DUBLIN –Around one-fifth of scientists working on health-related research have faced pressure from funders over “unfavourable” findings, according to survey results published on Wednesday.
Eighteen per cent of those questioned said they were “asked to suppress certain findings as they were viewed as being unfavourable,” according to a summary published in science journal PLOS by Australia-based academics, including from the University of Newcastle and Swinburne University of Technology.
Some of the scientists and medics who were surveyed said they faced “subtle pressure” from their research paymasters, such as conveying hopes for “positive findings,” or blunter constraints such as government funding agreements that “require researchers to obtain funder approval to publish reports.”
The survey covered researchers involved in over 200 trials related to nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, smoking, and substance use. Two-thirds of those polled were based in Europe or North America, with a fifth of them listed as in Oceania.
The findings, which tally with similar recent surveys in Britain and Canada, suggest public and private funders “have been shown to undermine the integrity of science” in ways that undermine “notion[s] of academic freedom” based on peer review and without “interference or the threat of professional disadvantage.”
The team warned science could be compromised by funders who are “also responsible for giving policy advice or implementing intervention programmes” and therefore “have a stake in findings.”
The coronavirus pandemic has made such dangers “acutely apparent,” they said, with “delays in releasing early research findings in China” leading to “significant outbreaks” elsewhere
The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, was recently accused by Jeremy Farrar, a member of the British Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), of delaying publication of evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus, seemingly in line with the Chinese Government’s initial denials.Show