Research and Relationships

20-authors
Consider all the different ways we already knew about, in which food corporations can stymie potential government action meant to alleviate the obesity epidemic. As if matters were not already confused enough, news comes from the United Kingdom of a newly-discovered absence. It seems that when civil servants want to look up information the government commissioned and paid for — they can’t. Read this:

Civil servants are having to use Google to locate “ghost” research that has disappeared from public records because the government does not keep track…

Government-commissioned studies with politically inconvenient findings are being delayed or suppressed and official guidance is so vague that the publication process is open to manipulation, causing millions of pounds of research to be lost each year…

All research connected with state contracts signed with external organisations should be published promptly.

This is according to a report compiled by retired judge Sir Stephen Sedley, who concluded that Whitehall (a composite name for the national government, like Americans use “Washington”) badly needs a “publicly searchable centralized register.” Things are falling through the cracks, which is not only a waste of the British citizens’ tax money, but an insidious way to lose information that hurts certain business interests.

For the sake of the curious and deserving public, as well as the investigative journalists who retrieve facts on behalf of that public, transparency ought to be routine. And if certain research findings and recommendations have been rejected by various government branches, the people should, if they are interested, be able to find out why.

Another group of Brits who would appreciate knowing what is going on are the members of Parliament, who like to discuss recommendations, on behalf of the people in their districts, before those recommendations become policy. Presently, out of 24 government departments, only four keep track of government-funded research — even research sponsored by their own departments.

A not-for-profit organization called Sense About Science is concerned, calling this burying of unwelcome evidence a democratic deficit. They also say such shenanigans create cynicism, and they are correct. Is it possible the same underhanded tactics are used in the United States? Here is another interesting thing about Sedley’s report:

It looked into nine specific cases in which the government had been accused of suppressing or delaying politically inconvenient research on contentious policy areas. These included the relationship between childhood obesity and sugar consumption…

A previous post mentioned a study that threw shade on the theory that small lifestyle changes can result in significant and sustainable weight reduction. The work had 20 attributed authors, an unusually large number more suitable, perhaps, to a paper on the invention of the atomic bomb.

Childhood Obesity News reader Wesley Rogers commented:

I just finished reading the full text of the study. The section for Acknowledgments reveals that about half the authors have some financial interests in this subject.

The picture at the top of this page represents the list, which owns up to ties with such entities as Kraft Foods, McDonald’s Global Advisory Council, the Global Dairy Platform, the International Dairy Foundation, the Coca-Cola Foundation, Jenny Craig, the National Cattlemen’s Association, the United Soybean Board, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the World Sugar Research Organization, and other corporate interests, as well as many pharmaceutical companies.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘Ghost’ research vanishes from public records,” FT.com, 06/02/16
Image by NEJM.org

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