Chance News 60
"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
Godwin's Law, as quoted at Wikipedia.
Submitted by Steve Simon
Does corporate support really subvert the data analysis
Corporate Backing for Research? Get Over It. John Tierney, The New York Times, January 25, 2010.
We've been warned many times to beware of corporate influences on research, and many reserach journals are now demanding more, in terms of disclosure and independent review, from researchers who have a conflict of interest. But John Tierney has argued that this effort gone too far.
Conflict-of-interest accusations have become the simplest strategy for avoiding a substantive debate. The growing obsession with following the money too often leads to nothing but cheap ad hominem attacks.
Mr. Tierney argues that this emphasis on money prevents thoughtful examination of all the motives associated with presentation of results
It is simpler to note a corporate connection than to analyze all the other factors that can bias researchers’ work: their background and ideology, their yearnings for publicity and prestige and power, the politics of their profession, the agendas of the public agencies and foundations and grant committees that finance so much scientific work.
Another emotion is at work, as well, snobbery.
Many scientists, journal editors and journalists see themselves as a sort of priestly class untainted by commerce, even when they work at institutions that regularly collect money from corporations in the form of research grants and advertising. We trust our judgments to be uncorrupted by lucre — and we would be appalled if, say, a national commission to study the publishing industry were composed only of people who had never made any money in the business. (How dare those amateurs tell us how to run our profession!) But we insist that others avoid even “the appearance of impropriety.”
Mr. Tierney cites a controversial requirement imposed by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005.
Citing “concerns about misleading reporting of industry-sponsored research,” the journal refused to publish such work unless there was at least one author with no ties to the industry who would formally vouch for the data.
This policy has been criticized by other journals.
That policy was called “manifestly unfair” by BMJ (formerly The British Medical Journal), which criticized JAMA for creating a “hierarchy of purity among authors.”
Submitted by Steve Simon.
1. Do you side with JAMA or BMJ on the policy of an independent author who can formally vouch for the data?
2. Should conflict of interest requirements be different for research articles involving subjective opinions, such as editorials, than for research involving objective approaches like clinical trials?