Wednesday, January 10, 2007

coverage of scientific bias in regulation

The Monterey Herald has an article covering a new systematic analysis by Lenard Lesser et al. of scientific studies of beverages.[*] The researchers of this study found that beverage studies were four to eight times more likely to reach positive conclusions about the health effects of a beverage when that study was industry sponsored. This has implications not only for approvals by the Food and Drug Administration, but also for the Environmental Protection Agency, given what some have observed to be an increasing reliance on industry-sponsored studies.

Also, the Hartford Courant has an editorial: Gagging Science With Politics, decrying some of the procedural changes made in the way the EPA will set pollution standards (moving from staff scientists performing independent reviews of recent research towards scientists "teaming up with their politically appointed bosses to review . . . 'policy-relevant' science").

[*] The Public Library of Science, which publishes the peer-reviewed open-access journal that published Lesser's study, also has a "Perspective," entitled Does Industry Sponsorship Undermine the Integrity of Nutrition Research?, commenting on this study.

1 comment:

HaloJonesFan said...

Hehe, yeah. Group with a vested interest in proving that the soft-drink industry is a bunch of evil bastards produces a study proving that the soft-drink industry is a bunch of evil bastards. Next story: dog bites man, shocking carnage ensues.

I've been in this discussion on another board, and someone pointed out that it's an obvious conclusion; the industry isn't going to sponsor studies looking into the negative effects of its products. And this doesn't mean that their studies are useless. Coca-Cola Inc might sponsor a study that looks into the effect of cyclamates in the amounts typically consumed by drinkers. Mother Jones, on the other hand, might sponsor a study to determine how much cyclamate you would need to consume before it became harmful (which is, presumably, far greater than the amount in the Coca-Cola Inc study.) The former would be interpreted as a "favorable for the industry" study, and the latter interpreted as unfavorable.