NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Science Journals Are Being Politicized

January 21, 1999

A survey of college students' definition of sex in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) -- which was cited in the firing of its editor and has obvious political overtones for the impeachment trial of President Clinton -- is not an isolated case of research journals attempting to influence political debate and public policy, says Michael Fumento of the Hudson Institute.

Fumento says there is a trend toward influential medical and scientific journals publishing politically biased and scientifically questionable studies. For instance,

  • Last April JAMA published an article by epidemiologist Devra Lee Davis, whose specialty is trying to connect man- made chemicals to diseases, purporting to show that the number of male births were declining due to chemicals in the environment -- but she selectively used data from 1970 to 1990, even though earlier data shows that male-female birth ratios swing up and down from decade to decade.
  • JAMA also published an article supporting affirmative action in higher education -- concentrating on medical schools to establish some medical link.
  • The journal Nature politicized an article that concluded Thomas Jefferson or one of his male relatives fathered a child by Sally Hemmings -- in order to offer some cover to President Clinton.
  • The journal Science published an article concluding that man-made chemicals were causing havoc with human hormones, all based, not on a study of human cells, but their effect on yeast -- a study which the publishers were later forced to retract.

Fumento says that when faulty studies are used as a basis to formulate public policy, the integrity of science is compromised, and costly regulations are implemented with inadequate knowledge.

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "Medical Journals Give New Meaning to 'Political Science,'" Wall Street Journal, January 21, 1999.


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