A new report commissioned by the Center for American Progress finds that oil industry contracts with universities to conduct energy research may not adequately protect the universities’ academic independence.
The report, written by independent researcher Jennifer Washburn, looked at 10 industry-university research contracts. Washburn found that the contracts “raise troubling questions about the ability of U.S. universities to adequately safeguard their core academic and public-interest functions when negotiating research contracts with large corporate funders.”
As public funding for research dwindles, more and more research is being funded by industry. While Washburn, on a call with reporters today, said industry research is important, she warned that it’s important that there be some oversight of these agreements.
Some specific findings from the report:
But on the conference call today, Washburn laid out a number of the study’s limitations. “We really don’t know where industry had an influence,” she said, adding later, “We don’t know whether any research has been suppressed,” Washburn explained that it is nearly impossible to determine such a thing.
She also said many of the universities discussed in the study pushed back against the report’s findings, arguing that Washburn should have examined the university practices, not just university-industry contracts.