Scams, Science, and Millionaires

For a few seconds on Saturday, I was a millionaire. A phone caller said the Publishers’ Clearing House crew was 15 miles away and ready to arrive at my door with a 1.1 million dollar check and $25,000 in cash. I had a brief vision of me on the local news, holding an oversized check and a bouquet of flowers. I wondered if I should change out of the faded t-shirt and ragged shorts I had been wearing to mow lawns.
Of course I knew it was a scam, but I was intrigued with the methods, so while he spoke I went online. I would need a $600 moneypak card to “cover the taxes,” and no doubt I would have to give him the code number on the card before the sugar daddies would arrive with the cash. Speaking of cash, he had asked if I wanted the $25,000 in 100’s or 50’s. I should have asked for it all in pennies.
When he called again to ask if I’d purchased the moneypak card, I explained to him that I had a press photographer, a group of relatives, and a police officer friend ready to attend the big event. He still tried to persuade me to give him the card number until I asked him why he scammed money from people—he hung up and from the Jamaican area code where he lives, he no doubt started in with another call.
I work in a community that prides itself on facts, science, and integrity. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology produces publications based on peer-reviewed science. For 42 years, the organization has worked hard to stay factual and unbiased.
Sadly, the world of science, technology, and agriculture can also be tainted with scams. Some groups, companies, and organizations use slanted information or falsified research. In France (a much debated case), in Japan, and in some U.S. universities, scientists have been charged with producing bogus results.
This 50-minute podcast covers misreporting, retractions in medical journals, and an old scam that went uncorrected for forty years.
Other problems arise because certain journals and media outlets are anxious to publish anything (often for a fee), and that “anything” can be filled with errors and plagiarism. This journalist produced “the world’s worst research paper” and then demonstrated how outlets around the world want to publish it. As he says, this is a “fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.”
It is getting more difficult to produce credible research—and the public and policymakers have trouble deciding what is valuable. Last week, CAST rolled out its newest research publication in Washington, D.C., and it is an example of solid work that goes through the stages. Scientists exchange information, collaborate, and carefully come to conclusions using science-based information. The paper, The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Food in the United States, was peer reviewed and then presented in public forums. Readers might still debate the conclusions, but with authentic research papers such as this, they are able to cite facts and make logical decisions.
The world of agriculture needs ready access to credible information. The scams involved might not be as obvious as a phone call from Jamaica, but no doubt someone is getting rich when slanted or false material gets presented. Good research takes time, thought, and review—not moneypak pay cards.
dan gogerty (truth pic from

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