MSU Study Reveals Public Skepticism Toward Corporate Sponsored Research

May 22, 2017

New research from Michigan State University suggests that people are skeptical of findings about health risks or new forms of medication—if the research was sponsored by a corporation.

The findings are of duress for scientists, who often need industry sponsorship to fund their research. It could become especially problematic, as the Trump administration’s proposed budget sees many cuts to scientific departments.

“This initial study was meant to understand the scope of the problem. Our long-term goal though is to develop a set of principles so that quality research that's tied to a company will be better perceived by the public.” John Besley, the study’s lead author, told MSU Today.

Results from the study display healthy skepticism toward corporate sponsored research. Partnerships between scientists and large companies received negative feedback from 77 percent of the study’s participants.

Research without any form of corporate sponsorship was comparatively viewed in a much more positive light. Only 28 percent of participants showed signs of distrust toward it.

Ties to official scientific bureaus did little to shake skepticism. Additional sponsorship from organizations such as the Center for Disease Control did not remedy participants’ distrust of corporate sponsored research.

With a growing public reluctance toward corporate sponsorship and the threat of federal funds being redirected, searching for alternative funding will become a priority for research scientists.

The study can be read here.