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New awards for 2008 books are coming out, and we’re proud to announce that David Michaels’ Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health has won recognition from both the Library Journal and the American Association of Publishers.

Library Journal’s Gregg Sapp has selected Doubt is Their Product as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2008, and the American Association of Publishers has selected it as a finalist for their PROSE Award.

Last month, David Michaels spoke to Google employees about his book Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, and Google has now posted the video on YouTube as part of their Authors@Google series.

The Google employees asked astute questions (starting around the 31-minute mark), touching on freedom of speech issues; what industry scientists should do about manufactured uncertainty (this from a former industry research scientist); international regulation; and the relative costs of workplace illnesses and profits.

The video’s below the fold:

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When I’m teaching a class or speaking to a group about the “funding effect” – the close correlation between the results desired by a study’s funders and those reported by the researchers – people often ask how researchers do it. How is it that researchers paid by a sponsor usually get results favorable to the study’s sponsor?

I’ve try to help answer that question in an article that appears in today’s Washington Post, entitled It’s Not the Answers That Are Biased, It’s the Questions. (A longer discussion of the funding effect is in my book Doubt is Their Product).

Having a financial stake in the outcome changes the way even the most respected scientists approach their research. Scientists make many decisions about the doses, exposure methods and disease definitions they use in their experiments, and each decision affects the result.

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The Weinberg Group is one of the product defense firms I write about in my new book “Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health.” These firms help polluters and manufacturers of dangerous products avoid regulation – only now the Weinberg Group is not a product defense firm, it’s transformed itself into a “product support” firm.

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The May 12th issue of Newsweek contains Sharon Begley’s excellent review of Doubt is Their Product (which should now be available in your local bookstore). Naturally, we like it because it says nice things about David’s book, but we also think Begley does a terrific job describing the kinds of abuses the book chronicles. It’s not surprising to see her giving a pithy summary of how polluters manufacture uncertainty, since she wrote last year’s Newsweek cover story “Global-Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine,” which provides one of the best overviews of the global warming denial movement I’ve seen.

The review is well worth a read; here’s a taste:

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Doubt is Their Product is the focus of the second piece in a three-part series by Slate’s Daniel Engber on “radical skepticism and the rise of conspiratorial thinking about science.” After describing the strategy of manufacturing doubt, from its tobacco-industry roots to its use by energy and drug companies and politicians, Engber suggests that anti-regulatory forces aren’t the only ones using it. His perspective is an interesting and useful one for those of us who are immersed in the scientific back-and-forth and might not realize how the general public views the issues.

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Even though the Vanity Fair Green Issue features an excellent piece on Monsanto (which, in addition to its long history of toxic contamination, now has a reputation for ruthless legal campaigns against small farmers), we here at The Pump Handle were most excited to see this sentence on the book review page:

In Doubt is Their Product (Oxford), David Michaels calls out the corporations—you’ll recognize them—that bankroll lobbyists and unethical scientists to attack the factual evidence that their products, such as asbestos, lead, and tobacco, are deadly.

We’ve just posted the Introduction of Doubt is Their Product on DefendingScience.org, so head over there for a taste of the tobacco-industry tactics that have now been adapted for everything from aspirin to global warming.

My book Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health (Oxford University Press, 2008 ) will be officially released May 1st (though it’s available now through Amazon and Powell’s), and I’ll be writing and speaking more about it over the next several weeks. The book reports on the way scientists working for “product defense” consulting firms manufacture uncertainty in order to help polluters and producers of dangerous products avoid or delay public health and environmental regulation.

I’m fortunate that Doubt is Their Product has already been reviewed by two journalists who do an excellent job describing the problems that decades of manufactured uncertainty have created for today’s health and environmental advocates. The reviews by Chris Mooney at The American Prospect and Arthur Allen at The Washington Independent are both worth reading, whether or not you’re seeking book-purchasing guidance.

In Doubt, I recount how the strategy of manufacturing uncertainty was pioneered by the tobacco industry. Clearly successful, it has been adopted by the asbestos, beryllium, chromium, and pesticide industries, among others, and it is the strategy used by global warming deniers. There are few industries that haven’t tried it – Andrew Dressler at Grist has a new piece on how the Indoor Tanning Association is trying to convince the public that “there is actually no evidence linking sun exposure with cancer.” (I talk about that in my book, too.)

Challenging the science behind any proposed environmental regulations has become standard operating procedure. Doubt is Their Product describes how polluters have not only delayed action on specific hazards, but, with the help of the Bush Administration, they have constructed barriers to make it harder for lawmakers, government agencies, and courts to respond to future threats.

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