Laurie Taylor column

January 12, 2001

Corporate sponsor tries to block publication of academic research results that reflected unfavourably on product it paid to have tested - THES , January 5

Do come in, Doctor Bunting.

Thank you, vice-chancellor.

Doctor Bunting, I believe you are in receipt of a research grant from Poppleton Pork Products.

That's right. They awarded me £45,000 to investigate the psychological benefits that might be derived from their new Jumbo Sizzler Sausage.

You've completed that research?

Yes indeed. I conducted a carefully controlled experiment in which 200 randomly selected subjects ate a pound of Jumbo Sizzlers every day for three months and then compared their results on a happiness index with 200 other randomly selected subjects whose diet was supplemented by normal sausages.

And the Jumbo Sizzlers produced more overall happiness?

Absolutely, 100 per cent of the Sizzler sample was "sausage happy" compared to only 63 per cent of the non-Sizzler sample. There was, though, one negative result that I thought I should include in the final report.

Doctor Bunting, I trust you are aware of the financial assistance provided to this univer-sity by PPP, assistance now formally acknowledged by the addition of a large pig to the university crest. And yet, I am now confronted by a letter from their managing director in which he claims that your inclusion of this negative result seriously detracts from the overall favourable nature of the findings. What exactly was this negative finding?

The tragic death of two of the Sizzler sample from gastric seizures.

Hardly a negative finding, Doctor Bunting. After all, your research clearly indicates that they would both have expired in a happy state. I can only ask you to withdraw that finding from your report.

You're suggesting that I lie?

Strong words, Doctor Bunting. Let's call it a little porkie.

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