In the last 20 years, corporate funding in the fields of information technology and biotechnology has grown faster than support from any other source, and there is growing concern over possible corporate interference and industrial pressures that could inappropriately influence the direction, interpretation, and outcome of research. This past summer, several organizations took measures to examine and address this situation.
The New England Journal of Medicine has issued an editorial describing its new policy designed to guarantee the independence of scientists who publish papers in medical journals.
Independent scientists worldwide are finding it harded to exist in institutions increasing funded by corporate dollars. In a Institute of Science in Society report, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho tells the stories of scientists who have lost their livelihoods for going against the grain, calling on civil society and government to take concrete measures to protect independent scientists, and to support independent science that benefit society as a whole rather than big corporations.
Steven Milloy, the industry lobbyist and Cato Institute staffer who calls himself "the junkman" at www.junkscience.com, is going to be getting a lot of publicity in the coming months. He has a book coming out in September titled Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams, which he is already promoting on the radio talk show circuit.
The National Association of Science Writers (NASW) is debating the ethics of a job advertisement sent to its members from Chicco Chandler, a PR firm that "works exclusively with the pharmaceutical/biotech industry" and boasts of past involvement in PR for Viagra, Celebrex and Zoloft, with clients including Agouron, Amgen, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Novo Nordisk and Pfizer.
Nature, England's leading scientific journal, has announced a new policy. Beginning in October, it will "be encouraging authors to declare any competing financial interests in relation to research papers." This is "a welcome and probably inevitable decision," reports the Guardian of London, noting that science has become "intimately linked with industry. ...
Ever wondered who makes up those claims that "asbestos isn't dangerous" and "repetitive stress injuries are in your mind"? Vernon Mogensen looks at the dangerous business of corporate spin and unearths science fiction masquerading as science fact as industry battles against legislation to protect workers from on-the-job injuries.
Traditionally, universities have been reservoirs of independent thinking where tenured faculty had the academic freedom to analyze and interpret science and its implications for society without pressure from financially interested parties. But as funding ties between private industry and universities grow, the pool of independent research is shrinking. Karen Charman examines the growing sense of intimidation felt by academic critics of the biotechnology industry in particular.
Editors at the world's most prominent medical journals, alarmed that drug companies are exercising too much control over research results, have agreed to adopt a uniform policy that reserves the right to refuse to publish drug company-sponsored studies unless the researchers involved are guaranteed scientific independence. The journal editors decided to act after several recent cases involving charges that drug companies tried to withhold research results or present them in the most favorable way.
The American Chemistry Council, the trade association of the chemical industry, has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences "to improve testing chemicals for potential human developmental and reproductive effects," according to a July 26 NIEHS press release.