Rl. Research findings affect commercial decisions and even far-reaching political determinations. If such findings are partial, they may actually cause harm. A striking example for this mechanism was the medical research about smoking. Only after decades, it had been revealed that important projects had been secretly financed by the tobacco industry. Public health policies were significantly influenced and hence effective information campaigns about the consequences of smoking were. This still causes severe health implications for millions of smokers. Researchers who had been pointing at the dangers of smoking in those days had been purposefully marginalized or discredited.
The tobacco industry in contrast went nearly unpunished for their activities!
In his book “Gekaufte Forschung. Wissenschaft im Dienste der Konzerne” (Bribed Research. Science in the service of corporations) the economist Christian Kreiss* provides many more examples like that of the tobacco industry (p. 22ff.) and analyses the consequences of biased research. He considers the question to what degree economic interests may influence content and results of research. His experience in university and higher education politics enables him also to trace hidden influence mechanisms. Kreiss focuses the widespread practice of third party funding in pharmaceutical and car manufacturing industries, education, financial, insurance, biogenetics, and media corporations. At the same time, he explains the influence of financially strong corporate groups on science via private endowments, sponsored professorships and the allocation of research funding.
Kreiss concludes: “The consequences of these insights are obvious: financial interests have to stay out of science, they make mischief here. Schooling and higher education are the public society´s business, not corporate lobbyists´. One can only hope that in the long run research will be conducted increasingly for the sake of the commonality and that trust in science may grow once again.” (S. 190) He ends with several ideas how to counter the massive influence of private interests in colleges and universities so that absurdities like a lecture theatre “Aldi-Süd” (a branch of the German “Aldi”-Discounter in Switzerland) or “EasyCredit” may be prevented in future. •
* Christian Kreiss teaches finance and economic policies at Aalen College.
Christian Kreiss. Gekaufte Forschung. Wissenschaft im Dienste der Konzerne. Europa Verlag. Berlin 2015. 978-3-944305-72-1
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