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

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree
A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy