Beyond "Sound Science"


Junk science” and “sound science” are two phrases often used in contrast with varied definitions depending on where you look and who you talk to. But what do they mean to us, as healthcare marketers?

“Sound science”, when used by scientists or medical professionals, describes robustly supported science, often confirmed by multiple peer-reviewed studies. On the other hand, data that is cherry picked and analyzed to suit a particular agenda is often described as junk science. It’s a pervasive issue, manifesting in media, government, courtroom and marketing environments alike. Junk science may utilize scientifically sound sources, but science becomes much less sound when it’s used selectively or manipulated to generate over-inflated claims.

Take for example a recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology that has been touted by reporters as good evidence that drinking water from plastic water bottles could fuel obesity. In this study, a human cell model was used to test the effects of BPS (one of the replacement chemicals used in consumer products that are marketed as BPA-free). Researchers observed that exposure of human cells to BPS induced lipid accumulation and increased the levels of markers of fat cell formation. This study takes a great initial step toward sorting out the potential impact of BPS exposure on the human body, but in actuality, data on the effects of BPS are relatively sparse and we are certainly a far cry from being able to draw any meaningful connections between BPS exposure and actual weight gain.

At DUSA, we offer our clients “deep science” and I’ve struggled in the past with what that promise really means. What’s the alternative? Shallow science? It’s clear to me now, however, that junk science is the undesirable alternative.

We use scientific data as a foundation for telling a particular story about a product and ensure that we are always relying on sound scientific sources to craft our messages. But I like to think that deep science means that we go beyond just making sure that our sources are sound. We go beyond verifying accuracy to evaluate the big picture and to dig until we find the root of the evidence. Because without this deep understanding of a product’s scientific foundation, light might not be shed on new perspectives – perspectives that help us ensure we are telling the right story and allow us to better partner with our clients in strengthening a brand’s voice. 


Scientific Director
Learning enthusiast. Detail specialist. World class juggler...of life's responsibilities