More transparency needed 2

March 5, 2009

Sense About Science is annoyed with Times Higher Education for mentioning that Vivian Moses, who contributed to its booklet on GM, heads a biotech industry-funded lobby group. It says this is not a paid position so it is not a vested interest. Yet in your article Moses himself says that, if he had been asked, he would have mentioned it.

Moses is also part of the Scientific Alliance, as are several of Sense About Science’s scientific advisers, not to mention one or two of the other contributors to the GM booklet.

The Scientific Alliance is an industry-funded lobby group that openly promotes climate change denial – a topic on which Sense About Science has done almost nothing proactive to challenge the sceptics. Is this something else that shouldn’t be mentioned?

And when it comes to vested interests, what about Sense About Science itself? Times Higher Education refers to it simply as a “charity”, but a quick glance at the last accounts it lodged with the Charity Commission shows all the substantial sums from its named donors came from life science, pharma, big oil and mobile phone companies – funnily enough, the very industries whose interests it defends against their critics.

Sense About Science complains that some of these links make no difference to its views. Is this a scientific view? It is certainly contrary to a rash of recent research published in the British Medical Journal and Nature, among other places, which found that the corporate funding of scientific research can skew the results.

In view of such potential problems, transparency is vital if we are to establish the line between promoting “good science and evidence for the public” and something more akin to public relations for vested interests.

David Miller
Professor of sociology
University of Strathclyde

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Tef, results, gold, silver, bronze, teaching excellence framework

The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework in full. Find out which universities were awarded gold, silver or bronze

Thorns and butterflies

Conditions that undermine the notion of scholarly vocation – relentless work, ubiquitous bureaucracy – can cause academics acute distress and spur them to quit, says Ruth Barcan