Tobacco research, science and public opinion
The Rylander affair
The origin of the affaire is a press release by MM Rielle and Diethelm in Geneva, Switzerland on March 29, 2001 where they accused Ragnar Rylander of being:
1. responsible for an unparalleled scientific fraud
2. secretly employed by Philip Morris (PM)
3. one of the PM’s most highly paid consultants.
In view of the seriousness of these lies, Rylander took Rielle and Diethelm to Court for defamation. In the first instance they were severely condemned but after an appeal, a judgement of 15 December 2003 upheld their accusations. The Swiss law does not allow an appeal of this judgment.
Following the Court decision, Geneva University launched an internal investigation, using much of the material supplied by Rielle and Diethelm. The conclusion was that Rylander had concealed his contacts with the tobacco industry, that he had not maintained his “intellectual integrity” because of that, and that he had actively withheld data on the risk for environmental tobacco smoke.
The conclusions reached by the Court and by Geneva University are wrong for the following reasons:
ad 1. At no time has anyone been able to demonstrate that there are any errors, false data or biased conclusions in Rylander’s published work. There is thus no scientific fraud in the true meaning of the words. A list of publications is available for anyone to examine and judge the scientific value of the publications.
As no evidence on scientific fraud could be produced during the Court process, the meaning of scientific fraud was gradually altered to mean having secretly collaborated with the tobacco industry, a most questionable alteration of a definition.
ad 2. Rylander has never been an employee of PM. He was a scientific advisor, working on an annual basis to perform independent research and with no contract of employment. The collaboration with PM was well known within the University to the Heads of departments, to colleagues, and to collaborators.
ad 3. Rylander received funds to support scientific activities at a laboratory in Geneva and to cover the costs for being a scientific advisor to Institute für Biologische Forschung in Cologne, Germany. The Geneva projects were initiated by Rylander and there was full freedom to publish.
The accompanying sites
demonstrate that the accusations made by Rielle and Diethelm and the outcome of
the investigation at Geneva University are grossly incorrect and do not
represent the scientific truth. They are based on selected materials,
deliberately chosen to suit the intentions of Rielle and Diethelm, and on Court
witnesses who presented erroneous conclusions. They represent essentially the
popular opinion of the public that a scientist should not collaborate with the
tobacco industry – a totally unscientific concept and against the rules of a