Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Media Advisory: Be Sure to Fact Check Joseph Mangano, Janette Sherman and Robert Alvarez

We've gotten a heads up that Joseph Mangano, the brains behind the "Tooth Fairy" project, will be holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon fronting more junk science about nuclear energy. He'll be back with the usual suspects, Robert Alvarez and Janette Sherman, this time claiming that closing the Rancho Seco nuclear plant (click here for a photo) in California "might" have coincided with a decrease in cancer deaths.

Mangano and company are making these claims despite the fact that nuclear power plants only account for .1% of the radiation that a typical American is exposed to over the course of a year. Meanwhile, exposures from life saving medical procedures like CT scans and X-Rays account for about 50%.

Putting that aside, a number of third party experts and journalists have regularly taken turns debunking Mangano's research. In 2011, Michael Moyer of Scientific American said the following about one Mangano study that claimed Americans were suffering from severe health effects in the wake of Fukushima:

[A] check reveals that the authors’ statistical claims are critically flawed—if not deliberate mistruths.

[...]

Only by explicitly excluding data from January and February were Sherman and Mangano able to froth up their specious statistical scaremongering.

This is not to say that the radiation from Fukushima is not dangerous, nor that we shouldn’t closely monitor its potential to spread (we should). But picking only the data that suits your analysis isn’t science—it’s politics. Beware those who would confuse the latter with the former.
Thankfully, it appears that more and more journalists are starting to ask hard questions when it comes to Mangano's soundbites. In December 2011, Barbara Ostrov from Reporting on Health, a blog sponsored by USC Annenberg, warned journalists to "proceed with caution," when it came to Mangano's claims, especially considering that his research can only seem to find a home in a relatively obscure publication. To say the least, NEI echoes Ms. Ostrov's advice, and urges reporters to rigorously question his findings while also seeking out third party experts for their opinions.

4 comments:

EntrepreNuke said...

Good job of calling out this upcoming report while avoiding an ad hominem.

A key component of science in general and of a healthy nuclear safety culture is to maintain a questioning attitude, and these self-proclaimed researchers should not be immune to being questioned.

Based on the history of these familiar names, I feel confident that I could roughly write out the conclusion they will claim to reach without me ever having need to look at the data they collected.

richardw said...

"I feel confident that I could roughly write out the conclusion they will claim to reach without me ever having need to look at the data they collected."

Which is of course doing exactly what you are accusing them of doing.

Joseph said...

According to Joseph Mangano, there was an increase in infant mortality in Philadelphia right after the Fukushima meltdown. This is a bit strange since the radioiodine levels there were higher before the meltdown.

Engineer-Poet said...

"According to Joseph Mangano, there was an increase in infant mortality in Philadelphia right after the Fukushima meltdown."

This must be the "spooky action at a distance" that the deniers of the Copenhagen interpretation didn't like.

Either that, or the ghetto population had an upsurge in drinking and drug abuse.  I'd put my money there.