Industry-Sponsored Research Week
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Study: Industry funding makes people doubt research

By David Schwartz
Published: May 9th, 2017

A new study suggests that when people learn that an industry partner funded scientific research, they are more likely to be skeptical about the findings, regardless of the partner’s reputation or additional funding sources.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, presents a long-term challenge to industry-sponsored research managers, sponsors, and scientists – namely, to decipher ways to alter this perception.

“People have a hard time seeing research related to health risks as legitimate if done with a corporate partner,” says John Besley, the study’s lead author and associate professor at Michigan State University. “Ultimately, the hope is to find some way to ensure quality research isn’t rejected just because of who is involved….”

According to Besley, “this initial study was meant to understand the scope of the problem. Our long-term goal though is to develop a set of principles so that quality research that’s tied to a company will be better perceived by the public.”

Asked to react to research concerning genetically modified foods and trans fats, study participants were randomly assigned to evaluate one of 15 different partnership scenarios with varying combinations of scientists from a university, a government agency, a nongovernmental organization, and a large food company.

The results clearly show that the public’s skepticism increased substantially when a food company was in the mix. The research also indicated that this unfavorable perception didn’t change much, even if other respected organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were cited as additional partners.

“This tells us that you can’t just add organizations from various sectors and hope people will expect these partners to balance each other out,” Besley says.

He adds that the study is of extra concern given the current funding climate, which has fueled a rise in the use of alternative funding sources such as industry partnerships. “Ultimately, the hope is to find some way to ensure quality research isn’t rejected just because of who is involved,” Besley says. “But for now, it looks like it may take a lot of work by scientists who want to use corporate resources for their studies to convince others that such ties aren’t affecting the quality of their research.”

Source: Futurity

Posted under: Industry-Sponsored Research Week

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