By David Tuller, DrPH
This wrap-up is almost two weeks late, but things keep cropping up! It goes without saying that I am extremely gratified by the support for my April crowdfunding on Berkeley’s in-house platform. The university received 1025 donations totally $103,283 for “Trial By Error.” Of those donations, the most–384–came from the UK. That was more than twice as many as the 184 donations from the US. Next came Norway and Sweden, with 107 and 104 donations, respectively, followed by Australia with 68 and–a tie!–both Canada and the Netherlands with 30.
The funds go directly to the Center for Global Public Health–my home unit at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health–to support my academic position as Senior Fellow in Public Health and Journalism for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2019. After Berkeley takes a 5% gift fee and a 2.5% credit card fee (except from the few donations made in the form of paper checks), the Center will receive about $95,000. That amount will cover my salary at between 55% and 60% time, plus health insurance and other state employment benefits, with several thousand left over to help with travel expenses. (I will provide a more exact accounting after the start of the fiscal year.)
From Berkeley’s perspective, I am doing what academics are expected to do–bringing in money. Funding is funding, whether it comes in one big chunk from a single source or in lots of smaller pieces. When I started “Trial By Error,” it was an unfunded side project I pursued while I spent most of my work time on my main Berkeley job responsibilities. These days, this project is my main Berkeley job responsibility.
From the start, my Berkeley colleagues have urged me on. They recognized immediately that PACE was a methodological and ethical disaster. The 2011 Lancet paper has been used in Berkeley epidemiology seminars in recent years as an excellent pedagogical tool–a case study of terrible research. Half a dozen Berkeley faculty have signed one or more of Virology Blog’s open letters. Most importantly, the university itself has supported my right, as a Berkeley academic and journalist, to investigate this body of research and express my strong opinions about the deficiencies I have found. In today’s world, having that freedom is a luxury. I do not take it lightly.