Corporations, Universities and You
By Tim Schwab
Food & Water Watch recently published the report Public Research, Private Gain, which outlines how corporate agribusiness is purchasing influence at our nation’s land-grant universities. With hundreds of millions of dollars paying for university research, faculty chair endowments, naming rights at buildings and consulting contracts with professors, there is no shortage of examples of the ways in which corporate money is distorting the science and corrupting the public-interest mission of these schools, which seem more interested in partnering with corporations than with farmers or consumers like you and me.
The report was not received well by university administrations, who either defended the status quo or, incredibly, suggested that millions of dollars of corporate money was having no influence over the independence of their research.
While administrators are taking a defensive posture, some professors are saying that enough is enough. This week, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which represents tens of thousands of professors, released a set of principles and practices designed to counter the corrupting influence that industry influence can have and address the pervasive conflicts of interests in academia.
The document includes 56 proposed principles that call for restrictions on industry influence, including an end to confidential research, more rigid standards on academic consulting, and publicly available disclosure of conflicts of interests. Deftly pointing out a myriad of examples of how industry funding has “severely compromised the principles that should govern university life,” the report offers anecdotes of corporate influence, interference, and intimidation in academia.
In stark contrast to the AAUP report, the National Academies of Science (NAS) released its own report this week about the state of research in American universities, making the blithe call for greater industry-university collaboration. Published in collaboration with executives and former executives from companies like DuPont, Eli Lilly, Cisco, and Accenture, the NAS report—while completely ignoring the substantial conflict-of-interest concerns that the AAUP describes—advocates for advantageous tax credits and other pro-corporate federal policies to foster greater industry influence on university campuses.
Could there be a finer anecdote for the problem at hand?
Learn about the growing, troubling influence of corporate agribusiness at your state’s land-grant research institution in Food & Water Watch’s report, Public Research, Private Gain.