In response to recent efforts to restrict the dissemination of academic research generated by contracts, the American Association of University Professors is developing new guidelines for colleges and faculty who receive corporate financing for research. The move comes after recent attempts by BP and federal agencies usingNatural Resource Damage Assessment program.
The disclosure was made in the recent issue of AAUP's Academe magazine, which carries several articles, including one about conflicts of interest standards at medical journals (read here), another that reviews pharmaceutical industry influence on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (see this) and an essay detailing similar concerns in Canada, where the Canadian Association of University Professors also plans to update guidelines.
"Increased reliance on corporate funding - combined with the sheer power of corporations whose financial resources in some cases dwarf those of entire nations - requires us to rethink the advice we give and the policies we recommend. More detailed guidelines from the AAUP should help professors and their institutions negotiate better contracts with corporations and with the government, thereby securing faculty interests, protecting universities' missions, and serving the public good," writes AAUP Cary Nelson (look here).
Among the questions being batted around: Have faculty independence and peer review been compromised by externally funded research? Where does the dividing line fall between an individual professor’s freedom to do research and higher education’s collective need to protect the free dissemination of research results? Does corporate- or government-funded research that limits faculty access to comprehensive data about a given project pose special ethical and professional problems? Should professors be prohibited from publishing ghostwritten papers?
The AAUP is just beginning its work. Nelson writes us that committees and meetings are being scheduled with a target date of about a year from now for a policy to be issued. The new guidelines will either supplement or revise the existing Statement on Corporate Funding of Academic Research and its On Preventing Conflicts of Interest in Government-Sponsored Research at Universities, which you can read here.