Ethical Oddities

Quick note that there is an interesting piece at FiveThirtyEight on conflicts of interest and how they can affect decision making.  While the piece is focused on Trump in particular, it points to some not-so-surprising and surprising findings that apply to scientific work that are of interest. In the not-so-surprising category is that published research sponsored by a company will tend to be biased in the company’s favor (though the linked paper only examined 48 papers in the medical field and couldn’t really conclude if the bias was because the research was slanted or because industry-unfriendly results were discouraged either by termination of funding, redirection of research, or use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent publication). In the surprising category was the finding that disclosing conflicts of interest will produce a more biased outcome (one has to be amused that the paper contains a standard conflict-of-interests section).

All this is a reminder that science is a human pursuit subject to all the weaknesses humans have.


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