Inverted Research is an invented term designed to fill a gap in the normal scientific lexicon.
It characterises certain studies, multi-study programs, and entrepreneurial science-based companies which specialise in conducting research in an inverted or reverse order. The procedure is generally this:
- A company or industry with a perceived health or environmental problem needs research to prove its product/service is safe.
- A compliant medical or environmental health research company is identified by a specialised PR or law company and contracted to conduct the research.
- The desired end-point is worked out first (often with the advice of the lawyers and PR agents)
- The study or research program is designed after much discussion.
- Document research will then be conducted to find previous projects which have failed or proved inconclusive. These can be used to bolster the findings and support the designed commercial outcomes.
- The research is conducted … and it naturally produces the desired outcome (which may be a zero finding)
- A major public relations firm is then hired to promote the results of this "independent" research, usually in a sensational way which may involve attacking the "irresponsible and alarmist" nature of the original claims.
- A considerable amount of money changes hands -- to the researchers, the lawyers and the public relations operators.
- The leaders of the inverted research company find they have an on-going source of funds: attending conferences to promote their findings; conducting further inverted research programs for the industry concerned; and a reputation among their corporate partner which brings new clients from other industries with similar problems.
Peer Review Problems
The findings of Inverted Reseach are often challenged by genuine scientists working in the field, however this can often be successfully countered:
- - If the industry has a large number of enlisted scientists it will set up a peer-review operation where other scientists provide support.
- - if the industry owns (surreptitiously) scientific journals appropriate to the research (the tobacco industry had at least a half-dozen) it will heavily promote the inverted findings. It will also set up a 'peer review' panel which will create the desired outcome.
- - journalists can be given junkets to exotic locations, where one or two 'independent' scientists will lecture them on the results, producing good stories.
- - bad science drives out good. In many cases one inverted study, well publicised, will trump many years of real investigation because of the sensationalism that can surround it's release.
Companies which specialised in organising Inverted Research
- Shook Hardy & Bacon a Kansas City law firm that had a hand in most of the tobacco industry's most notorious scientific scams over the years.
- Covington & Burling the Washington DC (and London) based corporate law firm which conducted both scientific design/recrutiment and political influence programs for the tobacco industry.
- The Weinberg Group (aka WashTech) a specialist science recruitment firm which worked for Philip Morris and the tobacco industry in general, recruiting staff and scientists for their WhiteCoats program and other scams. They had offices in Washington (Myron Weinberg) and Brussels.
- APCO and its later manifestations APCO & Associates, APCO Associates, and APCO Worldwide. This company began life as a subsidiary of Arnold & Porter, the law firm for Philip Morris, which created the company for subversive reasons.
- Burson Marsteller, one of the world's largest PR companies which doesn't mind getting its hands dirty.
- Hill & Knowlton, the main PR firm for the tobacco industry in the early days. However it later developed a conscience and polled its staff around the world. They voted not to continue supporting the tobacco industry, so H&K backed out of tobacco involvement.
- E. Bruce Harrison, the company hired by Dow Chemicals to attack environmental author Rachel Carsons over her popular book Silent Spring.