Science has more problems than just flawed methodology.
There is growing evidence that the pressure to commercialize is directly or indirectly associated with adverse impacts on the research environment, science hype, premature implementation or translation of research results, loss of public trust in the university research enterprise, research policy conflicts and confusion, and damage to the long-term contributions of university research.
That’s from a 2015 report on the topic. It’s a harrowing read.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada has stated, for example, that a primary aim of scientific research is to “power” commerce.
I have some sympathy for this view. Our civilization has been driven by education and advancements derived from research. The problem is that not all research is the same: some is focused on the problems of today, some is highly speculative but with potentially large payoffs, and some of it demands rigorous methodology to compensate for subtle effects. While some of that is helped by commercial partnerships, some isn’t, and sometimes the costs are too high.
the notion that “fast and successful” translation of research results is possible and desirable, especially when expressed by prominent policymakers, may skew research incentives and public expectations in favour of premature implementation of research results, with consequent risks to research integrity and to the quality, safety or efficacy of research outputs. Indeed, commercialization activities and associated incentives have been linked to premature implementation of gene therapy research programs. In the stem cell research context, a global market for putative, scientifically unproven stem cell therapies has emerged, and appears to be expanding in availability and reach despite evidence of considerable health, financial, regulatory and social risks posed by the phenomenon.
We need a delicate, nuanced approach to commercial partnerships; blanket approval for the idea is toxic, and leads to things like hyping a brand of chocolate milk for concussion recovery, based on unpublished data. As another report found,
40% of the [university] press releases contained exaggerated advice, 33% contained exaggerated causal claims, and 36% contained exaggerated inference to humans from animal research. When press releases contained such exaggeration, 58%, 81%, and 86% of news stories, respectively, contained similar exaggeration, compared with exaggeration rates of 17%, 18%, and 10% in news when the press releases were not exaggerated. … At the same time, there was little evidence that exaggeration in press releases increased the uptake of news.
This hype comes from a need for scientific institutions to “prove” themselves or their partnerships. It’s a side effect of viewing research as a business or primarily for the benefit of business.
And it’s got to stop, if we value the process over the profession.