Reward biased research

Other Names:
Sponsor biased research
Conflict of interest between pure and applied science
Corrupting effect of valuable prizes on academic integrity
Biased commercial research
Expertise biased in favour of the commissioning body
Research sponsored by vested interests
Manipulation of scientific studies

The size of individual research projects has long outgrown the means of individual researchers or private patrons. The aggregate scale of science has become a significant item in a national budget. Its products have nearly immediate cash value as inputs to industry. Under these circumstances, control over the choice of problems, evaluation of conclusions, and the use made of results inevitably passes to those who fund such industrial-scale enterprise. This transition from academic to industrialized science, and the sensitivity to sponsorship which researchers must acquire, can destroy the morale necessary for their creativity. The direction and character of science is being altered, even deformed, by political and commercial forces. The research profession is no longer motivated by "noblesse oblige" and a public-spirited elite is being replaced by a narrowly self-interested elite. This is corrupting the very foundations of modern scientific endeavour, and how the scientific and intellectual validity of "evidence-based" scientific research could be threatened by selfish, "money-driven" professionals/institutions.


In the USA federal academic grants are intended to advance scholarly research. When they are approved through "earmarking" they are taken out of competitive science funding and may result in support of projects of a parochial or scientific questionable nature. Such research projects are approved not on the basis of public evaluation of their merits but by an influential politician (usually on an appropriations committee) adding phrases to the fine print of an appropriations bill. Frequently only the sponsor knows the funding is in the bill when Congress approves it. Earmarked projects are never subject to the peer review process whereby the agency allocating the funds seeks the views of a panel of independent experts to evaluate the project. In 1993 25 earmarked projects, ranging from $75,000 to $60 million were challenged.

In 60 percent of media stories reporting on pharmaceutical breakthroughs or new medical technologies, there is no account given of the link between the researcher and the drug company or medical development firm.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST