Taken from http://www.psrast.org/thoughtpolice.htm

The Royal Society Guidance on how to suppress unpalatable truths

The Royal Society then drew up a "Guidance for editors", which is reproduced with strong approval in a subsequent House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology Report on Science and Society [15]. It looks suspiciously like the ‘code of practice’ that the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee had in mind to counteract the press ‘hysteria’ over the Pusztai affair. It begins by quoting the Press Complaints Commission Code that, "newspapers and periodicals must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material", and warns, "Editors must be able to demonstrate that the necessary steps have been taken".

"Journalists", the Guidelines states, "must make every effort to establish the credibility of scientists and their work". The Royal Society will publish a directory that provides a list of scientists. Before interviewing any scientist, the journalist will be expected to have consulted the officially nominated expert in the field, who will be able to say whether the scientist in question holds correct views.

"Newspapers may suppose that they have produced ‘balanced’ reports by quoting opposing views". Not so, according to the Royal Society, if "the opposing view is held by only a quixotic minority." Journalists are told to identify, wherever possible, a majority view, and that is the one they should present. The majority view may turn out to be wrong, but such instances, we are told, are the exceptions rather than the rule.

But the mainstream majority has all too often been mistaken! It has been mistaken over nuclear power, climate change, and the link between BSE and new variant CJD, to name but a few glaring examples. And it is thanks to journalists reporting minority views that pressure is brought to bear on the mainstream majority to change their stance. By then, unfortunately, much damage has already been done. It would have been far worse if the minority views had never got a hearing at all.

The Royal Society acknowledges that it is important for scientists to communicate via the media, but is concerned that some scientists may be seeking publicity to further their careers or to make exaggerated claims. This is blatantly absurd and insulting to scientists like Pusztai and others who lost their research grants and jobs for expounding unpopular views and unpalatable findings. To counter this, the Royal Society wants the media to contact "scientific advisers" (again, presumably supplied by the Royal Society) who could establish the authenticity of any story.

On the matter of "uncertainty", "journalists should be wary of regarding uncertainty about a scientific issue as an indication that all views, no matter how unorthodox, have the same legitimacy." The Royal Society insists, once again, that it is peer review that confers legitimacy on scientific claims.

The Royal Society has broken new ground in attempting to exercise control over the press. It has been established practice for decades, if not centuries for new scientific results to be presented at conferences before they have been subjected to peer review and published. Peer review is not and never has been a precondition for research being brought to the attention of the public.

More to the point, where there is the possibility of danger to health or to the environment, it can be totally counter to public interest to wait for peer review. It took Pusztai nearly two years to get part of the work published. And in the final hours, a fellow of the Royal Society, Peter Lachmann tried to prevent the paper appearing in print [16]. Holding back on a scientific claim until everything is settled is one thing; not alerting the public soon enough to a possible danger is another.

Tom Wakeford, who has a regular column in the journal Science and Public Affairs, wanted to round up the year’s events in 1999 as "an annus horribilis" for "the Royal Society, and a host of previously respected UK Scientific institutions". "After decades of almost sleepy acquiescence with science, journalists are seeking out the instances of cronyism, censorship and spin-doctoring from which they had previously seen scientists as being somehow aloof." Tom was given the veto by the editor of the journal, Alun Roberts, who withdrew his column, on grounds that Fellows of the Royal Society "wouldn’t like it". The journal is officially independent, as it is published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and some of its funding comes from the Royal Society.