Response to recent Intercept article

Response to recent Intercept article

Nov 16, 2016 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sense About Science USA is perplexed by the recent article, “Seeding Doubt,” which appeared in the Intercept yesterday. If we had been asked about our funding, associations, and mission, we would have responded as such:

  • Sense About Science USA does not accept funding from industry. Since our launch in November 2014, we have been fully funded by foundations:  
    • Arnold Foundation: $1,426,200  
    • Searle Foundation: $260,000  
  • Regarding our initiative – as it is a partnerships between SAS USA and American Statistical Association (ASA) – we have received, to date, $27,500 from the ASA.  
  • Additionally, we ran a GoFundMe campaign for an AllTrials USA video, which raised approximately $8,000 from about 100 individuals. 
  • We are committed to transparency and building trust with our partners and are happy to share our bylaws, which were written to ensure that we maintain independence in pursuit of our mission.  
  • All members of our staff and board of advisors have signed a conflict of interest clause. We value transparency, building trust, and creating an organization that is not about our individual ideas, but about elevating, with guidance from our advisors,  the conversation about science.
  • is not associated with any industry organization; our statistical advisory board is limited to academics only, and we do not accept any money from news outlets for our workshops (apart from reasonable travel compensation).
  • In its present form, is under new leadership and has a new mission and strategy. We are committed to promoting statistical literacy through educational projects; we are happy to share a list of our partnerships.
  • One of our key projects is focused on public health, and promoting clinical trial transparency by holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable for failing to report clinical trial data.
  • Though we work with the UK Sense about Science, we are independent organizations, with separate funding, boards of advisors, missions, and strategies; we are not an affiliate of the UK Sense about Science. The aim of both Sense About Science USA and the UK Sense about Science are similar, however, execution of our projects varies to be appropriate to the mission, audience and needs of each organization (which are separate).
  • We are committed to working with others to better the conversation about science and evidence in the US; though we appreciate our partnerships, we also acknowledge that we do not represent external organizations and can only speak for Sense About Science USA, its mission, ethos, and strategies.

Moreover, here’s why the Intercept article is misleading by leaving out much of our work and goals:

  • People and organizations with no connection to Sense About Science USA are lumped with us — though we have no control or say in their work.
  • The AllTrials USA initiative has brought hundreds of patient groups and professional scientific organizations together for clinical trial transparency.
  • has provided free advice for journalists on mathematical and statistical issues via #STATScheck and a network of volunteer statisticians from universities around the U.S.
    • The service has helped journalists from the Associated Press, ABC News, National Geographic, the New York Times, and the Economist.
      • One of our volunteer statisticians spent months working with ProPublica in an investigation into racial bias in software used to predict criminal behavior.
    • We have run statistics workshops for newsrooms (Vox and STAT, Boston Globe), as well as publishers of science journals (Springer Nature) and journalism schools (Grady School of Journalism).
    • Our website has posted analysis evaluating the mathematical and statistical soundness of a variety of studies, such as the 2011 PACE trial for chronic fatigue syndrome. 
  • We have run interactive science communication workshops (Scientifically Speaking) at Caltech, Rockefeller University, and Carnegie Mellon.

We will continue to collaborate with leading scientific organizations to further these goals in the belief that science and statistics are our best hope for human progress and flourishing. We are committed to transparency and welcome conversations about our goals and strategies.

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