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Study finds corporate backing undermines the percieved credibility of research
United Soybean Board

A new study on the impact corporate funding on public trust in research may have broad implications for the future of research funding.

The study, based at Michigan State University, found that corporate backing of research could completely undermine the perceived credibility of that research, particularly in research looking at health risks.

John Besley is the lead author on the study. He said the study focused on research where people perceive a greater risk.

“Research around trans fat and health and we used a case around genetically modified food. They are cases where the research involved is about is there or isn’t there a risk, or is there or isn’t there a health threat. The research is meant to investigate that health threat.”

Besley said the impact of corporate funding is an important issue to explore, particularly at a time when federal funding is scarce.

“So we’re looking at corporate partnerships, we’re looking at ways to bring in money from non governmental organizations. People that I know want to do research that is of the highest ethical standard. But there’s no point doing really good research if people just reject it out of hand because of who the partners were.”

Besley said  his team looked at ways to increase the perceived quality of the research in spite of corporate backing.

“So having additional partners beyond companies helps a little bit but not a lot. It’s still better if you’re just looking at the average perception of the quality of the research it’s still better not to have a corporate partner. But if a corporation partners with an NGO or University it’s a little bit better.”

He said as the research moves forward it will continue to look at ways scepticism can be mitigated in spite of corporate funding.