Well, I never thought I’d say this, but, science is becoming a sham. Yup, you heard me right: the “study of truth” is becoming an oxymoron. Hard to swallow since it’s the world in which I’ve been trained, as well as the world that I love.
Sad but true. Science, like most things that are marketable, is becoming controlled by economics. And whenever money is involved, big money that is, corruption inevitably follows. I’ve already reported in an earlier post of the practice of selective publishing by the antidepressant pharmaceutical industry, but check out the latest scandal: A recent report has disclosed hidden financing from the tobacco industry in a study that showed lung scans to help save smokers from cancer. Yikes! According to the report, this finding, “has shocked the research community and raised fresh concern about industry influence in important science.”
Although researchers insist that the funding from the parent company of a big tobacco firm had “no control or influence over the research”, most experts agree that public trust is compromised when hidden research money has industry ties. No kidding. It may be true that the tobacco company had no influence or control over the results, but when a group is at least partially responsible for researchers paychecks, it might be just a little tempting to make results look favorable, both for extending the study (means longer pay period) and for future funding (security). Further, money paid to researchers by tobacco companies often lead to their testimonies against screening in class action lawsuits which favor the tobacco companies. According to Dr. John Niederhuber, director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), scientists must maintain the trust of patients in research studies, and “any breach of that trust is not simply disappointing but, I believe, unacceptable.”
The original study, published in the medical journal JAMA, was also partially financed by the National Cancer Institute. Both groups spoke out against the financial relationship between the study and the tobacco company. According to NCI chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley, the society would not have contributed to the study if it knew “Big Tobacco” was co-funding the work. And Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, editor in chief of JAMA, stated that she would not have published the paper had she known of the relationship.
Well, as I stated at the beginning, science backed by big business has a vested interest to veer from the truth. Whether or not CT lung scans actually save lives is not the point here. It’s that if we are to learn the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in matters of the universe, it’s much better to secure financing from institutions that have no vested interest in the outcomes. Unfortunately, that’s just not the world we live in.