Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Antitruth, Inc. How corporations corrupt science.

Posted by Charles II on May 19, 2012

Update: I want to bring the following sentence in the report linked below to attention:

The Obama administration has taken meaningful steps to address political interference in science.

I am not an Obama booster, but I think it’s important to keep some perspective. This sentence would not have been written about President McCain or, especially, Presi..gak Romney.
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Francesca Grifo, Michael Halpern, and Peter Hansel, UCS:

Corrupting the Science

Corporations that stand to lose from the results of independent scientific inquiry have gone to great lengths to manipulate and control science and scientists by:

Terminating and suppressing research. Companies have controlled the dissemination of scientific information by ending or withholding results of research that they sponsor that would threaten their bottom line.

Intimidating or coercing scientists. Corporations bury scientific information by harassing scientists and their institutions into silence. Scientists have been threatened with litigation and the loss of their jobs, have had their research defunded, have been refused promotion or tenure, and have been transferred to non-research positions, leading to self-censorship and changes in research direction.

Manipulating study designs and research protocols. Corporations have employed flawed methodologies in testing and research—such as by changing the questions scientists are asking—that are biased toward predetermined results.

Ghostwriting scientific articles. Corporations corrupt the integrity of scientific journals by planting ghostwritten articles about their products.
Rather than submitting articles directly, companies\ recruit scientists or contract with research organizations to publish articles that obscure the
sponsors’ involvement.

Publication bias. Corporations selectively publish positive results while underreporting negative results. While not directly corrupting science itself, these publishing and reporting biases skew the body of evidence.

To be fair, individual scientists do some skunky things, too. If a guy has a pet theory, he’s not likely to immediately publish results that contradict it. He’s more likely to ask for new experiments.

But of course, this is the difference between street crime and organized crime. Street criminals are a nuisance, but easily controlled at the local level. Organized crime has to be confronted with an organized response.

We need corporate science. Those guys study things that would otherwise never be studied, and they enrich science immeasurably–when the science is honest. The real problem is dishonesty, it permeates American society, it proliferates at the corporate level only because workers have limited career choices, and because there’s not much solidarity between scientists. Scientific careers flourish or wither based not on collaboration, but on destructive competition. So government oversight is not the entire answer. But it’s a very important component.

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