Mr. Moneybags

Shockingly, Money Influences All Research

Today we are going to resolve a question that seems to be rising to the top of the list every time someone evaluates a new study. Has money had any effect on these findings? The answer is always yes. Money influences all research. We know it’s shocking, but it is true.

Research doesn’t get done unless someone sees value in an answer it might give and coughs up the money to do the research. The funder might be a business that sees a potential financial advantage coming from a likely finding. It might be a government agency that sees the research as likely to advance its mission (and no, that’s not always a political agenda). It might be a nonprofit organization that sees the research as serving its goals. It might be researchers who see the research as advancing their careers.

Regardless of who provides the money, they all want value for their money.

With so many damning revelations about nutrition research funded by food and beverage companies, it might be comforting to know that this problem surfaces in many other kinds of research. Luigi Zingales examines the problem from the perspective of research used to inform financial policymaking. He starts with the case of Robert Litan, who resigned from the Brookings Institution following controversy about incomplete financial disclosures.

The essence of Zingales’ conclusions is that transparency about funding and an open process of peer and public review are the best tools for assuring the integrity of research.

What that means is that research has to stand on its merits. Though funding sources must be disclosed and competing interests acknowledged, money can neither be an excuse for dismissing or embracing research findings. Thoughtful people must evaluate the research itself.

Click here to read Zingales’ commentary.

Mr. Moneybags, image © Wackystuff / flickr

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October 12, 2015

2 Responses to “Shockingly, Money Influences All Research”

  1. October 12, 2015 at 8:52 am, Dr. Cyndi Inkpen said:

    Although money can impact research outcomes, I believe that it is important to remember that as researchers, we must always conduct ourselves in a manner that is ethical and honorable. To do otherwise only serves to discredit our efforts in changing lives and minds to reshape the view of the disease of obesity.

  2. October 12, 2015 at 9:58 am, Ted said:

    Thanks, Cyndi. You’re right. That’s why peer and public review is so important.