"Commercialized" science distorts science, writes the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on the webpage of its "Integrity in Science" project. The very name of the project suggests that such science somehow inherently lacks integrity.
Attacks like these on industry-funded science are often cloaked in a call for simply more disclosure of the source of funding for a given study. And who could be against more disclosure?
The problem is that the only type of disclosure in vogue these days is that which comes from industry science. And for many people, that’s just fine; as the folks at CSPI surely know, simply reporting that science is funded by industry – even when there is no impropriety – undermines the credibility of the findings. It harms our understanding of science, and even deters industry from funding much-needed research, since business leaders know the credibility of anything they fund will be received with suspicion.
The media eagerly comply with CSPI's suggestion that they "routinely ask scientists and others about their possible conflicts of interests and to provide this information to the public."
But if the source of funding really does suggest the possibility of bias, the "disclosure" advocates aren't giving us the whole story. They are focused only on one type of funding – one type of potential for bias. But disclosure can’t be selective.
Take last week's Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that called for giving the FDA greater regulatory authority over dietary supplements. The recommendation may be a wise one, but the media failed to take note of the fact that the report was sponsored by the FDA, even though the IOM's own press release made that plain Yes, the FDA funded a study that calls for giving the FDA more authority … and the media, which widely touted the report, failed to point out this obvious conflict.