When we started Retraction Watch, Gary Schwitzer suggested that one of us might be a vampire.
Well, Schwitzer, let us say this: You are no Jesus.
However, criticism leveled by Schwitzer at an American Cancer Society (ACS) ad campaign earlier this week has accomplished the Retraction Watch equivalent of turning water into wine. The campaign, he wrote,
promotes unspecified screening – all screening, one could infer. “We can’t fight cancer if we can’t see it….When it comes to cancer, screening is seeing…It’s time to take the blindfolds off and stop cancer before it starts.” Catchy phrases from an ad agency or from someone creative at the Cancer Society. But are we talking about prostate cancer screening? Lung cancer CT scan screening? Ovarian cancer screening? Show me where it does NOT say that. And show me where it DOES say this was about breast & pap smear screening for medically underserved women?
But this is a fund raising and political message: “current funding isn’t enough…tell your members of Congress (to) increase funding…”
And when you’re raising funds, a little vague fear-mongering can’t hurt, right?
Schwitzer’s post caught the attention of Newsweek‘s Mary Carmichael, who created her own ad in response — a smart and provocative move.
Then, yesterday, the ACS yanked the campaign — the closest thing to a retraction we can think of. A spokesperson told Schwitzer:
It would be unfortunate if, in trying to raise awareness about this critical issue, a brief, powerful message in the ad became the story rather than the issue itself.
Kudos to Schwitzer for having an impact and reminding the ACS that data must drive our health care decisions and spending.
The episode is a good reminder that blogs can have an impact. That’s what has happened when our sister blog, Embargo Watch, raised questions about policies that try to embargo materials that are freely available online.
And of course it’s also what happened when bloggers started writing about the paper on Jesus Christ curing a woman of flu we wrote about yesterday. Had it not been for those original sins — we mean, posts — it’s hard to imagine the editor would have retracted the paper and apologized.
Maybe Schwitzer could start a truth squad blog religion.
Nah, we retract that.