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Posted on 07-23-2012

While I was reluctant to do a second episode on a what I consider to be a sensitive topic- we did preview it as upcoming so I thought we would "go there".  Really I was hoping to take the conversation away from conspiracy theories and try to bring to light this idea that the data stream has issues.  For those in the scientific community this is not necessarily news, but for the rest of us who try to rely on experts who form their opinions from the literature this point then becomes exceedingly relevant.

While I do think the media sensationalizes (scary stuff and fantastic headlines sell papers) a lot of the examples we highlight are real life, not blown out of proportion incidents where the truth is co-opted for someone else's interests.  No, for the record I do not believe the illuminati are going to take over the world, nor do I believe that one giant corporation controlled by the worlds financial elite is hell bent on global domination.  However, I do believe that corporate interests will continually put profits before people (not against a free market Economy though either).  Also as I tried to make clear is that I do not have the answers.  I do know that the answer is not to say "peer review works just fine it's a great system- change nothing". I also know the answer is not to say, " yes it has problems, but its the best we've got, therefore too bad"

To my mind the " unholy alliance"  is not necessarily between big pharma and medicine - as long as any profession consists of human beings there will be human nature - this will invariably lead to lying, cheating and abuse of power (yes the answer here is we cannot change human nature).  The coercion I see is between the corporate interests and knowledge institutions - the places that collect and interpret the data and train our professionals.

As public finding dwindles and these institutions seek corporate dollars and sponsorships/partnerships it removes the barrier to bias and places faculty and researchers in a precarious situation.  They can no longer conduct science to truly see the truth of a question.  Industry will dictate which science is done and in our examples clearly and presently will alter the data to dictate the results - whether that results ends in your injury or death or not.

I not here to cry wolf  - if we all inhale enough we can find conspiracy theories hiding in our own garages (never mind the little man in my computer).  The facts on the ground seem to indicate there is some corruption of the data stream.  With this in mind, how can we trust it?  Whose research can we trust? And even if we trust it, how do we know if the results are tampered with?  Again, I don't know the answer to this.

I do think the academic community has some serious self reflecting to do.  Institutions need to be explicit about where they stand and there need to be clear standards of conduct for researchers.  Maybe we should licence our phd's - make them a regulated profession like MD's , Lawyers, and chiropractors.  Regulation means responsibility of conduct and a duty to protect the public interest.

When Lucia asked me to sum up my thought in one sentence, I went with "trust no one". In retrospect, my feeling is of course there is good science out there, most institutions stand by their faculty, there is nothing wrong with corporations making a profit.  If I were asked to sum up my thoughts now.  I'ld say - The Truth is out there...but be careful who you trust.


M. Corradetti

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