Tracey Brown

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Tracey Brown in 2001 at the time of her employment with Regester Larkin
Tracey Brown in 2008

Tracey Brown has been the director of the pro-GM lobby group Sense about Science since shortly after it was founded in 2002. She is an associate of the libertarian and anti-environmental LM network and her writing has been published by Living Marxism, Spiked and the Institute of Ideas, and has appeared on 3 panels at the Battle of Ideas, featuring alongside others linked to the network such as Robin Lovell-Badge, Sandy Starr and Tony Gilland. Prior to joining Sense About Science, she studied at Kent University under Frank Furedi, the former leader of the RCP, worked for the LM network project Global Futures and worked in risk management for the PR firm Regester Larkin. Brown is a trustee of MATTER and was a trustee of Centre of the Cell until 2013. In 2009 she became a commissioner for the UK Drug Policy Commission[1]. She has also been a member of the Agriculture and Food Security Advisory Board since 2009 and invited opinion of the International Center for Alcohol Policies[2]. She sits on the Outreach Committee of the Royal College of Pathologists and in 2009 was made a Friend of the College.[3] She is married to LM Network associate Adam Burgess.

At Kent 1995/6

Prior to working in PR, Brown worked as a Research Associate in the Sociology Department at the University of Kent, Canterbury, in 1995/6[4] where Frank Furedi is a professor. Furedi is the leading influence in the libertarian LM group. Brown went on to co-author 'Complaining Britain,' Society Vol.36 No.4 with Furedi. Her biographical note states that while at the University of Kent she "was responsible for a European Commission project to set up social research centres in Russia. Her own research specialism is the sociology of law."[5]

Global Futures 1998-2002

Brown's contact details at Sense about Science were given in October 2002 as: Email tbrown AT senseaboutscience.org, Telephone 01795 537322. The phone number was also that of the now inactive Global Futures,[6] "a charitable foundation sponsoring research and publications on new social trends". The only publication on the charity's web-site was one by Frank Furedi. (Furedi under the alias Frank Richards, was the chief theoretician of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) - a faction that evolved into the publishers of the magazine Living Marxism (later LM).) Brown worked with Furedi for a number of years and with Global Futures between its inception in 1995 and the creation of Sense About Science in 2002.

According to the Charity Commission, the administrative contact for Global Futures was Ellen Raphael who, at the time Sense about Science was established, also worked for Regester Larkin alongside former Monsanto PR man Harry Swan. (Raphael also studied in Frank Furedi's department at the University of Kent, Canterbury.) Raphael has subsequently joined Brown at Sense about Science as Assistant Director. One of Global Futures' two trustees was Phil Mullan (aka Phil Murphy). Mullan, a central member of the RCP and a regular contributor to LM, is also the registrant of the Spiked website which was set up in 2000 by LM's ex-editor Mick Hume. Global Futures' other trustees included Michael Fitzpatrick (aka Mike Freeman), another RCP/LM stalwart. Fitzpatrick is also a trustee of Sense about Science.

Tracey Brown and Frank Furedi have worked with both LM and Spiked and have also both worked with the Institute of Ideas, which has published a book co-authored by Brown: Compensation Crazy.[7] The Institute of Ideas was established by Claire Fox, LM's co-publisher. Like Spiked it arose from the ashes of LM.

Advising Big Tobacco

An internal memo of 1998 in the Tobacco Documents Library (http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/) from Stephen Walzer of BAT Industries (British American Tobacco) discussed a letter that BAT received from Brown in her role at Global Futures, offering to help BAT in fighting the litigation launched against tobacco companies by people harmed by smoking. Walzer describes Brown as "a lecturer at the University of Kent who also works for Global Futures".[8] Walzer wrote that Brown was offering:

to put together a work programme covering the sociology of litigation and 'the expansion of tortious duties'. By this she means the trend which we all recognise from the United States for people to be unwilling to take the consequences of their own actions. There is considerable sympathy for the position of the tobacco companies, and I believe that a co-operation with Global Futures will be helpful.[9]

Walzer further explains that Brown was proposing:

a study into the decline under the defence under English law that the plaintiff consents to risk, and it is also the intention to expand the study in the context of European Directives and the European Court of Justice. There is already a study being completed in relation to the US...[10]

Walzer added that 'there is a cost attached to this work' and that 'sponsorship would be welcome'.[11]. An outline of the estimated expenditure is also available in the Tobacco Documents Library, which indicates the expected cost of the research was £10,900[12]. The proposed research would include an investigation into 'The decline of volenti non fit injuria defence' (the plaintiff consents to risk defence), and 'pleading tortious duties in alliance with contractual duties', including a breakdown of RCJ statistics and 10 year comparitor intervals. The proposal also suggested an investigation into 'the judiciary's attitude to absolute findings' would be carried out to understand judiciary preferences, which are seen to have allowed judges to settle cases without an absolute finding. In addition there would be an 'extended statistical search' into professional bodies and consideration given to 'The expansion of tort in the context of European directives and the European Courts of Justice', looking at 'issues which might contribute to both changes in the practice of English law and also to the popular perception of wrongdoing, injury and `rights'[13].

The letter from Brown making the proposal is also available in the Tobacco Documents Library, in which she notes the potential appearance of a conflict of interest arising out of tobacco industry funding of the proposed research

I have looked at funding issues with a number of our trustees . As we discussed last Monday, it seems always to be the case that wherever an industry interest is linked to a project, it encourages a degree of cynical scepticism . However, there is also an acceptance that, in the current research climate, it is almost impossible to conduct any research without some commercial funding. We are keen to encourage your support, among others, for this project and it makes sense to us to be totally transparent about supporting organisations in all cases. It is only in this way that we will be confident in undermining any scepticism and defusing the usual suspicions. I should add that, like most charitable organisations, we do not usually promote commercial sponsors in our publications and material. The trustees respond to written enquiries about sponsorship. [14]

In another letter retrieved from the Tobacco Documents Library written to an unknown recipient of 1999, Brown, again in her role at Global Futures, supplied her recipient (presumably someone in the tobacco industry) with press cuttings of the writings of Frank Furedi, Tony Eaton and Simon Wessely. Brown suggested that these would provide useful background material for a seminar called Litigating Britain. The aim of the seminar, Brown wrote, was "to allow a full and frank discussion about developments in compensation claiming, between people who have a professional interest in the issue."[15]

It is possible to trace a direct line of thought between Brown's offer to Big Tobacco and Sense About Science's work promoting nuclear power and genetically modified crops, which, like tobacco, are risky products requiring careful management of information of perception before people will accept them. Brown's proposed strategy regarding tobacco can be defined as:

  • creating a climate of opinion that accepts risky technologies under the banner of personal freedom and responsibility; and in the process
  • creating a climate of opinion that it is an abnegation of personal responsibility for people to sue corporations by whose products they’ve been harmed.

Working in PR 2000-2002

Before becoming the director of Sense about Science, Brown was a senior analyst in the 'Risk Analysis Unit' of the PR company, Regester Larkin. 'Tracey is responsible for developing tailored forecasting and risk issue analysis for our clients,' her biographical note at the PR firm stated.[5] Regester Larkin specialises in "reputation risk management" and "crisis management, including countering campaigns by environmental, health and development NGOs. Regester Larkin's clients are nearly all pharmaceutical, oil, or biotechnology companies, including BioIndustry Association, Shell Chemicals, TOTAL, Bayer, Pfizer, Aventis CropScience, and gas company BG Group.

Her Regester Larkin biograhical note did not mention her role at Global Futures or her contacts with the tobacco industry. It stated that 'she has published papers on the growing litigiousness of British society and the impact of changing attitudes to compensation, and contributed to a number of national debates throughout the implementation of the Woolf reforms in 1999.'[5]

On her Sense About Science biographical note, Brown's stint with Regester Larkin is cryptically referred to as being "a year in a more commercial environment to set up a risk research unit."[16] Press references suggest she was at Regester Larkin a little longer. She wrote an article in the Architects Journal in October 2000 in which she was described as a 'senior analyst at the Risk Analysis Unit, Regester Larkin'.[17] In January 2002 it was reported that she was one of five being made redundant.[18]

Backing GM 2002

In October 2002 Tracey Brown attended a meeting about the design of the UK government's official Public Debate on genetically modified (GM) crops and food. She was invited as part of a group of eight 'social scientists familiar with the GM debate and public engagement processes' who were brought together for advice. In fact, 'public engagement processes' are not part of Brown's area of specialism which is the sociology of law.[19]

Brown appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme in December 2002 and said:

"Time and time again now we see a pull-back from a willingness to judge evidence, from a willingness to put forward policy based on evidence, and a desire to try to push the discussion in different directions but without ever taking responsibility for the consequences in terms of progress. There's a vacuum" (12 Dec, 2003).

In reality, there is a considerable body of evidence showing harm from GM foods, and it might be expected that Brown, if she did not know about it before, may have learned about it at the meeting on the Public Debate (see Genetically Modified (GM) Foods - Renewed Threat to Europe).

Sense About Science (2002-Present)

In a Q & A interview with Tracey Brown, in answer to the question 'how do you decide what cause is worth fighting for?', Brown states:

The main question for us is whether there is anyone else who is or should be taking action. We much prefer to encourage organisations and individuals to take more responsibility for public life than to take everything on ourselves, because then the net benefit to society is much greater...

We also always weigh up what’s at stake, whether the difference we can make will contribute in a significant enough way to our mission to equip the public with sound science and evidence. We consult a lot and having 6,000 people on our database to give us help is invaluable, and we review things every day as a team. For anything that is going to take considerable resources or where we have different perspectives we take the discussion to our board of trustees, who are very active. We also have an advisory council whose job is to challenge the board from time to time. The people selected for that are very opinionated and may hold minority views on what we should be doing, but it’s important to hear that perspective and be challenged[20]

However, the accounts of Sense About Science suggest their campaign choices may well be related more closely to funding streams. There was a massive shift in total funding received from publishers between 2005-10 and 2010-Present. In the first of these periods SAS received only around 8.75% of its funding from publishers, whereas in the second period this had jumped massively to around 32.51%[21]. Correspondingly, SAS has played a leading role in the libel reform campaign, beginning in 2009 and continuing to the present day as one of their key campaigns. It would seem fairly certain that the receipt of such a large proportion of their income from publishers has had an influence on their choice of campaign and where to focus a large amount of their resources.

Innogen

Tracey Brown is on the Stakeholder Platform of the Innogen Centre[22]- the ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics - along with a number of other GM proponents, including Dr Andrew Cockburn of Monsanto, Phil Dale of the John Innes Centre and John Hillman of the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

Views

Media Presence

Tracey Brown is fairly prominent in the media as a result of her role as Director of Sense About Science. As such her media presence largely relates to campaigns run by Sense About Science: Libel reform (22), celebrity health claims and alternative medicine (19) and AllTrials (3). She has also been cited in the media discussing topics favoured by the network such as the MMR scandal, AIDS and the precautionary principle.

Writing for Living Marxism/LM (1995-2000)

Brown wrote 3 articles and one commentary for Living Marxism/LM between 1995 and 2000. Two of these described Western anxieties inventing and exacerbating world conflicts and economic problems, one article on litigation, perhaps derived from a paper co-written with Frank Furedi and one commentary linking humanitarian interventions with an excessive form of moralism.

The West and Fundamentalism

Brown argues that a Western obsession with fundamentalism is derived from a society of nervous elites who fear they are incapable of controlling a changing world:

Fundamentalism needs no explanation because it appeals to the nervousness and uncertainty prevalent in our society. In the post-Cold War world, the Western outlook is being shaped by slump and insecurity. Old alliances are becoming less reliable...Concern about the increase in crime, truancy and pregnancy among young people is indicative of how little confidence there is that society can offer a future. It is against this background of Western uncertainty that the menace of fundamentalism has been conceived in the fearful imaginations of politicians and scholars who feel that the world is out of control. They are projecting their own insecurities on to the rest of the world in the form of a hyped-up fundamentalist threat...When someone thinks that everyone is against them it is reasonable to be sceptical about their fears. When Western ideologues talk incessantly about the fundamentalism that is 'out there' waiting for them, we should be just as sceptical. Fears of fundamentalism tell us more about their state of mind than about real global developments[23]

Russia's free-market transition

Brown argues that the West's intervention in Russia's free-market transition exacerbated problems in the economy and was derived from excessive fears of potential future crises:

Russia's 'transition' to a free market has in reality been a period of consolidation of the old bureaucracy in its new position as gatekeepers of business. The past few years have seen the growth of financial speculation and the powerful Moscow banks, amid the decay and promiscuous auction of productive assets. The irony is that none of this would have been possible without the constant injections of politically motivated cash made by Western governments and banks. Because of their fantasies about Russia degenerating into uncontrollable chaos-fantasies which say more about insecurity in the West than the real situation in the East-they have sustained an expanded, degenerate administration that has helped bring the country to the brink of bankruptcy[24]

Litigious Britain

In Brown's article 'name, blame, shame and claim' she argues that although judicial statistics showed a reduction in litigious activity, other actions were being carried out outside of the courts pointing to increasing litgiousness away from public scrutiny. Brown argues that growing numbers of settlements outside of court has led organisations to look 'at everything through a prism of liability' and that 'when litigation tops the agenda, innovation becomes increasingly unlikely'. She also doubts the value of litigation 'as a positive way of regulating the potentially irresponsible and profiteering behaviour of big organisations and professionals', as she argues a fear of litigation may lead to litgation avoidance strategies which are 'based on considering the possibility of that on eperson who might construct a legal case out of the situation'[25]. Brown concludes that litigation arbitrarily punishes and leads to a society unwilling to take any responsibility for others, and in so doing elevates the fears of all individuals within society to being struck by an excessive fear of litigation:

Litigation does restrict behaviour, but in the worst possible way. litigation, and its implied liability for others, is quite arbitrary in whom it punishes and awards, and its consequences for behaviour are very damaging. Legal libaility does not simply restrict the excesses: it actually limits the responsibility that we are prepared to take for each other'...litigation avoidance frames our attitude to our daily interaction with one another and to the responsibility we are prepared to take on. Our potential liability makes us think twice about looking after other people's kids. It makes us wonder whether we would try to give first aid to somebody in an emergency. And for this, there is no compensation[26]

Writing for Spiked (2001-2005)

Brown contributed two articles to Spiked between 2001 and 2005, the first of which was a reprint of 'name, blame, shame and claim', the latter offered opinion to a Spiked debate on what Science is for. In addition Brown contributed to a Spiked survey entitled 'enlightening the future: key challenges for the next generation 2024', in which she argued society has fostered a suspicion of knowledge and evidence:

The way suspicion of knowledge presents itself today is in the challenge of cynicism, conspiracy theories and the ‘celebration’ of perception over objective study. This even lacks the cuteness of the early days of relativism, where at least people had some joy, albeit intellectually barren, in escaping the constraints and discipline of acquiring knowledge. Now, the new cohort is to be born into tired, joyless questions about conspiracies and agendas, in other words creating reality out of your prejudices, instead of trying to develop your thinking to account for reality[27]

Career Chronology

Other Affiliations

Brown's biographical note on the Sense About Science website states that she has a number of other "voluntary roles", including being a member of the "awards panels for the Energy Institute and Women in Science, and BioVision Environmental Chair. She sits on the Royal College of Pathologists Campaign Board."[16]

Other Links with the Network

Panel Appearances

2005

2008

2009

2010

2012

2013

2014

Sense About Science

Reports of campaigns Brown has been Involved with based on a search for 'Tracey Brown' on the Sense About Science website:

No Date

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Publications

1995

1998

1999

  • Frank Furedi & Tracey Brown, 'Complaining Britain', Society, May/June 1999, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 72-78.

2000

2001

2002

  • Tracey Brown is a contributor to; ‘Compensation Crazy: Do We Blame and Claim Too Much?’, Hodder & Stoughton, 2002

2003

2005

2008

  • Tracey Brown, 'A Hypochondriac Nation', A Battle in Print essay from the Battle of Ideas 2008, Culture Wars, 24 October 2008.

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

  • Tracey Brown & Michael Hanlon, ‘In the Interests of Safety: The Absurd Rules that Blight our Lives’], Sphere, 2014.


External links

Contributed to Institute of Ideas book Compensation Crazy.

References

  1. See Tracey Brown, 'profile', UKDCP, accessed 1 April 2015.
  2. See Tracey Brown, 'Invited Opinion', International Center for Alcohol Policies, accessed 1 April 2015.
  3. International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers About the Speakers, Sense about Science 'Debating Peer Review' Tue, 26th Apr 2011, 4:15pm - 6:00pm Washington Marriott West End Ballroom D & E 1221 22nd Street, N.W. Washington, D. C. 20037, accessed 2 May 2011
  4. University of Kent, Concise Staff Information: DOSSA (Dept. of Sociology and Social Anthropology): Members l995/6", accessed December 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Tracey Brown, Regester Larkin, Retrieved from the Internet Archive of March 9, 2001.
  6. Global Futures, retrieved ftom the Internet Archive of 16 October 2002.
  7. Institute of Ideas Compensation Crazy, Retrieved from the Internet Archve of 23 May 2002
  8. Letter from Stephen Walzer, BAT Industries, London, UK, to Chris Proctor, re "Global Futures", 6 Jul 1998, acc 3 April 2011
  9. Letter from Stephen Walzer, BAT Industries, London, UK, to Chris Proctor, re "Global Futures", 6 Jul 1998, acc 3 April 2011
  10. Letter from Stephen Walzer, BAT Industries, London, UK, to Chris Proctor, re "Global Futures", 6 Jul 1998, acc 3 April 2011
  11. Letter from Stephen Walzer, BAT Industries, London, UK, to Chris Proctor, re "Global Futures", 6 Jul 1998, acc 3 April 2011
  12. See Tracey Brown, 'Outline of Extended Project Costs', Tobacco Documents Library, 22 June 1998
  13. See Tracey Brown, 'Outline of Extended Project Costs', Tobacco Documents Library, 22 June 1998
  14. Tracey Brown, 'Letter from Tracey Brown, Global Futures, to Stephen Walzer', Tobacco Documents Library, 23 Jun 1998, acc 3 April 2011
  15. Letter from Tracey Brown, Global Futures, to unknown recipient, 29 Apr 1999, retrieved from Tobacco Documents Library, 3 Apr 2011
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Office team: Tracey Brown, Director", accessed December 2007.
  17. Tracey Brown 'Measuring up to human rights', Architects Journal, October 5, 2000 Thursday
  18. JOE LEPPER 'REGESTER LARKIN CUTS FIVE TO FOCUS ON CORE FUNCTIONS' PR Week January 11, 2002, SECTION: STOP PRESS, Pg. 3
  19. Advisory Discussion with Social Scientists", October 23, 2002.
  20. See Hephzi Tagoe, 'Hightable with Tracey Brown: Asking for Evidence to make Sense about Science - See more at: http://www.oxbridgebiotech.com/review/careers-2/hightable-tracey-brown-asking-evidence-make-sense-science/#sthash.wvz1Q1lX.dpuf', Oxbridge Biotech roundtable, 5 July 2014, accessed 8 April 2015.
  21. Statistics compiled from accounts submitted to the chairty commission.
  22. Innogen, "Innogen Stakeholder Platform Membership", accessed December 2007.
  23. Tracey Brown, 'The West's fundamental fears', Living Marxism, No. 78 - April 1995, p. 20.
  24. Tracey Brown, 'The West's fundamental fears', Living Marxism, No. 78 - April 1995, p. 20.
  25. Tracey Brown, 'Name, blame, shame and claim', Last Magazine, Summer 2000, p. 94.
  26. Tracey Brown, 'Name, blame, shame and claim', Last Magazine, Summer 2000, p. 94.
  27. Tracey Brown, 'enlightening the future: key challenges for the next generation 2024', Spiked, 2006, accessed 8 pril 2015.
  28. See Tracey Brown, 'Medical negligence', Letter to the Times, 16 February 1999.
  29. See Tracey Brown, 'profile', UKDCP, accessed 1 April 2015.
  30. See Tracey Brown, 'Staff profile', Regester Larkin, Retrieved from the Internet Archive of March 9, 2001.
  31. See Tracey Brown, 'The Great Debate: Compensation Culture', The Scotsman, 9 August 2002.
  32. See Tracey Brown, 'Staff profile', Regester Larkin, Retrieved from the Internet Archive of March 9, 2001.
  33. See Tracey Brown, 'author archive', Spiked, accessed 27 January 2015.
  34. See 'Innogen Stakeholder Platform Membership', Innogen website, accessed 1 April 2015.
  35. See Tracey Brown, 'A Hypochondriac Nation', 24 October 2008, Culture Wars, accessed 27 January 2015.
  36. See Tracey Brown, 'Staff profile', Sense About Science, accessed 1 April 2015.
  37. See 'Editorial Board', Agriculture & Food Security, accessed 1 April 2015.
  38. See Tracey Brown, 'Author Biography', International Center for Alcohol Policies, accessed 27 January 2015.
  39. See Tracy Brown, 'about us', Jurassica, accessed 1 April 2015.
  40. See 'JDI board', UCL website, accessed 1 April 2015.
  41. See Tracey Brown, 'Should Scientists play God?', 29 October 2005, Battle of Ideas, accessed 27 January 2015.
  42. See 'Hypochondriac Nation', 2 November 2008, Battle of Ideas, accessed 27 January 2015.
  43. See 'Science Fact or Science Fiction: Should Peer Review Stop Plagiarism, Bias or Fraud?', BioNews, accessed 8 April 2015.
  44. See Tracey Brown, 'End of peer review: has the peer review process lost credibility?', 31 October 2010, Battle of Ideas, accessed 27 January 2015.