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Junk science

Junk science is a term used to derogate purportedly scientific data, research, analyses or claims which are driven by political, financial or other questionable motives. Compare to pseudoscience.

Like many other ideological terms, there is often no political agreement as to which side of a debate constitutes "junk", and which "real" science, though the scientific community may have an overwhelming majority opinion. Public debates on environmental and health issues seem particularly prone to this problem. These debates are further complicated when proponents of junk science use mass media to publicize their outrageous claims or controversial research.

Alleged abuse of the term

Critics such as John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of PR Watch point out that the term "junk science" is often used to deride scientific findings which contradict the corporate goal of profit maximization. In their book Trust Us, We're Experts (2001, New York), they cite detailed examples of how industry has launched multi-million-dollar campaigns to position certain theories as "junk science", often failing to employ the scientific method themselves. For example, the tobacco industry has used the term "junk science" to describe research showing negative effects of smoking and second-hand smoke, through veiled industry-funded PR organizations such as the "Tobacco Institute Research Council" (p. 230) and the Cato Institute. Another example for discrediting disliked scientific findings is a large industry campaign to "reposition global warming as theory, not fact" described in detail by Stauber and Rampton.

Spokespersons for corporations and government bureaucracies counter by saying that the scientific evidence used by their critics actually constitutes junk science and should not be used as a basis for policy.

See also Pathological science and Scientific method

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