"This sort of conduct strikes at the heart of that trust which is vital if this very, very useful commercial medium is to continue ...

Shilling a Scientist


"This sort of conduct strikes at the heart of that trust which is vital if this very, very useful commercial medium is to continue to operate successfully." - was this about PepsiCo or Minibus company owner Paul Barrett ? It was actually said by a judge in a case successfully brought by Ebay against Minibus firm owner Paul Barrett (he was fined £5k and 250 hours community service) for bidding up prices on his own products but it could just have been about PepsiCo who have had a disastrous foray into the practise of social media influencer marketing with Science Blogs network.According to Wikipedia "ScienceBlogs is an invitation-only blog network and virtual community. It was created .....to enhance the public understanding of science.(and) hosts 75 blogs dedicated to various fields of research. Each blog has its own theme, specialty, and author(s) and is not subject to editorial control. Authors include active scientists working in industry, universities and medical schools as well as college professors, physicians, professional writers, graduate students, and post-docs" According to Quantcast It has about 1.1m visits per month 65% of which come from the US and if their comments and followers sections are anyhting to go by this group is hugely interactive and very influential in the Science field.
As such it is no wonder why Pepsi decided to get involved with them to push information on its Science, nutrition and health policy - as a result they launched the Food Frontiers blog which has the byline "This blog is sponsored by PepsiCo. All editorial content is written by PepsiCo's scientists or scientists invited by PepsiCo and/or ScienceBlogs. All posts carry a byline above the fold indicating the scientist's affiliation and conflicts of interest" - now there are other company sponsored blogs on ScienceBlogs but the issue that greatly enraged the followers of this network is that all posts on Food Frontiers will come from PepsiCo-scientists or PepsiCo-approved bloggers - and that to them (and me) makes it blatant advertising which should be marked and indicated as such so readers go into it with their eyes wide open. To be fair the sites defence is that this sort of corporate sponsored blog keeps the blogs going commercially and as such is needed and the naysayers are cutting off their nose to spite their face.
They are however voting with their comments and mouses (is that a word?) - so far their are 240 comments to their welcome post - and incidentally no other posts - the sentiment of which is voiced perfectly by "Pratchett" If there was a single thing you could do to destroy all that the various people who write for you have spent years building up, this is it. If you must cave to corporate concerns, which this indubitably is, then at least mark it as paid advertising, and retain some veneer of legitimacy as a result"
I am sure this issue will run and run as brands increasingly try and invade territories previously sacrosanct to get their message through and however worthy the intentions may be unless it is done with subtlety, skill and judgement this type of response will grow and grow.
What next ? BP sponsoring Florida holidays or Nestle Save the Orang-utan promotions !

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