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On November 27th SciQ, a science education series ran by the Young Turks Network, posted a discussion about science communication. During this discussion; Jayde Lovell, one of the SciQ producers, mentioned that Dr. Kevin Folta fabricated alternate persona’s online to advocate for himself and that hiscareer is now ruined. This claim comes from a misunderstanding of Dr. Folta’s work and sense of humor.
The following day, Dr. Folta posted a comment on the video. He was clearing a few misconceptions about his “alternate persona” and the funding of his programs. The comment was promptly removed without any explanation. The comment still isn’t viable today.
Dr. Folta’s Comment:
Hi Everybody, I was alerted to check out this video and to correct a few misunderstandings (@~14:00). First, the company mentioned funded a communications workshop I do (briefly!). They didn’t fund me or my research. The funds were not used, and were donated elsewhere after threats came in against me and my family. Next, I didn’t create “fake personas to advocate” (for myself). I used to do a science podcast that was a parody of Coast-to-Coast AM. The idea was quite Colbert Show like. I have a background in improv, so it seemed like a good idea. You can hear it at www.sciencepowerhour.com (the Science Power Hour is about 30 minutes, the joke was kind of clear). A journalist named Brooke Borel and I had a “spirited” discussion about funding etc where we disagreed quite a bit. I sent her a note to be a guest on the podcast, just to patch things up. Instead she decided that the Science Power Hour was a “scandal” and wrote the tremendously damaging piece. I understood how she felt the parody was deceptive and took it down immediately based on her perspective, even though others realized the comedy/parody. I told her that I took it down out of respect for her perspective, and she characterized that as being evasive. Sometimes someone just has it out for you, and she remains one of the more cold, evil people I ever met. Her interest was to destroy my career, and instead she hurt her own, as orchestrating a take down of a career independent scientist and a leader in public teaching/education put her in line with the activists and against the scientific community. To the opposite, all of this backfired. The scientific public saw what happened to me as the same thing that the bad guys did to Michael Mann in climate and Paul Offit in vaccines. While some see me as damaged goods as the panelist does here, most see me as the victim of a coordinated defamation effort. Time has been kind, as nowadays I’m speaking about science communication in universities, industry events, and ag conferences constantly. I’m declining invites left and right because there is more than I can do and still be a good researcher and university administrator. I have extensive training in communication and have taught the topic for two decades. There are TV commentators on CNN that I once coached. No deficit there. On the other hand, the big companies keep me well distanced, and I do the same with them. Shifting the burden of teaching scientists how to speak to the public goes from some industry input to 100% public/me. I don’t get “speaker fees”. The funding that should go to me goes to the program. That was over $10K last year. Yes, I’m one awful dude. And absolutely– I did not handle everything perfectly and had a few things I could have done much better through this episode. I’ve learned a lot of lessons and adjusted. These days I’m beyond transparent about everything and I think it sets an ambitious example that my critics are unlikely to match. I’m also not sure that my research career has been “ruined” and I think my reputation ultimately benefitted. Of course, a few folks will always be out gunning for me as I teach others about science, but I think that means I’m doing something right. Thanks for the space, sorry for the long note. My record is 100% transparent, always has been, always will be www.kevinfolta.com/
transparency. I’m always happy to answer questions, kevinfolta at gmail. Thanks!
You would think that a science communicator would want to provide the most accurate information as possible and would release corrections when warranted. Posting inaccurate information is not new for SciQ. In their video about the television show ,”Mr. Robot”, more than half of the information and terms they used were inaccurate. The comments on that video offered some corrections, but they fell on def ears.
Perhaps their goal is not to provide accurate information, just accurate enough for them.
The free market can be a wonderful thing. Various goods and services are created based on the needs and wants of the public. Labels are great at making informed choices when buying a product. Some labels are so effective, they can drastically change the market. The greatest example is trans fats in food. After the scientific community agreed that trans fats were unhealthy and pushed the FDA to require labeling of trans fats, the levels of trans fats began to decline. As people were buying less items that contained trans fats, the companies began to remove them from their products to win back their customers. Between 2005 and 2010 the average trans fat levels dropped by 73%. The FDA has since established a deadline of 2018 to outlaw PHO from foods.
This time the label requirement isn’t being pushed by the scientific community, but by fear mongering and anti-corporate ideas. If the “Contains GMO” label is added to all food items, the uninformed general public will ask the question, “If it is supposed to be good for us, why is it labeled?” It will add some legitimacy to these unscientific claims and the free market will begin to only produce GMO free and “organic” options based on public demand created by the label driven purchasing decisions.
GE organisms and Synthetic pesticides are wonderful tools for us to have in order to sustain life and combat our changing world. The 3rd world needs the technology used in our standard farming practices. We do not need a 73% decrease in the use of technology.
Plexus Slim is advertised as a safe and effective method for weight loss. The goal is to see if Plexus Slim Pink Drink’s claims on weight control and other health benefits can be scientifically validated based on the available research of each active ingredient in the product.
Literature searches of studies containing the ingredients contained in the Plexus “Pink Drink”. Each ingredient with health benefit and weight control claims will be reviewed and complied.
Ingredients and Beneficial Claims
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Chlorogenic Acid (Coffee Bean Extract)
- Garcinia Cambogia
Chromium (CR): The majority of the results show zero evidence for assisting in weight loss. A couple studies do show a small effect, however the results are statistically irrelevant. In the studies that showed a small effect, the test subjects ingested between 600-1000 mcg of Chromium daily. Plexus Slim only contains 200 mcg of Chromium.
Kidney disease: There are at least three reports of kidney damage in patients who took chromium picolinate. Don’t take chromium supplements, if you already have kidney disease.
Liver disease: There are at least three reports of liver damage in patients who took chromium picolinate. Don’t take chromium supplements, if you already have liver disease.
Diabetes: Chromium might lower blood sugar levels too much if taken along with diabetes medications. If you have diabetes, use chromium products cautiously and monitor blood glucose levels closely. Dose adjustments to diabetes medications might be necessary.
Chromate/leather contact allergy: Chromium supplements can cause allergic reactions in people with chromate or leather contact allergy. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and scaling of the skin.
Behavioral or psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia: Chromium might affect brain chemistry and might make behavioral or psychiatric conditions worse. If you have one of these conditions, be careful when using chromium supplements. Pay attention to any changes in how you feel.
Chlorogenic Acid (CA): The control trials I have access to show some small improvement over placebos. There is also a systematic review that included three other studies that shared the same conclusion. Most of these studies show a high risk of bias and the studies are all of poor methodological quality. I systematic review calls for more rigorous trials.
Garcinia Cambogia (HCA): Garcinia Cambogia seems to show some improvement, but the effects are small. Plexus doesn’t publish how much Garcinia is in their 530mg Plexus Slim Blend. In the studies that show improvement the test subjects took on average 3.06 grams of Garcinia per day. The lowest dose that worked was 1000mg of HCA per day. It would seem that it isn’t possible to get a meaningful dose from the Plexus Slim Blend.
Garcinia can cause nausea, digestive tract discomfort, and headache. Study HCA11 shows possible damage to testicles in lab rats. Men should speak to a urologist before taking HCA. Study HCA12 shows possible increased heart rate due to serotonin syndrome. It is recommenced for those on antidepressants to consult a doctor for taking HCA.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): ALA seems to have fairly modest results in doses between 800 – 1800 mg per day. More research is required to verify the results and to establish a recommend dose. When it comes to Plexus Slim, there is not enough research to show that the unknown dose of ALA in the 530mg Plexus Slim Blend is high enough to see any results.
Diabetes: Alpha-lipoic acid can decrease blood sugar levels. Your diabetes medications might need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.
Excessive use of alcohol/thiamine deficiency: Alcohol can lower the amount of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. Taking alpha-lipoic acid when there is a shortage of thiamine might cause serious health problems. If you drink a lot of alcohol or take alpha-lipoic acid, you should take a thiamine supplement.
Thyroid disease: Taking alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with treatments for under-active or over-active thyroid.
Based on the available research of Plexus Slims ingredients, it is highly unlikely that the results people are reporting are because of the product. It is more likely the result of their modified diet and/or exercise. Plexus Slim is touted as being a safe product. While a majority of people would not experience side effects. There is enough evidence to suggest, the product is not 100% safe and anyone selling the product should inform everyone of the possible side effects and suggest customers to consult a doctor before using their product. High blood pressure and increased heart palpitations were the most commonly reported side effect to the Better Business Bureau.