The medical industry has normalized close relations between pharmaceutical companies and researchers, bringing about a new ‘corporate science’. As the industry shifted away from academic research to research purchased from CROs, the role of the publication planner became increasingly important as research began to have immediate market value (Sismondo 2009, 175).
While scientific standards are upheld in corporate-initiated research, conflict of interest legislation is ill-equipped to address the underlying material influences that occur when corporations shape the design, end points, audiences, and authors of medical research (Sismondo 2009, 175). If the entire research process is guided by corporate interests (of which the bottom line is to increase sales), ‘objective’ or ‘academic’ looking data may instead be a powerful sales strategy: “marketing is best done if invisible” (Sismondo 2009, 181). Currently, data production is now subsumed within corporate marketing processes which begin planning sales strategies before the research even starts. If material interests shape data production, we begin to see a more subtle yet pervasive conflict of interest which exists when there is a direct working relationship between researchers and economically interested parties.
If corporate funding is more likely to produce pro-industry results in clinical trials (Sismondo 2008), this relationship must be scrutinized and mediated: the illegitimate material influence on knowledge production should be eliminated by severing the direct relationship (cash flow) between researchers and corporations. Does this involve a nationalization process? While such measures are problematic, discussions about how to reorient the medical research community are imperative if this corporate influence is to be mitigated in any meaningful way.
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