Paul D. Thacker

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Paul D. Thacker, sometimes bylined as Paul Thacker, is an American journalist who specializes in science, medicine, and environmental reporting.[citation needed] He has written for Science, Journal of the American Medical Association,, and The New Republic, and Environmental Science & Technology. In 2009, he was working on the Senate Finance Committee for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley investigating medical research conflicts of interest.[1] He has been interviewed on programs such as Fox News Sunday, and CNN Headline News. He left Congress in 2010, the day before releasing a report on ghostwriting in a medical journal run by American Heart Association.[2]

In 2006, he won 2nd place in the annual awards presented by the US Society of Environmental Journalists.[3] That same year, Thacker’s work was profiled on Exposé: America's Investigative Reports.[4]

Also in 2006, Thacker was fired from the journal Environmental Science & Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society. Thacker had written a series of exposés that a senior ACS official claimed showed an anti-industry bias.[5] Thacker wrote an account of his firing for the journal of the Society of Environmental Journalists.[6]

In September 2006, Thacker wrote a story for Salon that reported on political suppression of climate science within the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) during the G.W. Bush presidency.[7] The agency sits within the Department of Commerce. Chuck Fuqua, an official in Commerce, was choosing which NOAA scientists could speak to the press about the link between global warming and hurricanes. Fuqua has no training in science.

One of the documents Thacker found was released by the office of Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman.[8] Based partly on Thacker’s reporting, 14 Senators launched an investigation into NOAA and NASA.

In 2005, he pointed out that commentator Steven J. Milloy had judged the 2004 science journalism contest put on by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The contest is widely cited as the most prestigious prize in science journalism. Milloy is a science columnist for Fox News who has been a lobbyist for the EOP group and who headed up The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), an industry front created by Big Tobacco. Milloy also runs a couple of non-profits from his home that receive money from Exxon-Mobil. After Thacker revealed Milloy’s ties to industry, AAAS removed any mention of Milloy from its Web site, but Thacker saved a copy of the Web page, which can be found in his story.[9][10]

Thacker also reported on a product defense company called The Weinberg Group. In the story, Thacker wrote about a letter that The Weinberg Group sent to DuPont outlining a plan to protect DuPont from litigation and regulation over Teflon.[11] The Weinberg Group had done similar work for Big Tobacco and is currently working in Europe to defeat alcohol regulations.[12]

In August 2015, Thacker and fellow journalist Charles Seife wrote a post in PLOS One, which PLOS One later removed. The post was about the debate over how much of their underlying data scientists should have to disclose. The Union of Concerned Scientists[13] and the New England Journal of Medicine argued that corporations had abused data requests to harass scientists and discredit their work by misinterpreting the data. Thacker and Seife acknowledged this problem but argued that data requests have revealed undisclosed commercial funding and improper influence. One researcher was misidentified and Thacker and Seife issued a correction.[14]

PLOS replaced the post with the following statement:

PLOS Blogs is, and will continue to be, a forum that allows scientists to debate controversial topics. However, given additional information for further inquiry and analysis, PLOS has determined that the Biologue post that had occupied this page, “The Fight over Transparency: Round Two,” was not consistent with at least the spirit and intent of our community guidelines. PLOS has therefore decided to remove the post, while leaving the comments on it intact. We believe that this topic is important and that it should continue to be discussed and debated, including on PLOS blogs and in PLOS research articles.

We sincerely apologize for any distress that the content of this post caused any individual.[15]


  1. ^ Wadman M (2009), "Money in biomedicine: The senator's sleuth", Nature, 461 (7262): 330–334, doi:10.1038/461330a, PMID 19759593.
  2. ^ Arnold M (2010), "Grassley's Ghostwriter Exits the Hill" (PDF), Medical Marketing & Media, archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-11-29
  3. ^ Winners: SEJ 6th Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment
  4. ^ Science Fiction, WNET
  5. ^ Wadman, Meredith (2009-09-17). "Money in biomedicine: The senator's sleuth". Nature. 461 (7262): 330–334. doi:10.1038/461330a. ISSN 0028-0836.
  6. ^ Investigative reporting can produce a "higher obligation," Paul D. Thacker, SEJournal, Summer 2007
  7. ^ Climate-controlled White House,
  8. ^ Rep. Waxman Releases Internal Commerce Department E-Mails on Climate Change Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
  9. ^ Thacker, Paul D. (2005-05-11), "The junkman climbs to the top" (PDF), Environmental Science and Technology, 40 (6)
  10. ^ Thacker, Paul D. (2005), "In search of Mr. Junk Science and his influence" (PDF), SEJournal, 15 (2), retrieved 2007-07-09
  11. ^ The Weinberg Proposal, Environmental Science & Technology, 22 Feb 2006
  12. ^ McKee, Martin (2006). "A European Alcohol Strategy" (PDF). British Medical Journal. 333 (7574): 871–872. doi:10.1136/ PMC 1626340. PMID 17047004.
  13. ^ "Transparency is Great, Harassment is Worth Preventing: A Response to Paul Thacker and Charles Seife". Union of Concerned Scientists. 2015-08-14. Retrieved 2018-07-25.
  14. ^ Following criticism, PLOS removes blog defending scrutiny of science. Retraction Watch. 24 August 2015
  15. ^ "Post Removed by PLOS – The Fight Over Transparency: Round Two | PLOS Biologue". PLOS Biologue. 2015-08-13. Retrieved 2018-07-25.

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