Tag Archives: UCSF

Glantz settles academic fraud and sexual harassment lawsuit

by Carl V Phillips

As my regular readers — or anyone who appreciates some really awesome schadenfreude — will know, two lawsuits were filed by female students against UCSF anti-tobacco nutcase and faux-scientist Stanton Glantz (technically they were postdoctoral fellows, but there is no relevant difference here between a graduate student and a postdoc). They were billed as sexual harassment suits, though the real payloads were about other abuses by Glantz. I covered it at The Daily Vaper, here, here, and here, and did a video interview about what I wrote here.

Mine account for approximately half the newspaper articles written about the story. That pattern does not quite constitute a coverup, but it is pretty close. Compare the number of stories about any similar accusations a professor who is not a pet of the US government and a favorite of institutions with political influence over the mainstream press. (Sexual harassment suits are a topic that, for obvious reasons, you cannot count on the right-wing press to pick up on, even if suits them politically.)

As I noted in my previous coverage, the most striking aspect of the story is that not a single person in tobacco control expressed so much as a lame “troubling if true” comment. At the same time, not one expressed doubt about the allegations and tried to defend Glantz. Presumably they did not actually doubt that the claims were true, but just did not care.

Also as I noted in my previous coverage, the salacious #MeToo allegations in the complaints are not really the biggest allegations. The sexual (and racial) harassment allegations in the lawsuits were pretty weak. They consisted of rude and boorish behavior by Glantz, and do not paint a picture of a sustained environment of this. Even that much is grossly inappropriate for any employer, let alone an academic mentor, of course. But we are not talking “high-ranking Republican official”-level behavior; more like Al Franken behavior. (In keeping with my running observations about the parallels between the GOP/Trump and tobacco control, it is worth noting that Franken’s party forced him to resign over one boorish incident from his past, while tobacco controllers’ ignoring of the Glantz allegations parallels the GOP practice of ignoring credible criminal-level allegations against Trump and other officials.) Of course, it is possible that the lawsuit filings do not fully capture just how pervasive and oppressive the behavior was, though it seems extremely unlikely there were worse specific acts that were not mentioned.

If the plaintiffs could not produce much more about that than the filings included, it seemed really unlikely they could get it to stick. But this is not true for the less salacious allegations that most observers overlook. The first lawsuit, by Eunice Neeley, said that Glantz stole credit for a paper she wrote and even submitted it to a journal under his name. This is extremely serious bright-line academic fraud, and very easy to prove. The second lawsuit included a claim about Glantz defrauding the U.S. government in order to get funding. This was presented less clearly, but seems like it is probably also bright-line and easy to prove. Of course, if the U.S. government cared about Glantz committing fraud, they would not be happy about his “research” in the first place. (Narrator: “They are actually quite delighted with his fraudulent research.”)

It was recently noticed (not actually announced) that UCSF and Glantz settled the Neeley lawsuit a few weeks ago. UCSF has posted the settlement agreement (h/t @jkelovuori). It is not clear whether they posted it because of transparency requirements or if they agreed to do it as part of the settlement. It could be they think it makes them look a lot better than a pending lawsuit, which is arguably true.

The settlement included UCSF paying Neeley (which really means mostly or entirely her attorney) $150,000. This is about what it would have cost the defendants to go to court and win, let alone risk losing. As is usually the case, the settlement document includes the defendants’ denials of all the allegations. The pro forma denial and the limited dollars do mean that the settlement document makes UCSF look pretty good. Neeley’s lawyer may have decided that the case was unwinnable. The part that was bright-line misconduct is something (real) scholars would care deeply about, but a court probably would not. Or perhaps she was just looking to collect her pay and move on, and so convinced Neeley that it was unwinnable. Neeley seems pretty adamant in her feelings (read on), so it does not seem like she lost interest in pursuing it.

The only thing she got from the settlement, other than whatever loose change her lawyer did not keep, was the right to the one paper Glantz stole from her and an agreement that Glantz would not touch it again. There is little doubt she could have gotten that without a lawsuit, given how obvious Glantz’s academic fraud was. Indeed, even that concession came with enough administrative strings attached that she probably could have done better just by relying on the court of academic public opinion. (Interestingly missing is mention of any other work by Neeley, even though her complaint claimed that this was not the only work of hers that Glantz was trying to steal.) One might conclude this was the one thing Neeley wanted, a matter of credit and honor. Some of her past statements support that honorable interpretation. But she has made clear that this is not the case (read on).

It is impossible to feel sorry for Neeley. She is a tobacco controller of the worst sort (read on). She went to work for a known sociopathic fraudster who has no respect for science and scholarship. Even if he has never committed any actionable sexual abuse, it is well-established that he is an abuser. We might be able to say “just a kid, could not recognize that” about Neeley regarding the latter. But she took the job after getting a doctorate (*smirk/snort*) in public health, and so has no excuse for not understanding the former.

Absent from the settlement was a gag clause (you have to spend a lot more than 150K to buy a woman’s silence — just ask any number of right-wing “family values” types). So a few weeks ago, Neeley joined Twitter to post her allegations about Glantz in random responses to tweets by his funders and others. No link, unfortunately, because literally minutes before I was about to publish this she deleted her account. So now I am even more annoyed at her, for making me re-edit.

Her tweets made it clear she was adamantly committed to the belief that Glantz is an ongoing threat to young women, and that she wants to warn and inform about that. If Glantz and UCSF really believed their denials, they would already be threatening to sue her for libel (and, I suppose, that may have been what just happened).

I am not sure whether Neeley uses other platforms. Her tweets never linked to any essay-length statement, which you think she would have written. Her tweets did not link to any other social media. Perhaps it exists — she was amazingly bad at Twitter for a millennial, so maybe it did not occur to her to mention it. I offered her some advice about some easy ways to do better in her mission, but she seems to have ignored that.

I did not mention in that advice that she came across as a raving loon in most of her tweet replies. If that represents her demeanor and level of focus in person (I have no idea whether it does), her attorney definitely would not have wanted to put her on the stand. I am obviously not saying that presenting that way invalidates a #MeToo complaint (as a certain disgusting ilk do), let alone that the mere act of accusing a powerful man of sexual harassment makes someone sound like she is raving (again, as that ilk do). I am specifically saying that most of her tweets were not what anyone would take seriously. They make her allegations seems less plausible. Thus my advice to her.

But it gets worse (or better, depending on how you choose to relate to this story). Greg Conley noticed that one of Neeley’s tweets claimed that a UCSF investigation confirmed her allegations. (That thread is now missing her tweets, of course, but he was responding to one that said what I just paraphrased.) Conley naturally asked if there was a copy of that report available. You might think that someone who was intent on making her case, and interested in being at least a little bit credible, would have an easy answer to that. Presumably it would be “Unfortunately I don’t have a written report and none is public. I am aware of their findings because….” (you have to assume, as bad as she is at this, she would have linked to it if she could have). But no. Here is her (now deleted) reply:

I do not support vaping, Mr. Conley I know who you are. But, I brought this up because I want to protect individuals working with Stan.

I laugh every time I read that (and not about the typo since I average about .5 typos per tweet, though that did bring to mind HRH Conley the First writing “Counterblaste to Tobacco Control”). “I know who you are” is presented as if it is some kind of accusation. Um, someone working in that area better know who he is. She better know who I am too, though I did not get the courtesy of an “I know who you are.”

(*author pauses to laugh some more, and ponders himself writing Counterblaste to Tobacco Control*)

Anyway, Conley responded sensibly and politely that differences about other politics should not interfere with the shared concern about Glantz hurting his students. In another thread, he offered some other advice, pointed out to her that I was the only reporter who had followed the story, and noted that zero tobacco controllers follow her on Twitter because they want to suppress this. As of today, she had 17 followers; 14 were anti-TC people of various stripes and the other 3 were bots. She did not respond to him.

I chimed in with this observation:

“I am terribly worried about other women, but not enough that I will talk to someone who supports harm reduction” is quite the remarkable position. Says a lot about the brainwashing that led to the omertà silence.

It is truly remarkable. Neither of us explicitly pointed out to her the common practice of narrow alliances, or merely taking advantages of resources when you can. The government that paid for her education is responsible for killing a million people in a war of aggression recent enough for her to remember it. Few of us refuse government services as a result. However much someone might quite reasonably despise the cops, they tend to call on them to perform the legitimate part of their job when needed. I heartily welcome Neeley’s exposure of one tiny corner of one individual’s deplorable behavior, even though I think her political views are also deplorable. Someone should probably point this out to her rather than thinking it is so obvious it goes without saying. Tobacco control lives so far up their own asses that they may be the only people who do not get this.

She is obviously adamant and genuine about her concern, but is such a tobacco controller at heart that she will not actually do anything useful. She is effectively silencing herself (and not just be deleting her useless tweets). She plays at getting the word out, but does not actually want to get the word out because it might interfere with tobacco control’s efforts to ruin people’s lives. She somehow thinks that harm reduction supporters getting the word out will benefit harm reduction, but that her getting the same word out (which is really beyond her ability) would not. But how does that even work? (A doctorate in public health does not exactly teach scientific or logical thinking.)

So she attacks the only useful potential allies she has in the world, now that her lawyer took the money and skated.

Oh, and a few last bits of bathos. Her response to me:

I am for harm reduction because I do not want anyone to use any nicotine-containing product. I am well aware of the harms of nicotine and that is why I have advised the FDA to lower the nicotine in all nicotine containing products.

I am pretty sure that, despite being a supposed scholar and researcher in the field, she genuinely does not understand that her described position is roughly the diametric opposite of harm reduction. This is what I meant by “a tobacco controller of the worst sort”.

And another random other tweet by her:

For all you vapers and tobacco companies, I am strongly anti-tobacco and anti-vaping. I am only complaining about @ProfGlantz because of his decades of sexual harassment. So if you are pro-nicotine, I would not follow me because I advise the FDA to protect public health.

I guess she only liked her bot followers.

Since her deleting her account ruined the ending I had written, I will instead go all-in with the bathos and treat you to a couple of pictures Greg Conley sent me while preparing this. Trigger warning: Once you see these, you cannot unsee them. (Yeah, I know, you saw the pictures before you read this paragraph. I did not mean it.)

bHTquwzJWait, where is his right hand?

OAocjo3MYes, that really is a screenshot of his phone wallpaper.

 

 

 

 

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Dual use and the arithmetic of combining relative risks

by Carl V Phillips

It was called to my attention that UCSF anti-scientist, Stanton Glantz, recently misinterpreted the implications of one of his junk science conclusions. Just running with the result from the original junk science (which I already debunked) for purposes of this post, Glantz make the amusing claim that because vaping increases heart attack risk by a RR=2 and smoking by a RR=3 (set aside that both these numbers are bullshit) then dual use must have a RR=5. WTAF?

First off, there is no apparent way to get to 5 except by pulling it out of the air. It is apparent that Glantz thinks he was adding the risks: 2+3=5. Except you cannot add risks that way. Every first-semester student knows the formula for adding risks, which is based on the excess risk. Personally I have always thought that having students memorize that as a formula, rather than making sure they inuit it, is a major pedagogic failure. But that aside, they do memorize the formula, which subtracts out the baseline portion of the RR then adds it back, as should be obvious: (RR1 – 1) + (RR2 – 1) + 1. So, the additive RR = 2-1 + 3-1 + 1 = 4. Think about it: If you “added” Glantz’s way then two risks that had RR=1.01 (a 1% increase in risk) would add to 2.02 (more than double). Or two exposures that reduced the risk by 10% (RR=0.9) would add to an increased risk, RR=1.8. Not exactly difficult to understand why this is wrong.

Additivity of risks is a reasonable assumption if the risk pathways from the exposures are very independent. The excess risk of death caused by both doing BASE jumping and smoking is basically just the excess risk of each added together. (A bit less because if one kills you, you are then not at risk of being killed by the other.) If the risks from the two exposures travel down the same causal pathways (or interact in various other ways), however, adding is clearly wrong. If vaping causes a risk (for heart attack in this example, though that does not matter), then smoking almost certainly causes the same risk via the same pathway. There is basically no aspect of the vaping exposure that is not also present with smoking (usually more so, of course). When this is the case, there are various possible interaction effects. One thing that is clear, however, is that simply adding the risks as if they did not interact is wrong.

The typical assumption built into epidemiology statistical models is that the risk multiply. This is not based on evidence this is true, but merely on the fact that it makes the math easier. The default models that most researchers tell their software to run, having little or no idea what is actually happening in the black box, build in this assumption. It is kind of roughly reasonable for some exposures, based on what we know. In the Glantz case, this would result in a claim of RR = 2 x 3 = 6, which is also not the same as 5.

So, for example, if a certain level of smoking causes lung cancer risk with RR=20, and a certain level of radon exposure causes RR=1.5, then if someone has them both, it is not unreasonable to guess that the combined effect causes RR=30. The impact on the body in terms of triggering a cancer and then preventing its growth from being stopped seems like it would work about like that. On the other hand, there are far more examples where the multiplicative assumption is obviously ridiculous. If BASE jumping once a week creates a weekly RR for death of 20, and rock climbing once a week has RR=2, doing each once a week obviously adds, as above, for RR=21, rather than multiplying to 40. (Aside: most causes of heart attack are probably subadditive, less than even this adding of the excess risks, as evidenced by dose-response curves that flatten out, as with smoking.)

But importantly, notice the “each once a week” caveat. That addresses the key error with the stupid “dual use” myths by specifying that the quantity of each activity was unaffected by doing the other. If, on the other hand, someone is an avid BASE jumper, doing it whenever he can get away, and he takes up rock climbing, the net effect is to reduce his risk. The less hazardous activity crowds out some of the more hazardous activity. This, of course, is what dual use of cigarettes and vapor products (or any other low-risk tobacco product) does. This is not complicated. Every commentator who responds to these dual use tropes — and I am not talking epidemiology methodologists, but every last average vaper with any numeracy whatsoever — points this out. Vaping also does not add to the risk of smoking because it almost always replaces some smoking rather than supplementing it. In this case, using Glantz’s fictitious numbers, it would mean the RR from dual use would fall somewhere between 2 and 3. Not added. Not multiplied. Not whatever the hell bungled arithmetic that Glantz did. Between.

As I said, everyone with a clue basically gets this, though it is worth going through the arithmetic to clarify that intuition. It is not clear whether Glantz really does not understand or is pretending he does not — as with Trump, either one is plausible for most of of his lies. Undoubtedly many of his minions and useful idiots actually believe it is right. The “dual use” trope gets traction from the fact that interaction effects from some drug combinations are worse than the risk of either drug alone. Many “overdose” deaths are not actually overdoses (the term that should be used for all drug deaths is “poisonings” to avoid that usually incorrect assumption), but rather accidental mixing of drugs that have synergistic depressant effects, often because a street drug was secretly adulterated with the other drug.

But as already noted, that is obviously not the case with different tobacco products, whose risks (if any) are via the same pathways. Even if total volume of consumption was unaffected by doing the other (as with “each once a week”) the risks would not multiply and would probably not even add. Since that is obviously not true — since in reality, consuming more of one tobacco product means consuming less of others — the suggestion is even more clearly wrong. In fact, using the term “dual use” to describe multiple tobacco products makes no more sense than saying that about someone who smokes sticks that came out of two different packs of Marlboros on the same day.

In the context of tobacco products, the phrase “dual use” is inherently a lie. It intentionally invokes the specter of different drugs (or other exposure combinations) that have synergistic negative effects. That is not remotely plausible in this case. It also intentionally implies additivity of the quantity of exposure (“doing all this, and adding in this other”) when it is actually almost all substitution, as with which pack you pull your cigarette from. To the extent that it increases total consumption of all products, this is a minor effect (a smoker who vapes not only as a partial substitute, but also occasionally when he would not have smoked even if he did not vape). This only matters to someone who does not care about risk, let alone people, and only cares about counting puffs.

There is a long list of words and phrases that when used by “public health” people should make you assume they whatever they are saying is a lie: “tobacco” (when used as if it were a meaningful exposure category), “addictive” (meaningless for drugs with little or know functionality impacts), “chemical” (a meaningful word, but invariably used because it sounds scary), and “carcinogen” (when used as a dichotomous characterization, without reference to the relevant dosage and risk). “Dual use” should be added to this list, in the same general space as “chemical”, another word that is inherently just a simple boring technical descriptor, but that is almost exclusively used to falsely imply negative effects.

A balanced view of ad hominem judgments

by Carl V Phillips

Tap tap tap. Is this thing on?

Welcome back to this blog. As many of you know, The Daily Vaper, where I published most of my good material for a year, has ceased publication (the articles, fortunately, are still archived at my author page at dailycaller.com, and they redirect from the original links if you have used those somewhere). I also recently did a “best of” Twitter thread highlighting some of what I wrote there (and here and elsewhere). There is something simultaneously atavistic and postmodern about watching (now nonexistent) the DV website slip slowly down the list of top guesses for where I might want to go when I open a new browser tab.

I am writing most of my subject-matter analysis under contract these days, with a bit of freelancing for commercial websites. Deep-think tangents will start to reappear here. Like this one. (I thought about doing it as a Twitter thread, but I realized that would never work.) Continue reading

Glantz responds to his (other) critics, helping make my point

by Carl V Phillips

Yesterday, I explained what was fundamentally wrong with Stanton Glantz’s new “meta-analysis” paper, beginning with parody and ending with a lament about the approach of his critics who are within public health. Glantz posted a rebuttal to the press release from those critics on his blog, which does a really nice job of helping me make some of my points. I look forward to his attempt to rebut my critique (hahaha — like he would dare), which would undoubtedly help me even more.

Glantz pretty well sums it up with:

The methods and interpretations in our paper follow standard statistical methods for analyzing and interpreting data.

Continue reading

The bright side of new Glantz “meta-analysis”: at least he left aerospace engineering

by Carl V Phillips

Stanton Glantz is at it again, publishing utter drivel. Sorry, that should be taxpayer-funded utter drivel. The journal version is here and his previous version on his blog here. I decided to rewrite the abstract, imagining that Glantz had stayed in the field he apparently trained in, aerospace/mechanical engineering. (For those who do not get the jokes, read on — I explain in the analysis. Clive Bates already explained much of this, but I am distilling it down the most essential problems and trying to explain them so the reasons for them are apparent and this is not just a battle of assertions.) Continue reading

Peer review in “public health” — Tobacco Control journal own-goal edition

by Carl V Phillips

Clive Bates prods me to write something about this editorial in the journal/political magazine/comic book, Tobacco Control, by Editor-in-Chief Ruth Malone, honoring their “top reviewers”. (Oh, wait, it is a British publishing house, so that should be: “honouring their toup reviewers”.) You can view it yourself, because it is open access, unlike their regular articles which they hide behind a paywall to inhibit real peer review (very few libraries subscribe to Tobacco Control, to their great credit). They really should have hidden this one from scrutiny too. Continue reading

Dear @FDATobacco: Stanton Glantz’s junk science reflects upon you

by Carl V Phillips

Dear FDA Center for Tobacco Products:

I know you did not create Stanton Glantz. His intense barrage of patently absurd junk science predates your existence. You did not cause him to become the combination of utterly innumerate and/or sociopathic (it has always been difficult to be sure how much his utter disregard for real science is explained by each of these). But you own him now, thanks to the fact that you fund him and his minions, and so his nonsense is now on you. You claim to be about science. Are you? Continue reading

More on the FDA ecig workshop

by Carl V Phillips

Those of you who watched my contribution to the workshop (which you can do by following the link in yesterday’s post) probably found the most memorable observation to be the one about San Francisco. But I am rather prouder of not missing a beat regarding a later question. Leading into that, there was a rambling multi-part question to the panel, which a couple of others responded to bits of. I took the mic last to respond to the phrase “renormalizing smoking” in the question. Continue reading