Follow the money:
Harvard, over the past decade, has been under tremendous financial pressure from shrinking funding sources for their extravagant campuses and highly paid staff. Much of their recent research has been debunked or taken down from publication in reviewed journals as “junk science” and it has caused statements like these following ones by their directors as they attempt “damage control”
“Faculty members must not be induced by financial interests to give outside sponsors or other organizations or individuals authority to direct their studies or to restrict or unreasonably delay the release or publication of research results,” the policy reads.
The Corporation mentioned public trust as one of the most important factors for the University to consider in evaluating projects.
“The University should therefore scrutinize with special care any agreement that may appear to compromise public trust,…
Earlier this year, conflict of interest questions received national attention next door at the Harvard Medical School.
TRADITIONALLY, government funding for scientific research has been granted to institutions via a merit-review process–in which peer committees review grant proposals and award money to the most qualified applicants.
However, recent actions by Congress threaten the peer review process. Congress has begun to legislate research funds directly to institutions, thus bypassing the review process and seriously threatening the future quality and integrity of academic research.
Recent controversy over CIA sponsorship of the research of two Harvard professors foreshadows the kind of damage that politics brings to the funding process. The CIA reserves the right to censor work which it sponsors; but censorship of research findings runs counter to the policies and spirit upon which universities are based. While the CIA is not Congress, the CIA funding episodes suggest that Congress might ask in the future for similar freedom-constraining privileges in return for research grants.
Universities must stand firmly behind the peer-review process if quality scientific research and the merit basis of the funding system is to be preserved.
Researchers across Harvard face a difficult climate when funding their research. Federal research funding, long a mainstay of academic institutions, has been largely stagnant in recent years. Institutional support from Harvard, while present, will never fully meet the needs of often-expensive medical and public health research.
At the Harvard School of Public Health, professors are taking a different path to supporting their research. In increasing numbers, they are turning to private corporations for funding and assistance.
While this arrangement offers a new source of much-needed funding, it also raises challenging ethical and management questions for the school.