Retail Research Is Hurting Science

Cartoon doctor"The biggest threat to science," writes Jennifer Washburn, is "the decline of government support ... and the growing dominance of private spending over American research." In 1965, the U.S. government funded more than 60 percent of research, while in 2006, 65 percent of research was privately funded. Even some industry leaders are concerned that basic research, which "drives innovation 10 to 15 years out," is being shortchanged in favor of applied research focused on marketable products. Multiple analyses have shown "that the effect of industry funding on the research outcome is huge" -- a particularly troubling phenomenon for medical research. "Big Pharma now finances approximately 70 percent of the nation's clinical drug research," and of that, "an estimated 75 percent flows to for-profit contract research firms. ... In 2001, the editors of 12 leading medical journals ... expressed their shock at what was happening to independent scientific inquiry." Government research is increasingly privatized to firms like Sciences International, while "most of these federal agencies lack even the most rudimentary tools that a medical journal editor would use to assess the quality and scientific integrity of industry-funded research."