Who Is Buying Bioethics Research?

American Journal of Bioethics 8 (8):54-58 (2008)
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Growing ties to private industry have prompted many to question the impartiality of academic bioethicists who receive financial support from for-profit corporations in exchange for ethics-related services and research. To the extent that corporate sponsors may view bioethics as little more than a way to strengthen public relations or avoid potential controversy, close ties to industry may pose serious threats to professional independence. New sources of support from private industry may also divert bioethicists from pursuing topics of greater social importance, such as the needs of medically underserved communities. To inform ongoing debates about the financing of bioethics and its transparency to those concerned about potential sources of bias, we examined funding disclosures appearing in original research reports in major bioethics journals. Reviewing research published over a 15-year period, we found little evidence that for-profit corporations are influencing bioethics research directly. Instead, we found evidence that a great number of organizations, both public and private, support bioethics research. These findings suggest that worries about the cooption of bioethics research by a few interested stakeholders are greatly overstated and undersupported by available data.



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David Landy
San Francisco State University