Is science too entrepreneurial?

Created by l4wd0g on Nov. 18, 2012, 12:11 a.m.
  • Do you believe in science? Or rather, do you trust scientist? For most individuals the answer is yes and yes. The question is now, should you? That answer is far more complicated.

    I hate to say it, but the organizations who sponsor the research often have too high a stake in the outcome. Information about the financial ties of researchers is relevant and important to the consumers. With science slowly, but surely becoming the region of the 21 century, this is horrifying.

    Would you like some examples?

    Look at the EPA 1993 report on the dangers of secondhand smoke. It's a landmark report. and it has been used in the creation on legislation to govern our lives. The problem is the EPA had their results before the research even started.

    It now turns out that the influential 1993 EPA report "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders" was as phony as a three-dollar bill. - http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/secondhand-smoke-charade

    I know! Science being used to manipulate people and political policy is really scary.

    It's not just the US Government, amazingly enough, corporations who have vested intest in the outcome of testing seem to play a roll in the corruption of science.

    COLUMBIA, S.C.—Researchers without pharmaceutical industry support are more likely than those with support to identify detrimental in vitro effects of erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs), including potentially harmful effects on cancer patients, according to a study in the Sept. 13 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
    "The study shows that differences in methodology and results from privately- and publicly-funded studies is a clarion call for greater collaboration between the sectors," said lead author Charles Bennett, endowed chair of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy's Center of Economic Excellence (CoEE) for Medication Safety and Efficacy (CMSE) at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. "If good scientists in both arenas are coming up with strikingly different results, it lowers the return on investment in the funding for both. Ultimately, that decreases positive outcomes for the company, the profession, and the patient."
    "Conflicts of interest in the basic and clinical sciences may alter the reporting of results," said co-author Oliver Sartor, C.E. and Bernadine Laborde Professor of Cancer Research, Tulane University School of Medicine, and medical director of the Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans. "The process of declaring conflicts of interest for basic scientists needs to be examined very carefully going forward, and policies should be considered to ensure that these conflicts are apparent to all." -http://www.renalbusiness.com/news/2010/09/possible-conflict-of-interest-in-industry-funded-basic-research.aspx

    Oh, here is this. http://scienceprogress.org/2009/07/financial-conflicts-of-interest-101/

    So, if you see a tweet like this https://twitter.com/willsmith/status/269577398981361664 It might be best to look and see who is funding the science, because the funding effects the results.

  • What often happens is that a company or government department will finance several different studies, and then pick and choose the supportive results to publish.

    In most cases the studies themselves are scientifically sounds, as financiers wouldn't want to be caught out.

    I think it's pretty safe to say "Don't believe what you hear." in a lot of situations, and it really does wind me up when I hear people say things like "Have you heard they have developed a cure for blindness?" and my answer is always "Who are they?" and people generally don't know the answer to that.

    Without the funding of corporations, charities and governments, there would likely be no scientific development at all, so its something you have to be appropriately skeptical about.

  • @l4wd0g: Certainly, accepting something based on the research of others is intellectually risky. Ideally, we'd all have the time to read original research and decide for ourselves if the conclusions reached by the researchers are any good. But that's not very realistic, so we have to depend on peer review and other self-regulatory systems set up by the scientific community. Does that leave us, as "consumers" of knowledge open to abuse of systems we don't control? Sure, but the best we can do is think critically. Understand motivations. Do a bit of research.

    It makes me sad that anyone would consider a system of knolwedge based on observation and repeatable experimentation equivalent to religion. It isn't. At all.