Experts Blast David Robert Grimes for His Failure to Understand Science and Love of Self-Citation
While claiming to debunk conspiracies and speak for science, Grimes ignores published research and channels corporate PR.
6 minute read
When is scientific “debunking” really just a way to dismiss pesky scientists whose findings trouble corporate interests? For physicist David Robert Grimes, it seems quite often.
Researchers with decades of experience in toxicology and epidemiology are crying foul and calling for retraction of a recent essay in JAMA Oncology written by Grimes, in which the assistant professor of biomedical physics at Dublin City University ignored and dismissed much of the peer reviewed literature and government findings that point to dangers from radiofrequency radiation—scientific evidence that the telecom, IT and power industries find uncomfortable. In what has emerged as Grimes’s preferred technique to belittle those he disagrees with, he also heaped scorn on contrary scientific evidence as “fringe science” while exaggerating the importance of his own opinions on “misconceptions and conspiracy theories.”
Such rhetoric has been all too common in recent years, and comes from a small community of self-styled experts on “conspiracy theories” whose “debunking” just happens to favor corporate interests. In the past, Grimes also promoted a narrative favored by Monsanto that argued against the scientific evidence on harm caused by the pesticide glyphosate.
“I’m surprised a journal published this,” said Ron Melnick, who continues to teach physicians about the dangers of radiofrequency radiation, after spending almost three decades at the National Toxicology Program. “It’s not a review. It’s an op-ed. To be less generous, it’s an advertisement.”
In truth, David Robert Grimes did an advertisement for Vodafone in 2020, where he downplayed any ill health effects from 5G. But in a recent review of the scientific literature, researchers found “no human experimental studies” on 5G and urged research in this area.
In a lengthy email, Chris Portier ticked off several faults in Grimes’ analysis. Now mostly retired, Portier spent over three decades at the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) where he led research and designed programs on cancer causing agents, such as the hazards of Agent Orange and the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. Grimes does a very poor job of actually reviewing the evidence, Portier said, because he cherry picks information.
“Any positive evidence is treated as coming from a failed experiment, any positive [epidemiological] finding is recall bias, any flaws in negative studies are ignored,” Portier said. “And he loves to cite himself.”
Indeed, in 5 of his 36 citations for the essay, Grimes cites Grimes. On examination, none of these 5 references is scientific research that Grimes conducted; they’re just another Grimes’ opinion.
When not citing himself, Grimes loves to cite the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), and claim it is a “public health body” which it isn’t. In fact, ICNIRP is a small, private nonprofit with close ties to industry.
For some years, ICNIRP has been criticized for its close ties to the very industries that rely on scientists finding little harm from radiofrequency radiation including telecom, IT and power companies, as well as the military. In 2008, the Ethical Board at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden concluded that being a member of ICNIRP should be noted as a conflict of interest.
Referencing prior scientific scandals with tobacco, asbestos, climate change and pesticides, two Members of the European Parliament published a June 2020 report on ICNIRP and their long history of conflicts of interest that concluded, “ICNIRP pretends to be scientifically neutral, and free from vested interests of the Telecom industry. We show with this study that this is ‘playing with the truth’ or simply a lie.”
Pretending that ICNIRP is a public health body just like the Food and Drug Administration is critical for Grimes’ essay. In one example, Grimes cites ICNIRP to dismiss an initial report by National Toxicology Program that observed increased cancer rates in rats exposed to extremely high levels of radiofrequency radiation. What Grimes doesn’t tell readers is that the National Toxicology Program’s final report found “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity.”
A second conclusion of the National Toxicology Program’s final report:
And Grimes fails to note a later evaluation in 2020 led by American government scientists that evaluated DNA damage from cell phones. “In conclusion, these results suggest that exposure to [radiofrequency radiation] is associated with an increase in DNA damage.”
Ignoring critical findings of dangers to construct his thesis is typical Grimes. Here’s a few more findings he failed to explain:
After the NTP published their findings, the Ramazzini Institute published a similar study that confirmed “an increase in the incidence of tumors of the brain and heart” in rats exposed to radiofrequency radiation.
Supported by the American Cancer Society, researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that some people have a higher genetic risk for thyroid cancer from using cell phones.
A recent review in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine found that radiofrequency radiation causes genetic damage.
In a systematic review of previously published studies, Korean scientists concluded that evidence linked cellular phone use to increased tumor risk.
In his zeal to debunk published science, Grimes also ignores actions taken by governments around the world to limit potential harm caused by cell phone radiation. In a report released last summer on the evidence for carcinogenic and reproductive health hazards of 5G, the European Parliament noted, “People should be informed of the potential health risks, but also the opportunities for digital development, what infrastructural alternatives exist for 5G transmission, the safety measures (exposure limits) taken by the EU and Member States, and the correct use of mobile phones.”
“If you have a medical problem, would you ask a medical doctor or a physicist for help?” said Devra Davis, Founder and President of Environmental Health Trust. Davis’ organization is collecting signatures from scientific experts on a letter they plan to send to JAMA Oncology asking them to retract Grimes’ essay. “This so-called review is not a review at all because it ignores thousands of studies clearly demonstrating that current legal levels of wireless radiation are damaging to human health and the environment.”
At the bottom of his opinion piece, Grimes discloses that it was funded by the Wellcome Trust. This seems to make sense as Wellcome Trust has holdings in numerous electronics and software companies including Apple, Microsoft, Siemens, and Cisco Systems. An investigation by The BMJ found that Wellcome’s pharma investments overlap kindly with its COVID-19 research efforts.
In an interview, Joel Lexchin, professor emeritus of York University’s school of health policy and management in Toronto, told The BMJ that Wellcome “is pursuing their own privately developed objectives without being responsible to anybody but their own boards of directors.”
SURPRISE! GRIMES ALSO FAILS TO GRASP PESTICIDE DANGERS
Of course, this is not Grimes’ first blunder out of physics and into an area of science where he has no qualifications or research experience. When evidence began leaking from court cases against Monsanto that the company had lied about the dangers of the pesticide glyphosate, Grimes took to Twitter to berate famed consumer advocate Erin Brockovich for explaining this.
Despite Grimes’ claims of “no reputable evidence that glyphosate causes cancer” the evidence has long been clear. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Since that finding, a horde of respected scientists have begun documenting the assault on IARC by apologists for the agrichemical industry such as Grimes.
In the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, dozens of scientists signed a statement that found criticisms of IARC’s findings on glyphosate to be “unfair and unconstructive.” A group of toxicologists writing in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine added that the criticisms were part of a campaign by economic interests to undermine scientific work. “Such interference does not bode well for the free flow of scientific information that informs and protects the public from risks of cancer.”
In critiquing Grimes, Melnick noted a particularly relevant passage where Grimes opined: “For clinicians and scientists in cancer, it is important to understand the current evidence base.”
“That applies to him,” Melnick said. “He’s got an agenda.”
This commentary has been co-published by The DisInformation Chronicle and The Journal of Scientific Practice and Integrity (JoSPI).
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