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Junk or bunk science is a pejorative term used to derogate purportedly scientific data, research, analyses or claims which are perceived to be driven by political, financial or other questionable motives. It is these motives that distinguish junk science from pseudoscience and controversial science.
As with many other ideological terms, there is often no political agreement as to which side of a debate constitutes "junk", and which "real" science, though the scientific community may have an overwhelming majority opinion. Public debates on environmental and public health issues seem particularly prone to this problem. These debates are further complicated when scientists use mass media to publicize their research.
Use of the term
John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of PR Watch believe that the term "junk science" is often used to deride scientific findings which stand in the way of short-term corporate profit maximization. In their book Trust Us, We're Experts (2001), they write that industry has launched multi-million-dollar campaigns to position certain theories as "junk science," often failing to employ the scientific method themselves. For example, the tobacco industry has used the term "junk science" to describe research showing negative effects of smoking and second-hand smoke, through various astroturf groups. More consonant theories may be praised using the term "sound science". Another example for discrediting disliked scientific findings is a large industry campaign to "reposition global warming as theory, not fact" that is described in detail by Stauber and Rampton. Anti-global warming environmental scientists and spokespersons for corporations and government bureaucracies counter by saying that the scientific evidence used by their critics actually constitutes junk science and should not be used as a basis for policy.
In January 2006, Paul D. Thacker of The New Republic noted that Fox News' "Junk Science" commentator, Steven Milloy, was receiving money from ExxonMobil while attacking research on global warming. Thacker also revealed secret tobacco industry documents indicating that Milloy was receiving almost $100,000 a year from Philip Morris, while he ridiculed the science proving the hazards of second-hand smoke.  While Fox News has yet to address the issue of industry-paid journalists, this and other efforts have been explained by Phillip Morris executives in the 1988 "Whitecoat Project" of keeping the controversy of environmental tobacco smoke alive. 
- Controversial science
- Fringe science
- Pathological science
- Scientific method
- Scientific misconduct
- Voodoo science
Further reading and information
- Doubt is Their Product, Scientific American, June 2005, P.96-101
- PR Watch, a publication that provides regular information about the PR industry and its activities
- The PR Plot to Overheat the Earth, article by Bob Burton and Sheldon Rampton detailing industry's disinformation campaign about global warming
- Correcting Myths from Steven Milloy, links and analysis of claims by Milloy et al.
- "Fake Science -- Episode 265". This American Life, 5/21.
- Junking Science to Promote Tobacco from the American Journal of Public Health. November 2001, Vol 91, No. 11. By: Derek Yach, MBChB, MPH; and Stella Aguinaga Bialous, DrPH, MScN, RN.
- Junk Science study of Transportation example
- Paul D. Thacker "The Junkman Climbs to the Top" in Environmental Science & Technology
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