What do you do when you are called out on your bullshit? When someone asks to see the raw data that your dubious claims are based on? This was one of many problems facing the American biologist and professor of Integrative Biology, Tyrone Hayes, in the early 2000s. At the time, Hayes was a member of a panel of experts conducting studies for a company called Novartis (later Syngenta) on the safety of one of their herbicides, atrazine. He claimed to have found that the herbicide was negatively affecting amphibian development and hypothesised it may also be affecting humans in a similar way. As atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in Australia, and second-most used in the United States, alarm bells started to ring, and governments got involved. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Novartis, and the consulting firm who hired him, Eco Risk, all wanted to see his raw data and repeat his findings, however, Hayes’ resisted doing a duplicate study or answering questions about his data. Still to this day, he refuses to share any of his data with anyone outside his lab, which put the EPA in a difficult situation. They wanted to repeat his work, however, they deemed his published research on the subject as “methodologically flawed” and stated that it did not meet the criteria for legitimate scientific work. They took it upon themselves to contract two independent labs in two countries to determine what impact atrazine had on amphibian reproductive health and found….nothing! When confronted with this data, Hayes simply dismissed it as “industry-funded”, obviously forgetting the fact that his own initial research was industry funded.
So, what do you do when you are being called out, when your credibility is coming into question, and when you are on the verge of destroying your scientific career? In the case of Tyrone Hayes, you play the victim and conjure up outlandish conspiracies about Syngenta goons threatening to lynch you and rape your wife and child.