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High Noon for Scientific Integrity at Harvard
By Paul Connett THE FLUORIDE ACTION NETWORK
August 24, 2006
Thanks to all the many people who sent in letters trying to get the FDA to exercise some scientific integrity on the mercury amalgam issue. Now we need some help to get some integrity where you would expect to find it.
Dr. Albert Burgstahler is in the middle of an effort to round up support for a letter that he sent to President Bok yesterday. The original signers of the letter were Harvard graduates plus one senior at Harvard College, but Albert is now hoping that many others will voice their concerns about the "Harvard Whitewash" on the Douglass cover-up of Bassin's thesis on fluoridation and osteosarcoma. A "cover-up" of a "cover-up"! Please sign onto Albert's letter (details below).
A few more words about Albert
If you get to meet Dr. Albert Burgstahler in person (as many did at FAN's recent conference) you will be amazed that someone in their 70's is so youthful and buoyant. He has never lost the child's delight in discovery and the search for "truth."
In particular, for over 40 years he has sought the truth on the fluoridation issue and for over 40 years he has been disgusted by those in high office in the medical and dental bureaucracies who continue to deny the truth on this issue and those in the media who let them get away with it. That is why last month, at our conference, FAN instituted the "FAN Albert Burgstahler Scientific Integrity Award" in his honor and named him the first recipient.
"Truth" today may seem to be an old fashioned virtue. However, in years gone by it was seen as very much in fashion. For example, the founders of America's oldest and most famous university - Harvard - chose it for their motto: "Veritas."
Harvard - Douglass - Bassin
Albert graduated from Harvard with a PhD in organic chemistry in 1953. Like the rest of us, Albert was shocked when on August 15 his alma mater, after a 13- month investigation, exonerated Professor Chester Douglass of any academic misconduct in his handling of Dr. Elise Bassin's thesis, without any explanation as to how they reached that extraordinary conclusion and how they did so without even hearing directly from the Environmental Working Group who brought the charge.
For Albert, this is like "High Noon" for his quest for scientific integrity. If we can't get Harvard to live up to its motto "Veritas" - and seem to be doing so - on such an egregious issue as this, what hope have we to see integrity upheld on lesser issues (after all, osteosarcoma is life threatening to young boys) in lesser academic institutions?
So we are confronted with two big questions here: Does Harvard care about living up to its motto "Veritas"? Does anyone care about upholding scientific integrity in issues which relate to the public's health? We know that Albert cares about both. What we need to do is to show that hundreds, if not thousands, of others care about this "old fashioned value."
Allowing, what appears to be a blatant "whitewash" - on such a serious matter - to go by in silence sends a terrible message not only to all Harvard graduates and students, but to any academic institution struggling to hold itself to the highest standards of academic integrity despite huge financial inducements to do otherwise.
While certain industries spend millions trying to subvert it, and several government health agencies turn a blind eye, please help Albert keep the motto "Veritas" alive at Harvard. Please join us at High Noon for this battle for truth.
This is how you can help.
First, read Albert's letter below.
Second, either write your own letter to President Bok, or show your support for Albert's letter.
To support Albert's letter.
1) Copy the letter. Add this separate note to President Bok before the text of the letter, as illustrated here:
Dear President Bok,
My name is .................. (give a brief description of yourself (include qualifications, professional position, or any claim to fame!). Although I am not a Harvard graduate I support the letter below. (if you have the time and inclination add a few words about the importance of maintaining scientific integrity at Harvard)
2) copy the amended letter into an email to President Bok TO: <email@example.com>
3) copy to the deans of the various colleges, by pasting these emails into the CC:
<Jean_Mcveigh@harvard.edu>, < Margaret_dale@hms.harvard.edu>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>
5) hit send.
The letter to President Bok
Dear President Bok,
We, the undersigned students and graduates of Harvard, are disturbed by the charge that a Harvard Professor, Chester Douglass, first hid, then misrepresented, his graduate student's PhD thesis, which found a "robust" association between fluoridated water and an increased risk of osteosarcoma in young boys, a frequently fatal disease (1).
Quite frankly, it surprises us that Professor Douglass was ever put in charge of such a sensitive research issue as this, since he is well known as a promoter of fluoridation and also known to have strong financial ties to industries (Colgate and Delta Dental) which could be exposed to huge liabilities if fluoride is shown to cause cancer (2).
We were very disappointed that the very short 4-paragraph statement, issued by Harvard on August 15, exonerating Professor Douglass of all charges in this matter, gave no explanation as to why the damning evidence produced by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) was dismissed (3).
There is nothing in the Harvard statement that responds to the substance of this concern and it is hard to see how a thorough investigation could have been conducted without even contacting the organization (EWG) that brought the charge.
While we understand that Douglass has brought millions of dollars of research money into the University from both governmental and private sources, no amount of money should be allowed to obfuscate the demands for Harvard to continue to represent the highest standards of academic integrity - and seem to be doing so. Leaving the public with this 4-paragraph statement simply does not do this.
As it stands now, Harvard's failure to release even a basic explanation is neither fair to Dr. Elise Bassin, nor to the public that ultimately funded this work. It isn't even fair to Douglass himself. For, without a cogent explanation, the assumption will be made by many, including us, that this has been an exercise in which Harvard is merely "protecting its own."
We believe this matter merits further review from the President's office, and a fuller and more open public accounting to remove any taint of a Harvard "whitewash." Ultimately, the country looks to you, President Bok, to uphold the University's motto: "Veritas" (truth).
We look forward to your prompt reply in this matter.
Albert Burgstahler, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Kansas University, Editor, Fluoride, co-author, "Fluoridation: The Great Dilemma," MA (1950), PhD (1953) Harvard University
Phillip Allen, MD, Harvard Medical School, '54
Naomi Flack, EdM, Harvard Graduate School of Education, '64
Roy Flack, LLB, Harvard Law School, '64; MBA, Harvard Business School, '66
Antone G. Jacobson, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Harvard College, '51
Stephen M. Koral, Dentist, AM, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, '70; DMD, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, '80.
Kathryn Lee, EdM, Harvard Graduate School of Education, '94
Tyler Graham Neill, Senior, Harvard College
Richard J. Perry, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, St. Lawrence University, Harvard College '65
Eleanor Prentiss, BA, Harvard's Extension, '67
Richard Shames, MD, author "Feeling Fat, Fuzzy or Frazzled?" Harvard College, '67
Caroline Snyder, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology, MA, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, '56, PhD, '66.
1) EWG complaint: http://www.ewg.org/issues/fluoride/20050627/index.php
2) FAN history: http://www.fluoridealert.org/harvard/
3) Harvard statement: http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/8_15Douglass.html