Following are notes from a phone call Anne Landman, TobaccoWiki Editor, had with Dr. Herman Gibb, President of Sciences International Re: SW article on Sciences International April 14, 2008 11:58 AM
Mr. Gibb states that he is perplexed and that he feels the “article misrepresents us.” Since 2006, “when I took over as president of the company, I have refused to take any tobacco funding. I have gotten requests to work with tobacco companies and have refused each time. The previous president of the company, Betty Anderson, did take some tobacco funding in the past. The article refers to NIH contract, and it is perplexing to continually to see her name. Do you know how big we are? Take a guess.” (I didn’t guess—I asked him to tell me). ” 2.5 people are employed at SI. And one person is leaving. One person deals w/ phones and bills. There are only 3 people here actually doing the science aspect and I’m one. We’re NOT a large monolithic organization w/ a corporate culture. We have never worked for tobacco since I’ve become President of the Co. in 2006.”
“I also object to links in the article to the fact we lost a contract w/ NIH. Again I’m carrying baggage for Betty. She left the company and went to work for “Exponent” consulting (Palo Alto, Calif.) There are allegations we have done work for BASF. Co. Under her the company had done work for BASF but only 2 weeks worth of work and not on Bisphenol A. There is no reason to believe the report on Bisphenol A could have been influenced by 2 weeks worth of work. Work wasn’t done for DOW, Better Anderson had been an expert witness for DOW.”
“I am also frustrated by what is NOT mentioned in article: Good news: NIHS did an audit of our work and found no corruption in reports. The press led people to believe we did a report and drew conclusions on Bisphenol A. That is not what we did. It was a panel put together by NIHS (we had nothing to do w/ selection of panel). What NIHS did in their audit was that they said we had ID’s all the refs and followed all instructions given us by the panel to a “T”, and unfortunately for us, there were allegations made in the press and then the Director of NIHS who was under scrutiny for his personal behavior, was taking $$ as an expert witness while an employee, etc. It was expedient for him to terminate our contract. Meanwhile in the last month he resigned. 2 Month after, the contract was terminated. No one takes notice that audit was done and Sciences International was cleared. We’ve been hurt by this.”
“We’re never going to work for tobacco."
Gibb reported that he has been approached twice to do work for tobacco companies, once by an attorney representing RJR about something dealing with a safe cigarette. The state of Vermont was challenging RJR on their claims of a safer cigarette. There was data on mice and he wanted us to do some cancer risk estimates and compare that to substantiate their claim. He said “44 other states have lined up to do the same. It would be huge—you could retire on that alone.” Gibb refused work.
Another time Gibb was approached to speak to guy at the University of Wales who did work for British American Tobacco. Again he said he was “not going to work for tobacco”. Said BAT rep wanted to come to U.S. to meet with him. Gibb refused.
A Minneapolis newspaper “reported our contract was terminated with NIH. This government contract WAS NOT terminated for conflict of interest. Would have challenged that right away if that had been the case. It was terminated “for convenience of the gov’t” (could mean anything—this is an escape clause routinely used by the government). I was in gov’t long time (worked for EPA, WHO). Gov’t had no rules for conflict of interest. When they came out later and said “we’re going to change this” and make policies, you could drive a truck through the loopholes!. The policies were mostly regarding personal, obvious conflict of interest but were less applicable to entire organizations. So we were left to wonder…Do you hire someone who worked for a private company 2 years ago? Five years ago? If you made such rules, you probably wouldn’t get anyone valuable to work for you…
What Dr. Gibb wants: Gibb would like us to take down the article. I told him that was unlikely, but we can amend it. He said, “Can’t we reference past info to Betty Anderson, we are SI but that’s not our history. We’re only like 2.5 people. It would be more appropriate to attribute the past to her. It is my understanding that Exponent IS continuing to do work for the tobacco companies, but I have no way to reference that.” “Exponent called up and tried to hire me but I’m not interested because I did a study on chromium on workers that became basis of OSHA’s Personal Exposure Limite (PEL) for chromium. They don’t set a limit on it but once every millenium! One of the best occupational studies on chromate. After I did the study, Exponent was hired to criticize the study. Don’t mind criticism but….it would have looked great on them if I went to work for them. But in their calling me I said I wouldn’t want that kind of pressure on me and don’t want to work on anything with tobacco. When Betty was here she did. But I worked for WHO and they asked me if I had done work for tobacco and I said no.
Requests: 1) “I Want Sciences International taken out of SW completely. It’s unfair to have to continue to have to carry around baggage of someone who ran it before me. I can never get out from under that cloud. There was a time when this may of happened but when I became president in June 2006 we stopped.”
2) ” I want to appeal to your sense of fairness. If someone is bad, then okay, say they’re bad. But this sounds like we’re a big monolithic organization that works for tobacco but that’s not the case. Any kind of criticism really stings. How to get the monkey off our back?”
How call concluded: —I told Dr. Gibb that it was unlikely we would delete the entire article from SW, but that we can modify it/update it to reference some of the new information he told me. I told him that I can reference this phone call as a source for some of the information he has told me today. —I asked Dr. Gibb if he could send me a link to the audit in which SI was absolved of wrongdoing about the Bishpenol A report, saying we could post that info and link to it. He agreed to do this. —I also suggested he post the policy on the company’s web site saying they don’t take money from tobacco companies or its subsidiaries any more, if that is now the case. He was a little opposed to this, just feeling he didn’t want to have to put something on his web site defending the company, but I said he didn’t have to frame it as a defense, just as a policy that has been updated since he became President. I explained that way there would be something that SW could reference, so that information could be included in an update in the article about SI. He seemed amenable to that. I asked him to send me the link to the page on his site that contains the policy after he updates it. —I told him I sympathized with his situation but I pointed out that unfortunately for him, he became president of a company that has baggage, and that as long was what has occurred in the past was well-documented, that info would likely remain on SW. I told him I looked over the article and it appeared that there are authoritative references to back up the information about what the company had done in the past under Betty Anderson, but that we can clarify that it was SHE that engaged in these activities, and that the company is under new management and has a new policy not to take tobacco $$ (and then we can link to his page). —I told him that he could get on SW and edit the article himself, as long as he follows the strict referencing requirements of SW for any information he adds. He laments that a lot of the information showing the company has changed is not in electronic or easily referenceable format. I suggested ways he could make it more referenceable (for example posting info on his company’s web site). He lamented that the accusations against his company make big headlines, but no one covers it when the company is absolved, or when something good happens. —I said I would talk to Bob about our discussion and any other changes we can make, and get back to him.