Science for Sale: US Senators seek better conflict disclosures for scientific articles

Science for Sale: US Senators seek better conflict disclosures for scientific articles

From the Center for Public Integrity

March 31, 2016


Citing a recent Center investigation, lawmakers express ‘growing concerns about objectivity’ of research in a letter to the National Institutes of Health

Citing the Center for Public Integrity’s recent “Science for Sale” series, a group of U.S. senators has asked the National Institutes of Health to make it easier to tell who funds research published in scientific journals.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, on Wednesday released a letter sent to NIH Director Francis Collins asking that the National Library of Medicine make changes to its public database of 25 million journal articles, called PubMed, to reveal conflicts of interest in research.

“With industry now employing more scientists than nonprofits, universities and the government combined, and industry funding the research of many independent researchers, there are growing concerns about objectivity in numerous scientific disciplines — including nutrition science and research on health risk from chemicals,” the letter said.

The letter also cited a New York Times story about Coca-Cola Co. quietly funding academic researchers who blamed lack of exercise, rather than soft drinks and fast food, for the epidemic of obesity and diabetics.

The Center’s series revealed how scientific consultants working for the chemical industry publish journal articles that almost always claim their clients’ products are safe. Examples included two consulting firms, Gradient Corp. and Exponent, which published articles to help clients win asbestos lawsuits.

The NIH maintains a public database of medical and life sciences articles in more than 5,600 peer-reviewed journals. While the database often includes an abstract detailing the purpose of a study and its findings, the search results don’t reveal who paid for the research.

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