Believe the data: Important Safra Lab Research results

In my capacity as director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, which runs a Lab studying “institutional corruption,” I am incredibly happy to report this very significant finding in a study we helped to support. 

A string of researchers (Aaron S. Kesselheim, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Christopher T. Robertson, Ph.D., J.D., Jessica A. Myers, Ph.D., Susannah L. Rose, Ph.D., Victoria Gillet, B.A., Kathryn M. Ross, M.B.E., Robert J. Glynn, Ph.D., Steven Joffe, M.D., and Jerry Avorn, M.D.) ran tests to determine whether researchers discount research based upon whether it was funded by industry.

The conclusion published today in the New England Journal of Medicine is: they do — regardless of the merit of the underlying research. That is, regardless of how rigorous the underlying work is, the fact it has industry funding leads doctors to be less confident about the results. 

This is an important result. It is also an encouraging result. (Al)Most (all) in industry who fund research believe they are funding “the truth.” If the fact of their funding the research leads people to doubt “the truth,” that might lead them to fund the research differently — a donation to neutral funding entity, e.g. 

Or put differently: if industry funding is viewed as corrupting, then this research demonstrates: corruption doesn’t pay. 

The research is here. The Journal also has an editorial about the piece. 

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6 Responses to Believe the data: Important Safra Lab Research results

  1. Information society might become a new feudalism where Intellectual Property Rights are awarded to new feudal lords like Microsoft, Universal or Sony.

    You are right in making a progressive statement that something has to be made to prevent this.

    But I don’t think the metaphor of a common is a good banner.

    Commons was the remnants under feudalism of a pre-feudal clan society. They permitted small peasants to have a slightly better life under the feudal warlord than if they had to survive on the meagre by-products of their slavery for the noble. Early capitalism evolved when most of those commons where taken by force by the gentry. Impoverished peasants became journeymen or women and eventually labour force in early industry.

    The word therefore gives me the impression of demanding that the common citizen has to get some air, to respire, to not suffocate. It is inherently defensive in character: leave us this at least.

    I think we have to find a more offensive metaphor.

  2. Winston says:

    Regulation of the spectrum is necessary and fully free-air model cannot work, in my opinion. The FCC’s hybrid approach is probably the most reasonable, given the nature of the markets involved. While Wi-fi’s use of the 2.4 GHz range without licensing seems to work because each Wi-fi user is like a ship using the ocean (each user is very small and effects a very limited area), regulation must remain for broadcasters who can blanket an entire area with its jamming signal. No regulation or licensing in this area means that the first to market with the ability to build the biggest tower and most powerful antenna wins.

    You think Clear Channel is bad now….

  3. Fuzzy says:

    I am willing to listen, but for a market to succeed, there must be market forces driving in different directions that can be balanced. Where is the market force against spectrum interference. If Verizon wants to use a range of frequencies, what is to prevent AT&T from jamming the same range of frequencies to block Verizon signals? If a small radio station picks a frequency for their broadcasts what is the market pressure they can use if a larger radio station decides they wish to take over the frequency? The technological solution of spread spectrum is not a universal panacea. Electronic frequency pollution, like water or air pollution is a real problem and market forces against them are only marginally effective, when there is no direct financial incentive against them.

  4. I’m interested in Benkler’s argument that the commons metaphor is problematic because it is another form of property. Is there an article you can suggest (or another resource) where he has developed this idea?

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