Lifting the Veil of Secrecy: New Website Discloses Scientists Links to Industry|
WASHINGTON - The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today launched an Internet site to provide information about the links between hundreds of scientists mostly in the fields of nutrition, environment, toxicology, and medicine and corporations. The site is freely available at www.integrityinscience.org
This site also provides information about some of the corporate support received by dozens of professional, health, and nonprofit organizations, including such organizations as the International Life Sciences Institute, American Council on Science and Health, and American Dietetic Association.
CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said: Corporations increasingly are funding academic scientists to conduct research, speak at press conferences, and provide advice. Too frequently, neither the scientists nor the corporations disclose that funding. Today, we have begun to lift that veil of secrecy by providing journalists, activists, policy makers, and the public with information about the links between more than 1,100 scientists and industry. The list will be expanded in the coming months.
Important health and environmental policies can be distorted by scientists whoassert objectivity, but who receive funding from affected industries. The result could be more pollution, unsafe food additives, and dangerous consumer products, said Jacobson.
Concern about scientific conflicts of interest has soared in recent years, thanks in part to controversies such as the New England Journal of Medicines failure to enforce its disclosure guidelines and the University of Pennsylvanias failure to adequately disclose its conflicts to a patient who died during a clinical drug trial.
More recently, a controversy has swirled around John Graham, who directs the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which receives substantial funding from over 100 companies and trade associations.
This week, a Senate committee will consider Grahams nomination to an important position in the Office of Management and Budget.
Ronald Collins, director of CSPIs Integrity in Science project, said: We hope that this web site will encourage journalists to report on scientists funding from industry. All too often reporters quote scientists without providing the public wi0th needed information about their ties to industry, thus giving the impression that they have no such affiliations.
Of course, just because a scientist receives industry funding does not necessarily mean that he or she is biased or wrong. Rather, receipt of such funding is one of many factors that need to be considered in evaluating a scientists statements, added Collins.
Helping reporters spot possible corporate puppets masquerading as independent scientists is an important advance for democracy, said Morton Mintz, former Washington Post reporter and former chair of the Fund for Investigative Journalism. CSPI, he added deserves profound thanks from the press and public.
Since no laws make public the financial conflicts of interest that exist among academic scientists, noted Professor Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University, CSPIs data base provides a valuable way for citizens and the media to gain a better understanding of an important source of bias in science and policy.