In a January, 2014 SBM post, Mark Crislip announced the creation of a new non-profit organization, the Society for Science-Based Medicine (SFSBM), an ambitious project devoted to advocacy for science-based medicine. Goals included a website, an annual conference, and consumer protection against healthcare pseudoscience. The purpose and functions of the new organization, as envisioned at its creation, were to be complementary to those of this blog, Science-Based Medicine (SBM).
Unfortunately, while SFSBM was able to meet many of those goals, particularly early on, it was never able to scale up to a level such that it could achieve the impact that we, its founders, had hoped to achieve, and during the last year or so of its existence SFSBM struggled to continue its mission, for a variety of reasons. It is thus that, with regret, the SFSBM Board of Directors (myself, as Chairman, along with Mark, Harriet Hall, Steve Novella, and Jann Bellamy), recently made the painful (and, to be honest, contentious) decision to dissolve SFSBM. However, even in making this particularly difficult decision, we were all determined to do what we could to guarantee that SFSBM’s work would continue in some form. Consequently, before finalizing the decision to dissolve SFSBM, we were able to make an agreement with another science advocacy group, the Center for Inquiry (CFI), that CFI would continue the work SFSBM started. CFI is well-positioned to do this, given the history of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a part of CFI that publishes Skeptical Inquirer, in its mission to “promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims”.
Although SFSBM will no longer exist, in accordance with federal law, the SFSBM Board has made the decision to donate SFSBM’s remaining funds to CFI. Per a Donation Agreement recently executed, CFI, will use those funds for:
- supporting sound consumer health laws for the practice of science-based medicine and opposing legislation that undermines science-based medicine; and
- encouraging and aiding legal actions in support of the practice of science-based medicine.
Although this is not the outcome that we anticipated when we founded SFSBM nearly seven years ago, we are nonetheless proud of what SFSBM has accomplished during its short life. For example, SFSBM produced and maintained a website featuring anti-quackery posts, a regularly updated inventory of “legislative alchemy” bills (which seek to legalize various forms of quackery under the rubric of “complementary and alternative” or “integrative” medicine) pending in the state legislatures, and consumer information combating pseudoscience, including a beta wiki based on the extensive library of information contained in Quackwatch. SFSBM also sponsored a day of science-based medicine presentations at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS) for several years and submitted several white papers to regulatory authorities with jurisdiction over pseudoscientific products and practices like homeopathy and naturopathy.
Although we considered other organizations, we ultimately came to the decision that CSI/CFI is the organization best able to carry on the work of SFSBM, given its existing infrastructure, including legal infrastructure. Examples of CFI’s efforts against pseudoscience in medicine abound. For example, during the last few years, CFI has instituted consumer protection suits against CVS and Walmart over their selling homeopathic remedies, testified before state legislative committees opposing the licensing of practitioners of pseudoscience (like acupuncturists), as well as testified before the FDA regarding lax regulation of homeopathic drugs. SFSBM’s funds will allow them to continue those efforts, all of which align with SFSBM’s original purpose. CFI is also archiving the SFSBM website, so that none of its content is lost. (In addition, in a separate agreement with Dr. Stephen Barrett, CFI will maintain the Quackwatch website, helping preserve that treasure trove of science-based information about medical pseudoscience and quackery for future generations.)
While we regret that SFSBM could not continue as an independent organization, we are confident that its work will continue. We also very much thank all of you who supported SFSBM and its goals; without you, we could not have accomplished what we did. Finally, going forward, those of us who are still involved with the Science-Based Medicine blog, which is owned by the New England Skeptical Society, will continue the work of promoting science in medicine and combatting medical pseudoscience, including its infiltration into medical academia. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important those efforts are, and we hope to expand them.