Yesterday, ScienceBlogs launched Food Frontiers, a blog sponsored by PepsiCo. This isn't the first time we've hosted sponsored blogs--recent ones included GE, Shell, and Invitrogen--but it is the first time we've received this level of criticism about it.
Frankly, we at ScienceBlogs did not do a good job of communicating what these sponsored blogs are for, give a proper explanation of what our relationship to Food Frontiers was going to be, or even properly explain what Food Frontiers is.
We have blogs from industry because we think it's important that the story of how and why industry science gets done be part of the conversation at ScienceBlogs. It's certainly the story of a great many of the world's engineers, mathematicians, chemists, physicists, and biologists. These scientists necessarily have conflicts of interest, so as a matter of transparency, we're fixing the way those conflicts are presented, in line with the best practices of scientific journals.
The profile on the left of the blog used to say "All editorial content on the blog is overseen by ScienceBlogs editors." This didn't really explain anything about our relationship, and was a mistake. We've changed it. To be absolutely clear, we've added this language to Food Frontier's profile, and its equivalent to any sponsored blog that appears on ScienceBlogs:
This blog is sponsored by PepsiCo. All editorial content is written by PepsiCo's scientists or scientists invited by PepsiCo and/or ScienceBlogs. All posts carry a byline above the fold indicating the scientist's affiliation and conflicts of interest.
We've also already asked PepsiCo to change the Food Frontiers banner and logo, and are figuring out how to best implement other graphical and technological changes that will further distinguish these kinds of blogs from those of independent bloggers, so that our readers can fully evaluate the merits of each.
We'll post other updates to how we're handling sponsored blogs as they happen.
UPDATE: Food Frontiers' banner now says "advertorial", and we've made a sponsored-blog-free combined RSS feed. If you're still on the full combined feed, posts coming from advertorial blogs will clearly say so.