Is there any independent academic integrity left?

The stories have been dripping out one by one. But, taken together, they demonstrate the way in which big business is successfully subverting the way in which it is regulated and the evidence on which that regulation is based.

Today, for example, Joanna Blythman highlights the way in which Big Food has manoeuvred so that it can effectively regulate itself

And The Times published a story explaining how the tobacco giants funded studies into vaping.

But these are only the most recent examples. A few days ago a story in Medical News Today revealed the big soda companies had been funding almost 100 national health organisations at the same time as they were campaigning against legislation designed to reduce soda intake.

Last month an article in the New York Times reports on research which argues that “the sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead.”

Before that there was the controversy over the dispute over the benefits or otherwise of statins – particularly the role of the drug industry in funding Sir Rory Collins who supports the use of statins.

And then there was the way the Soft Drinks Association’s Gavin Partington was brilliantly caught out by Mishal Hussain on the Today programme.

He cited research which he said proved the case against the British government’s proposal to put a levy on sugary drinks. Hussain forced him to admit that this research had been commissioned by his organisation.

For further example, please look at my earlier blogs on academic integrity, including

I am sure I have missed many further examples of these potential clashes of interest.

But there is more than enough evidence now to show that we can no longer take as read the integrity of academic research.

Indeed it is perhaps not just the products we consume that should carry detailed labelling. It is time to impose the same disclosure obligations on all academics, particularly when they claim their research is “independent”


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