In The Interest Of Science
According to Tufts expert Sheldon Krimsky, industry-sponsored research is on the rise. Medford/Somerville, Mass.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.15.03] Unbiased. Impartial. Objective. Following the tenets of good scientific practice should be what every institution strives for - but are they? According to Tufts expert Sheldon Krimsky, funding for academic research is increasingly found in the private sector - and more and more scientists stand to gain financially from their results. It's a conflict of interest, says the Tufts professor, which has the potential to jeopardize balanced science.
"Sheldon Krimsky, professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, says the relationship between academic science and industry is becoming increasingly close," reported USA Today.
The Tufts professor, who recently wrote an analysis on the issue in New Scientist, says that industry-sponsored research at colleges and universities is increasing.
"Studies funded by the private sector tend to produce outcomes that are much more aligned with the financial interests of those sectors than studies funded by the government, etc.," Krimsky - who is the author of the book "Science in the Private Interest" - told USA Today.
The Tufts professor says evidence is beginning to show that funding can influence the results of a study. Krimsky says the phenomenon -- called the "funding effect "-- has emerged over the last decade as the collaboration of science and industry has gained acceptance.
"All these traditional boundaries of public/private, government/nongovernment are being eviscerated," said Krimsky told The Baltimore Sun. "So perhaps it is not unusual that universities are beginning to fall into the same pattern."
According to USA Today, a recent study found that 34 percent of principal authors published in 14 top science and medical journals had financial interest in the drugs or devices they were testing.
"The conflicts of interest are obvious," Krimsky wrote in New Scientist. "Company scientists who test such technologies do not don magic blinkers that blind them to the commercial significance of their findings for their employers."
The Tufts professor believes that journals should refuse to publish peer-reviewed articles by authors with financial ties to the subject, saying that this is a step towards less biased scientific practice. Two leading scientific journals, Science and Nature, recently announced plans to review their editorial policies in response to the issue.
"The scientists we rely on to assess toxic substances, therapies, drugs, consumer products - or indeed new missile defense systems - should not be drawn from the same pool of experts who have a financial stake in the success or failure in those products," wrote Krimsky in New Scientist.