PepsiCo sparks controversy on ScienceBlogs

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

A firestorm has erupted over at ScienceBlogs over its decision to allow PepsiCo to have a blog, called Food Frontiers, on its site.

In a post this morning, the “ScienceBlogs Overlords” say they didn’t do a good job communicating “what these sponsored blogs are for, give a proper explanation of what our relationship to Food Frontiers was going to be, or even properly explain what Food Frontiers is.”

They have added language that makes clear that what appears on the Food Frontier blog is written by PepsiCo’s scientists and that posts will include the scientists’ affiliation and conflicts of interest.

Sharon Astyk is taking a hiatus from the site “Until Science Blogs decides whether it wants to be a platform for science writers or a platform for corporations to buy credibility.”

The blogger known as Scicurious is taking some time to think over the situation and says she is “more than a bit uncomfortable.” Update: Scicurious has decided to leave ScienceBlogs.

Journalist and author David Dobbs is “dismayed” by the decision and has written a more lengthy post about the problems. He likens it to having Pfizer run continuing medical education and is moving his blog to Neuron Culture, and considering other venues.

A blogger and scientist who goes by GrrlScientist writes a strong post about credibility and the damage a PepsiCo-written blog will do to everyone associated with ScienceBlogs.

Science writer Brian Switek, who says he is “dumbfounded” over the move, points out that “A newspaper or magazine would not allow PepsiCo to write articles about global health or nutrition.” His blog also will be on hiatus. Update: Switek has decided to quit blogging at ScienceBlogs. He says he will keep blogging elsewhere.

For more on the controversy, see posts from PalMD, Abel, Isis, Janet, Zuska, Blake, Christie, Sharon, Jason, Greg, Orac, PZ, Mark, James H., and Alex Wild.

Update

Maryn McKenna, an AHCJ board member as well as author and journalist, weighs in on her blog on the ScienceBlogs site.  She calls the move “spectacularly crass, naive, and dumb.”

Update (July 8)

ScienceBlogs reverses course, evicts Pepsi blog

7 thoughts on “PepsiCo sparks controversy on ScienceBlogs

  1. PalMD

    Thanks for the coverage. This is a fascinating, if uncomfortable, look at how new media need evaluate how they will regard ethics.

  2. Pingback: ScienceBlogs reverses course, evicts Pepsi blog : Covering Health

  3. Best Practices

    Did Pepsi completely embarrass itself or should it be given a second chance?

    Read: Fifth Estate Best Practices and Democracy on opensalon dot com

    Remember the Pepsi Refresh campaign is doing some good. Maybe continued dialogue will as well.

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