Yesterday, Atomic Insights published a copy of a letter that Dr. Edward Calabrese sent to Marcia K. McNutt, the Editor-in-Chief of Science Magazine. I have obtained permission to publish copies of two related letters addressed to Ms. McNutt, one from Dr. Jerry Cuttler and one from Dr. Mohan Doss. In addition, I have obtained a copy of what Ms. McNutt asserted was her final word on the discussion, but her statement might have been a little premature.
From Dr. Jerry Cuttler, August 8, 2015
Dear Dr. McNutt
Further to our correspondence in March and on May 15th, I would now like to bring to your attention a new, peer-reviewed paper by Professor Edward Calabrese that is substantial, extremely well documented and very troubling. I have attached this article, published in the journal Environmental Research 142: 432-442; 2015, along with the peer reviews that were sent to me. This paper provides evidence that the US NAS BEAR Committee Genetics, as a group, committed scientific misconduct at the highest possible societal level and on a topic of continuing profound scientific and public significance. And this committee used the journal Science to communicate unscientific and very fearful information worldwide. The June 29, 1956 NAS paper has a strong, continuing and harmful impact on humanity. In view of this additional evidence of falsification and fabrication of the research record, I am renewing my request for Science to withdraw and retract the June 29, 1956 article by the US National Academy of Science.
This Science article was the basis for the national and international change from the threshold model to the linear no-threshold (LNT) dose-response model for assessing the risk of radiation-induced cancer. The LNT model still dominates essentially all regulation of carcinogens. This past and present influence is enormous, affecting vast public and private resources, affecting many activities of the international scientific community, personal behaviour, education programs and how children are raised. Its influence is pervasive.
The Calabrese paper that I sent you on March 17 was published in the Archives of Toxicology “officially” (via journal editor letters) as a Commentary, along with very substantial Supplementary Material that was highly referenced. I now attach an article that is closely related to the one I provided to you on March 17. The Supplementary Material is appended with 36 references. These papers are part of a series of papers, since 2009, by Calabrese in a range of relevant and highly regarded journals on other specific features of the fraudulent actions of leading US radiation geneticists who became the members of the US NAS BEAR Committee, Genetics Panel.
Professor Calabrese has contacted the NAS on this matter (his new paper), and they have failed to address his factual criticisms. He has also asked the NAS whether they have a process by which Committee misconduct can be pursued. Again, after multiple letters to multiple people in appropriate leadership positions, Calabrese received no answer to this as well. We cannot have any confidence that the NAS can be an honest player when judging themselves.
I urge Science to take the appropriate actions without delay so that the June 29, 1956 paper no longer has standing in the scientific world.
Dr. Jerry M. Cuttler
Vaughan, Ontario, Canada
From Dr. Marcia McNutt, August 11, 2015
Dear Dr. Cuttler:
We considered carefully your concerns about the controversy with respect to the linear no-threshold (LNT) dose-response model for assessing the risk of radiation-induced cancer. You have requested that Science retract a 1956 paper that takes a position on this issue. Standard practice in Science and other journals would be not to consider the retraction of an article more than just a few years old except in extraordinary circumstances. New discoveries are constantly advancing the frontiers of science, and unless we had some statute of limitations on retractions, we would be constantly retracting old articles after the field has moved on. We can imagine certain exceptions in cases of papers that are still highly influential. In considering this specific request to Science, we asked the following questions:
(i) Is the 1956 Science paper trustworthy? We concluded that we cannot produce the information we need to answer this question 60 years post publication to the standards that would be required to consider a formal retraction. The authors are no longer living. We do not even have a record of the Science editorial standards of that era, much less a review jacket for that paper. This case is so old we would never be able to reconstruct the evidence from all parties involved in our editorial decision.
(ii) If the paper is not trustworthy, is the matter a problem of scientific quality or scientific integrity? Because we cannot answer (i), we cannot answer (ii). However, I will note that many of the concerns raised in the Calabrese paper would fall under the classification of science quality, not science integrity. They would not be grounds for retraction of a paper 60 years after the fact.
(ii) Does this Science paper still have the “pervasive influence” claimed in the article by Calabrese? We consulted an independent expert whose positions indicate that s/he has no extreme positions on this matter, one way or another. His/her considered view is that the 1956 Science paper was one of hundreds of papers over the past half century on this broad topic, and certainly the use of the LNT model by almost all the regulatory agencies, world wide, is now based on a lot more than the NRC report and Dr. Mueller’s [sic] work. For example, if you take a look at the series of NRC “BEIR” reports, in the more recent ones there is no particular emphasis on Muller’s work, with the arguments now more based on endpoints that more directly relate to radiation-induced cancer.
Based on this analysis, we do not see any reason to consider revising our policy for this paper. Science considers this case closed and will not reconsider the decision.
Dr. Marcia K. McNutt
Editor-in-Chief, Science family of journals
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Aside: It is somewhat disturbing to read that the Science Editor-in-Chief consulted exactly one independent expert to find out if the 1956 article still had “pervasive influence”. There is no evidence of any research conducted for the purposes of determining whether or not the article is still being cited by researchers outside of the BEIR committees. It is essentially a statement that the anonymous independent expert that Science consulted is right — unquestionably so. End Aside.
From Dr. Mohan Doss, August 11, 2015 (PDF version)
Marcia K. McNutt, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Science Family of Journals
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
Subject: The article Genetic effects of atomic radiation, a summary report of the Committee on the Genetic Effects of Atomic Radiation of the National Academy of Sciences, published in Science, in Volume 123, pages 1157-1164, on June 29, 1956,
Dear Dr. McNutt:
I would like to add my support to the request by Dr. Jerry Cuttler that Science retract the above summary report of the Genetics Panel of the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) I Committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Prof. Edward Calabrese has summarized his findings regarding this report in a recent publication On the origins of the linear-no-threshold (LNT) dogma by means of untruths, artful dodges and blind faith in Environ. Res. (2015). There are many disturbing revelations regarding the origin of the LNT model in this comprehensive analysis by Prof. Calabrese. I will just mention one aspect in this letter.
The summary report made statements such as: “Even very small amounts of radiation unquestionably have the power to injure the hereditary materials” and “there is no such figure other than zero” (for amount of radiation that is genetically harmless). The LNT model essentially originated with this report. The report was also published in the New York Times and received huge publicity initiating the fear of low-dose radiation.
However, a year later, the letters exchanged among the BEAR Genetics Panel committee members included statements such as: “I, myself, have a hard time keeping a straight face when there is talk about genetic deaths and the tremendous dangers of irradiation”, “Let us be honest with ourselves—we are both interested in genetics research, and for the sake of it, we are willing to stretch a point when necessary”, and “Now, the business of genetic effects of atomic energy has produced a public scare, and a consequent interest in and recognition of importance of genetics. This is to the good, since it will make some people read up on genetics who would not have done so otherwise, and it may lead to the powers-that-be giving money for genetic research which they would not give otherwise.” (Please see page 440 of the Calabrese article).
These exchanges are highly informative, as they indicate the true reason for the adoption of the LNT model was not that the smallest amount of radiation is dangerous according to the NAS BEAR Genetics Panel committee members, but their own self-interest.
The use of the LNT model over the years has resulted in tremendous public harm because of actions taken by governments, professionals, political activists, and the public based on unfounded fears and concerns regarding low-dose radiation. Some examples of public harm are as follows:
- Casualties in Fukushima: Urgent evacuation of the Fukushima area and its prolongation following the 2011 nuclear power plant accidents caused more than 1000 deaths with no recognizable benefit. More than 100,000 people remain displaced, either by government mandate or by fear of low-level radiation exposure.
- Suppression of nuclear energy: The use of nuclear energy to produce electricity, though it has proven to be the safest in terms of number of fatalities per amount of energy produced, has been suppressed due to trumped up low-dose radiation-induced cancer concerns. This has resulted in real casualties from the use of other non-nuclear energy sources.
- Suppression of research on cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.: There is considerable evidence supporting the use of low-dose radiation to prevent cancers and other major diseases like Alzheimer’s. The use of the LNT model unnecessarily inhibits testing such ideas.
- Missed diagnoses: Many patients are refusing to have CT scans and doctors are not prescribing them due to radiation dose concerns, resulting in missed diagnoses and potentially harming patient health. Also, CT scans are being performed with poorer image quality to reduce radiation dose, making it harder to diagnose diseases.
- High costs: Ratcheting up of regulations for the various uses of radiation (medical, industrial, nuclear energy, etc.) has resulted in tremendously increased costs but no benefit.
Hence, both from the perspective of scientific integrity as well as in the best interests of the society, it is important that the LNT model be rejected by the scientific community and not be used any longer.
The retraction of the 1956 BEAR I Genetics Panel summary report by Science would help in achieving this goal by correcting a major error committed by the scientific community in the 1950s. I hope you would initiate the process of retraction of the 1956 BEAR I Genetics Panel summary report immediately. Thanks for your consideration.
After reviewing this correspondence, I believe that Ms. McNutt might have a point about the specifics of changing accepted science.
Retracting a 59 year-old article that is rarely cited in modern papers would not necessarily result in enough people recognizing that the initial assumption of harm from any dose of radiation, no matter how small, was fundamentally flawed. The flaw was not a result of accident or oversight, but was created by selecting calculation results that supported a predetermined assertion — Muller’s long time insistence that his experiments had proven that there is “no safe dose of radiation.”
That flaw formed the basis for many subsequent studies involving researchers that never checked their results to see if the overall effect at certain dose ranges might be positive. The a priori assumption of harm thus constrained the “best fit” lines to those with a positive slope. That is the real long term and continuing effect of the misconduct that Calabrese has painstakingly uncovered and meticulously documented.
The most useful course of action starting from where we are today would be for Science to solicit the submission of a new article by Calabrese that is either a reprint of his current work or a modest rewrite aimed at a more general interest audience. It is also time to convene a conference of interested parties, not one that is limited to the obscure selection processes used in forming NAS/NRC committees.
The conference should not be limited to people representing bodies that might bear some responsibility for the effects of unquestioningly accepting the Genetics Committee carefully-worded report and firm assertions of harm. We now know that report purposely misrepresented what was known about the effects of small radiation doses on animals and human beings, and that its assumptions of harm have permeated most subsequent work.
Though it is part of Calabrese’s historical discoveries, it is worth reminding readers that the National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation effort was 100% funded by the Rockefeller Foundation for eight full years during the period of 1954-1963.
The majority of the members of the Genetics subcommittee were Rockefeller Foundation grantees both before and after they served on the committee that created the LNT assumption. The Chairman of the Genetics Committee was not a biologist, not a geneticist, and not a radiation physicist. Warren Weaver was a mathematician who had been serving as the program director of molecular biology and genetics at the Rockefeller Foundation since 1933. He continued to serve in that position through 1958. He was delegated the responsibility to approve and distribute Foundation grants to scientists serving on his committee.
Not only did the Rockefeller Foundation fund the studies, they initiated the request. An Foundation board of trustees member, Detlev Bronk, was the president of the NAS and agreed to take on the task. Another member of the board of trustees, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was the publisher of the New York Times. He helped to ensure that the 1956 committee reports were heavily promoted. The Genetics Committee report was published in full in the June 13, 1956 issue, filling up 3 pages of newsprint (with some allowances for ads that are not in the on-line archived copies.)
So was this headline, strategically placed at the top of the right-hand, above the fold column.
Long before the Koch Brothers recognized the importance of money in forming public policy and selecting the areas of science that should receive support, the Rockefeller Foundation was a formidable political and scientific force. The people involved in its decision-making processes harbored several different reasons for wanting to slow the development of radiation-based technologies in energy production, industry and medicine.
Fortunately for history of science researchers today, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences and the New York Times have been exceptionally diligent in maintaining and indexing their historical correspondence records.