Science Funding: Sponsors Get The Results They Pay For

This article is a stub for work in progress and is included here to offer readers a view of many of the links dealing with funding abuses which have a bearing on other articles on this web site. This piece will be fleshed out as resources allow.

This article is one in a series. For the other articles, please see:  INDEX: “Why You Can’t Trust Government Science”


Evidence that parties with direct conflicts of interest can sometimes design and report results in ways that are favorable to their interests, rather than in ways that best represent the research, has been extensively documented.

The “funding effect,” where the results of privately sponsored research are statistically compared against the results of publicly funded research on similar regulation-relevant questions, shows consistent and rather dramatic sponsor-bias.

For example, one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports: “Strong and consistent evidence shows that industry-sponsored research tends to draw pro-industry conclusions. By combining data from articles examining 1,140 studies, we found that industry-sponsored studies were significantly more likely to reach conclusions that were favorable to the sponsor than were nonindustry studies..” (Scope and Impact of Financial Conflicts of Interest in Biomedical Research).

Study results vary but, in general, find that between 35 and 90% of studies produce favorable outcomes for the party that paid for them.

Significantly, that study above and the ones below include only those studies published in  peer-reviewed journals ad, this, available for public scrutiny. Because most of the studies used by government regulators are classified as confidential business information, the influence of funding organizations cannot be quantified.

However, the lack of transparency would make any reasonable party suspect that corporate or private science studies done for regulatory purposes would be close to 100% favorable because studies showing adverse effects would be suppressed and never submitted.

For more about that, see the “Hiding Adverse Effects” subhead in this article: Secret Chemicals: What The Government Won’t Tell You, Can Kill.

Harvard Study On BPA Warped By Plastics Association Money

A Harvard study paid for by the plastics industry illustrated just how a study can be biased by the source of funding.

According to a peer-reviewed article published by a National Institutes of Health study, the Harvard Center For Risk Analysis was paid by the American Plastics Council to conduct a study of the risks of Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a major component of many consumer plastics used in water and food products.

After two and a half years, they managed to review 19 studies. Of those 19, Harvard reviewed 7 of the 9 industry-funded studies (78%) but only 12 of the 38 (38%) of the university studies funded by the government.

Harvard concluded that any BPA risk was slight.

Subsequently, the NIH-funded study noted more than 115 relevant university studies on BPA, 94 of which reported estrogenic activity which is a serious concern. 31 of those reported estrogenic action at low levels.

For more, please see Why Is “Estrogenic Action” Important?

The plastics industry continues to use the Harvard study they paid for in attempts to denigrate the hundreds of current studies showing that BPA poses a significant risk.

Harvard Center For Risk Analysis: Notorious

The Harvard Center For Risk Analysis is notorious for the massive amounts of corporate money it solicits — including generous sums from tobacco companies. See the subhead “BUYING SCIENTISTS” from the American Journal of Public Health for background.

 More Relevant Links

More On The Harvard Center For Risk Analysis

Not surprising that it is notorious for studies leaning toward the conclusions its patrons prefer. The links below go into that in greater detail. Some are a but dated and some are from activist sites which often display a data-selection bias that resembles their opponents. They are presented because they do contain some valuable information despite their age and advocacy shortcomings.

Non-Profit Organizations Receiving Corporate Funding

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