associated with adverse long term neurological outcomes.

The authors thank the Dwoskin Family Foundation and the Katlyn Fox Foundation for their financial support. We are also grateful to Agripina Suarez and other laboratory members for their assistance.

Other point. While there, she meets Yehuda Shoenfeld. And where do we know that name?

Anna (her last name)
Autoimmunity Congress Secretariat and Personal Assistant
Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD, FRCP
Head of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases

He’s the head of the ICA. Looking his name up….

5) Yehuda Shoenfeld

Oh, he’s on CMRSI’s Scientific Advisory Board too!

No wonder he had no objections to ISV being a sponsored session.

DB, what is your point?!

Sorry guys. Yeah, this isn’t meant to look like some conspiracy theory or anything. These people were all relatively upfront. Disclosed when they had to (but usually only then). I certainly wouldn’t and couldn’t file a complaint with this information.

But you get it right? This isn’t all neat and clean. When you look just a little into this bastion of objective truth, you come out with questions. OK, so CMRSI is Big Anti Vaccine. ISV is a puppet arm of that. What does that make the ICA? The secretariat is certainly an ally of these folks. How influenced is ICA by Big Anti Vaccine.

Another point. I don’t particularly care about this topic. And I don’t want to rag on these researchers in particular. They’re just doing what the system guides them to.

It’s just helpful that on one hand, we have a medical consensus: Vaccines are great! They might have some downsides, but all medicine does, but they are overwhelmingly a good thing!

And on the other hand: throw a bit of money at some people, and you can get your anti vaccine symposium onto a major world medical conference.

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, but if you’ve read my last post, you can get an idea of where I’m going with this.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to look/think/email about starting a database of funders. I should be able to go to the ICA’s website and see immediately “Oh, their principal sponsors are X, Y, and Z, and their Secretary has a deep relationship with X. How does this bias these results?”

We’re relatively good at it with industry – there’s been rules for decades. But these Institutes and Astroturfers. What is the authority on them? Where can you find their interests?

Wish me luck.

Or death, if you happen to be receiving a fair bit of nonindustry funding.

 

 


Astroturfing and Advertorials: CMSRI sponsoring ISV at ICA is BAD

OK, so I’ve looked around, and I’m exhausted. More of that in a moment.

GS asked me why I was doing this? He asked this in the small sense (what do I particularly want to accomplish with these posts) rather than the large (why am I railing about the flakiness of knowledge instead of staying in medicine), and after this latest bout of research, I think I have an answer.

Over the years – after the humiliations of Big Tobacco, then Big Oil, then Big Pharma – we realized that money can influence science. We thought this was bad. We’ve called it conflict of interest. We require researchers to declare if studies were funded by someone with a commercial interest in the outcome, one way or another.

Great! I completely agree. But it falls short.

We act as if only money has this overriding influence – people and organizations will only seek to derail scientists (who wholeheartedly maintain themselves as dedicated to the truth) if they stand to get rich. Or not get poor, in the case of punitive lawsuits. We completely neglect that people have multiple motivators that can cause them to want the truth to come out in a certain form. Big Anti-Vaccine doesn’t necessarily have a financial interest (although with all the books, lectures, CAM alternatives, attention – which is as good as cash in this world – there certainly are some within the movement who are profiting). But they have an interest nonetheless.

Their money can buy science just as easily as Novartis’s.

To this end, all funding should be listed. Simple.

Some Knowledge Regulators already have this requirement, but clearly not enough (more about this below).

I want more transparency than that though. CMSRI is a Big Anti-Vaccine group. How do you communicate that in a funding declaration? When you can call yourself whatever you want, and you can change your name whenever you want, what does a declaration matter?

That Beall guy has his list of corrupt, untrustable journals. A similar list for researchers? Would that work?

Maybe a little. But here my central thesis is that ALL researchers are corruptible. It’s not the individuals. It’s the money. We all do it.

Maybe I’m looking at this backwards. Maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of this by where the money ends up, but by where the money starts.

A crowdsourced database of funding agencies? Where their money comes from. What their goals are. Whom they prey on.

That actually sounds pretty reasonable. Get the regulators to require complete disclosure of funding. Grow a database of who those funders are, and what they want.

That takes out most of the work for the Knowledge Users. Users – the public, other scientists, professional bodies – could look at a Knowledge Product – a journal, article, conference – and look at the Knowledge Influencers – the funding bodies, Big X, governments – to make their assessment.

Right now, that’s the piece that’s missing.

OK. Phew. That was exhausting again. I think I’ll post the CMSRI stuff separately.

 


Astroturfing and Advertorials: 3rd International Symposium on Vaccines

At the crumbly part at the top of the rabbit hole I’m going down, there is the 3rd International Symposium on Vaccines.

My friend GS asked me what I thought of it earlier today, and I’ve spent most of the day between shots thinking about it and researching it.

I’ll try to summarize.

OK, so you go to the site and it looks legitimate, right? The 9th International Congress on Autoimmunity has registered their conference with conference booking company Kenes. And as part of the Congress, they are having a symposium. This is pretty common, little sub-conferences to a main conference. Often, they’re done as “streams” or something like that, but this doesn’t raise any red flags.

You can see Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute are a prominent supporter of the symposium on vaccines. Who might they be? It’s not immediately apparently what they would have to do with vaccines. Well, I guess vaccines are the most commonly administered drugs to children, so that makes some sense. Who are they anyway?

You go to the website. Oh. That looks odd. Despite kind of broad statements about children’s health in their About Us they only have FAQs about aluminum and vaccines. A quick Google shows that they’re pretty much an anti-vaccine lobbying group. Well, not lobbying. Lobbying is old school.

I don’t actually know if there’s a term for these groups. It’s kind of like Astroturfing. It’s kind of like lobbying. Bought science? It’s a bad faith attempt to legitimize knowledge, where someone with very deep pockets sets up a puppet organization to promote the “science” of their cause. Big Tobacco probably was the first. Big Food does it a lot these days. Big Oil. Big X. Big Anti-Vaccine? Is that a thing now? Yeah, it kind of is. There’s so much concentrated money and passion that any controversial issue can buy its scientists. See it lots with climate change too.

I don’t know how it used to work. Industries have always sponsored studies. But then someone has to put that knowledge in motion. I dunno, maybe these front organizations have always existed. They just feel so prominent nowadays.

Anyway, back to the 3rd International Symposium on Vaccines. When you look at the schedule for the broader 9th International Congress on Autoimmunity, you see that the ISV is actually just a series of presentations on first day of the conference. In yellow, when the real talks are in blue. Offered at the same time as the basic science refresher courses. None of the real participants are coming on Wednesday. Or if they are, it’s just to get some croissants and coffee, maybe go to the nice dinner, and catch up with their colleagues that they haven’t seen since the 8th Congress.

Then you look on the sponsorship page. Christ, CMSRI is a principal sponsorThat’s BIG money! Ahead of Roche and GSK. Only is Big Diagnosis (the commercial labs and testmakers – where the big money in autoimmunity is, even ahead of the biologicals, I think) as big of a sponsor.

So you piece it together. The International Symposium on Vaccines isn’t a real thing. Or at least it’s not a good faith scientific conference like it’s pretending to be. It’s a fringe, anti-vaccine puppet demonstration. Going through the motions. It’s mimicry. This is the small male lizard changing his coloration. They’re adopting the rituals and shapes of science to get the legitimacy of science. Funky!

And since I’m doing this emailing thing now, I wanna ask the Congress how they justify their behaviour. Letting this rogue, anti-science group purchase its way into piggybacking on their legitimacy. That’s sketchy. What do they tell themselves?

(Ugh, it’s a shame I’m so late to the party. The conference has come and gone, and the 10th Congress doesn’t have a ISV Symposium on its books yet)

Let’s see. Here’s the message I sent.

Hi,

I was wondering if the 10th International Congress on Autoimmunity plans to host the 4th International Symposium on Vaccines as they have for the last three. As I understand it, the Symposium is a sponsored session, taught as a course, and not included in the scientific program. How should I interpret the relationship between the ICA and ISV? Does the ICA endorse the ISV?

Thanks,

(my real name)

I kept it pretty soft-edged. They are under no obligation to answer me.

I guess I should somehow communicate this blog post to CMSRI on their Facebook. They have a fair number of friends, and stirring up vaccine controversy has built more than a number of careers. Ugh, I hate all this stuff you have to do build a blog. To my handful of readers, thanks, but if I want more of you, I’ll have to keep doing these things.

Ugh, I should probably actually send a similar note to them. Actually start a fight. Good attention, bad attention, does it make a difference when you’re building a blog?


Astroturfing and Advertorials: author affiliation policy

A friend of mine sent me a link to the 3rd International Symposium on Vaccines and this sent me down a rabbit hole of sponsorship and the ways knowledge is legitimized these days.

I’ve been really into this stuff over the last couple of months, and people just don’t talk about it often or directly enough. “Knowledge” – information, things that are true, or seen to be true, or whatever – isn’t very useful unless it is given power and legitimacy. When I was in rehab, this was a common theme. Truth just was, and the Fellowship, the counselors, and everyone that wasn’t me, had it.

And now that I’m out, and essentially working to create knowledge (scientific research) in my day job, it’s essentially what I’m living.

Anyway, the second speaker at the ISV is Stephanie Seneff, a computer scientist and vaccine opponent. She published a paper in Entropy, a journal that is in the process of being delegitimized. It made me wonder: what does author affiliation mean these days? (EDIT: I don’t know what to think of Jeffrey Beall, but I definitely appreciate a lot of his points and a lot of his work. Why he does it, and whether he’s just a shill for traditional publishing, I don’t know yet. I’m going to research that as I go, but I should definitely shout out to him. Think I’ll mosey over to his blog to comment in person. Gotta get in the habit of that)

Author affiliation, that little bit at the top of research papers that tells you where the author is from, is a completely neglected area of conversation. But it’s hugely important. Who doesn’t view a paper more highly after seeing the lead author comes out of Harvard (or MIT in this case)? More importantly, it shows the author is employed. Their livelihood is made at this place. That is hugely influential. Both ways.

I was curious as to what MIT, or more appropriately, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, thinks of Dr. Seneff using her credentials and their name in all this mess. I know my masters would have my spleen if I used my institutional affiliation to publish something they didn’t approve of.

To find out what they do think, I emailed them, reproduced below.

Hi Adam,

Sorry if you’re not the right person to ask about this, but I was wondering if CSAIL has a policy around under what circumstances someone should or should not use CSAIL as their institutional affiliation, and whether this is seen as endorsement of their research findings by CSAIL.

Just to be up front, this is about the controversial paper published in Entropy: Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases, by one of CSAIL’s senior research scientists. I know this is kind of old news, but I was curious as to what CSAIL’s opinion is on the issue.

Thanks!

(my real name)


The Wandering Jew: drug user disguises

It’s cute. We have three runners: M, a crackhead; A, an Indian; and N, a Jew. At least that’s how they read, or how they try to read.

They’re quite funny. Lately, TK has been freaking out at M for coming into the house. He reads as crackhead, so the landlord will realize we’re junkies! Like he doesn’t know.

I get it though. M is pretty embarrassing to be seen with, and it’s incredibly obvious what he’s doing when he comes in for 45 seconds then leaves. And TK has severe issues with how he’s seen.

It ended up exploding yesterday, and TK banned M from the house. At which point M revealed something interesting. Apparently, it’s an act. At least partially. He has cultivated his crackhead image – down to carrying bags of bottles and cans, with a decrepit child-carrier at the back of his bike, not to mention obscene amounts of crack – to avoid the police. If he looks like he’s binning, informal sector recycling, the cops will leave him alone.

It’s actually not too bad of a plan. I mean it probably doesn’t work: his patterns are too regular and criss-crossy. But at least it gives him a reasonable excuse if stopped by the police. How much that would help? Who knows.

Meanwhile, N has started wearing a yarmukle, wearing a tie, and carrying a briefcase to throw off the police. I told him he should go JoHo or Mormon. Vancouver doesn’t have many Jews to begin with, let alone Orthodox proselyters. Still, it’s an image to escape into, and a story to be told.

I dunno, I like thinking about how junkies and PWUDs are read. How they pass in the waking world. Like light-skinned black people, trannies, atheists, and gays, we’re all doing some transgressive, deviant, but have the potential of reading as mainstream. Are we selling out when we do so? Are we co-opting normalcy?

My trackmarks are becoming more visible. If I stay like this, I might not be able to pass forever. Will my tune change then? When I no longer have the choice. I don’t find them shameful now, because I usually have to invite someone to see them. Will I be ashamed of them when I can’t hide?

 


I have some spirit: prisoners of lust

Wow, I actually feel pretty unlistless. Enough to play with fonts. Although that doesn’t quite translate.

Story from Wednesday. I have some of my own, but this is worth saying.

JS is continuing her job with Co-orporation X seizing control of the slums from the slumlords and making them livable. She’s pretty enchanted – stars in her eyes; rose-tinted glasses – and thinks they can do no wrong.

At the very least, we can say they free sex-slaves.

CX seized control of a single room occupancy hotel on Wednesday, and JS has been put in charge. At $12.50/hr (that kind of wage indicates to me that the service she performs isn’t valued very highly, and if she’s the highest point of contact for 100 people, then….)

Anyway, in the process, a young Filipino woman was released. Apparently, she’s been locked in one of the rooms for four months. Doped up, dependent, unable to leave: the usual story.

She didn’t want anything done. She was a dopesick junkie who hadn’t seen natural light for four months and she had other priorities than to hook up with a social service agency and order her life as they saw fit.

She’s quite likely illegal, and although that doesn’t carry the same ramifications as the States (we don’t even really use the term in Canada), I’m sure she’s unkeen on throwing herself at the feet of a system that will in all likelihood send her back for her service of naming human traffickers.

JS, TK, and I discussed what could and should be done. The cooler minds of JS and I prevailed, and thought she would come forward when she got unsick. TK wanted to charge in guns blazing.

Disturbingly, the young woman did know of the property manager, indicating that he knew of her as well. It wasn’t the tenant holding her exclusively. Maybe he was just a client. I’m sure plenty of people knew. But if pursued, I’m sure he’s as liable as anyone. And he’s still co-owner of the building, and vulnerable to pursue.

Feel good enough to go out! Hope to talk to you all (apparently, there are fivish now) tomorrow.

DB


Restarting old projects: resurrecting the dead

Christ. I can swing about 4 hours of non-listlessness a day, and today I finally managed to turn it towards work. I had just about finished the heavy-lifting on a research paper I was writing last summer when I had to return to my residency rotation. I was just supposed to settle in in Calgary, then get to finishing. Then the whole rehab thing happened and it all went out the window.

Now I’m going through a collection of multiple emails from multiple accounts and multiple folders of multiple drives and computers trying to stitch together this thing. I know it’s silly to think, but it almost feels like more work than it was originally. Ah well, just one of the many punishments of junkiehood.

On the plus side, it does give it a bit of an ultimate proofread. There’s plenty of stuff I did on the paper that I just did because I was told to, and not because I truly understood it. I have faith that my supervisors do understand why, but on a lot of them, I remember them being judgment calls.

I think I’ll have more to say on this later. It’s a problem of the statistics outpacing the science. But the statistics are the basis of the science, so what are we left with? I’m sure it still has some value, but this goes well beyond the problems of 0.05 p-values and parametric vs non.

Welp, my dope is here.

Peace.


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