Is Research Funded By Interested Parties the Same As Bad Research?

business_ethics_highlights_2One of the worst aspects of ‘gotcha’ journalism is that it dulls our critical faculties while purporting to sharpen them. Here, it is implied strongly that readers should discount a study purporting to show that consuming diet soft drinks is more beneficial than consuming water when seeking weight loss, on the grounds that the study was financed, and some of the researchers were paid money by, soft drink manufacturers. It should be obvious that this fact is a reason to be concerned that the results may be the product of financial influence rather than scientific rigor. However, it should be equally obvious that this fact isn’t conclusive evidence that the results are the product of financial influence rather than scientific rigor. Put differently, this is a reason to scrutinize carefully the data and methodology of the study, but it is not a reason to discount the study before applying the necessary scrutiny. Does that make this entry a cautionary tale in journalistic ethics or in research ethics? You be the judge. >>>

LINK: Coca-Cola, Pepsi Once Again Fund Study Claiming Diet Soda Is Better For You Than Water (by Chris Morran for Consumerist)

Back in 2014, the soft drink industry funded a study that, coincidentally, concluded that diet soda is better for weight loss than water. These same companies are at it again, not only providing the backing for another study extolling the virtues of diet drinks, but also — according to new reports — directly paying money to the researchers involved.

The latest research to be criticized over this apparent conflict of interest comes from the International Journal of Obesity, which recently published a review of existing scientific research on the link between “low-energy sweetener consumption” and “energy intake and body weight.”

The study does disclose that it was funded, in part, by the International Life Sciences Institute — Europe, a group whose board of directors features not just a bunch of heavily credentialed academics, but also executives from Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Unilever. In fact, while there are some 19 people on the ILSI Europe board, three out of five of its officers are representing the food industry.

What do you think?


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