My last post was about the differences between businesses and charities, now I want to consider businesses and scientific literature.
Peer-reviewed research is my main source of reliable evidence, but I am always uneasy if I use research done by companies. Is this logical? It has been vetted for publication in the same way as work done by universities – it’s not as if I’m reading spin on a company’s website.
I am not in any way wanting to imply that all data produced by companies is fabrication. I’m more asking questions such as would they publish if the results weren’t what they wanted? This would lead to a bias in the experiments which were published. Did they choose to do the work in a way that was likely to favour the result they wanted? And it’s not just the experiments, it’s the way they are written up, how they are interpreted in the case of other results.
I was particularly thinking about this today because I was at a conference about bees and pesticides, and some scientists from industry were getting a hard time. But I was also chatting to people from universities who were industry funded. It is frustrating for them if their work is mistrusted for this reason – they know that their funding hasn’t changed the way they do research.
There are some excellent scientists working in industry, many of whom have spent part of their careers in academia. And whatever we might say about the lengths that people at the top might go to in the name of profit, the industry scientists I know at my level are honest and motivated by good science. But can there still be biases?
I have just over a week left of my twenties, which is hard to get my head around but is cause for celebration. I have chosen to celebrate with a saving the world party. This is basically a load of my friends and family sharing their thoughts on issues from conservation to the criminal justice system and reducing re-offending (don’t worry, there will be cake and alcohol to follow, we’re allowed to have fun). A few people are doing little talks, and I want mine to be a discussion about exactly this issue, so please share your thoughts and links so I can be better informed for my discussion. Thank you very much.