Scienceblogs, Science Bloggers Spar Over Pepsi-Sponsored Site

sblogs070710.bmp Scienceblogs.com, the science blog network founded by Seed Magazine, has established itself as one of the premiere places to go on the Web for anyone interested in science news and analysis. It also hosts the Web’s most popular science blog, Pharyngula, written by University of Minnesota biologist PZ Myers.

But now the site is facing blow-back from its dozens of bloggers following the announcement of a new blog, Food Frontiers.

Food Frontiers is a blog about food and nutrition, sponsored and written by scientists at Pepsi Cola. In the welcome post, the authors explain what they will be writing about:

As part of this partnership, we’ll hear from a wide range of experts on how the company is developing products rooted in rigorous, science-based nutrition standards to offer consumers more wholesome and enjoyable foods and beverages. The focus will be on innovations in science, nutrition and health policy. In addition to learning more about the transformation of PepsiCo’s product portfolio, we’ll be seeing some of the innovative ways it is planning to reduce its use of energy, water and packaging.

In other words, it is an advertisement, designed to look like editorial content. This is not the first time Scienceblogs has had a sponsored blog, but one of it’s bloggers, Orac, points out a key difference:

One reason is that these prior blogs were sponsored by a corporation, but the corporation didn’t take primary responsibility for writing them. In the case of Collective Imagination, one of our own, Greg Laden, participated in writing the blog, along with some GE scientists. In the case of Next Generation Energy, the blog was written by a combination of ScienceBloggers and guest bloggers. In contrast, Food Frontiers appears to be written entirely by R&D scientists employed by PepsiCo, leading me to ask: Why does PepsiCo need ScienceBlogs? Doesn’t the company have its own resources sufficient to produce its own blog?

Others were more outspoken in their criticism, GrrlScientist titled her post about the matter “Sucking Corporate D*ck” before changing it to the much tamer “Pepsi Ethics.”

She writes about the core problem that many of the bloggers have with the deal:

This is a giant mistake. Adding a PepsiCo “nutrition” “blog” damages the credibility of those of us who have invested literally years of our lives into building ScienceBlogs up into something special, something with integrity, something to be proud of.

The other major sticking point being that the Scienceblogs team did not give their bloggers any heads-up about the sponsored blog, leaving many to find about it when it popped up in their RSS readers.

How will Scienceblogs respond to the criticism? We are still waiting to find out.

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