The science is owned by a tiny number of very large companies and they only commission research which they believe will further their own commercial interests.
And when that turns out not to be the case, as when research turns up results which may be embarrassing to the company, they are most often dubbed “commercially confidential” and never published.

In addition, companies have learned that small investments in endowing chairs, sponsoring research programmes or hiring professors for out-of-hours projects can produce disproportionate pay-offs in generating reports, articles, reviews and books, which may not be in the public interest, but certainly benefit corporate bottom lines.

The effects of corporate generosity – donating millions for this research laboratory or that scientific programme – can be subtly corrosive.

Other universities regard the donor as a potential source of funds and try to ensure nothing is said which might jeopardise big new cash possibilities. And academics raising embarrassing questions (as they should) – such as who is paying for the lab?; how independent is the peer review?; who profits from the research?; is the university’s integrity compromised? – would soon learn that keeping their heads down is the best way not to risk their career, let alone future research funding.

The message is clear: making money is good, and dissent is stifled. Commerce and the truth don’t readily mix.

A reason why there is such pervasive mistrust of science and scientists is that the scientists staffing the official advisory committees and Government regulatory bodies in a significant number of cases have financial links with the industry they are supposed to be independently advising on and regulating.

The civil servants who select scientists for those bodies tend to look for a preponderant part of the membership, and particularly the chairperson, to be ‘sound’, i.e. can be safely relied on not to cause embarrassment to the Government or industry if difficulties arise.

The culture of spin and intimidation is far more pervasive than should ever be allowed.

The science is not, and never has been, a value-free search for the truth. It is a social construct influenced by a variety of rules, peer group pressures, and personal and cultural expectations. It is developed, like all human thought, from preconceived built-in judgements, assumptions and dogmas, the more powerful because they are often unconsciously held.

The complete article can be found on the I-SIS website at ISIS is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cutting edge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecological sustainability in science.

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