On November 5-6, our colleague Michael Davis presented a paper at the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values conference on the “Collaboration Conundrum”. The conference purpose can be summarized this way:
Industry currently funds the majority of research and development in the United States. But historical scandals involving industry-funded research, together with empirical evidence of correlations in some areas of science between industry funding and research results that favor industry have undermined trust in industry-funded science. Given that so much research funding comes from industry, it would be unrealistic and wasteful to dismiss this research across the board as unreliable and unconcerned with the public good. What to do? Government reports and scholarly publications extol the value of public participation in scientific research, and a number of funding agencies are now encouraging initiatives such as community-based participatory research. Could the participation of citizen groups in industry-funded research also increase the relevance, reliability, and acceptability of industry research? The Collaboration Conundrum Conference brings together industry representatives and experts on important policy issues such as genetically modified organisms, pollution and toxic chemicals, biomedical research, agricultural practices, and animal welfare to answer questions about how to bring the public and industry to do research for the public good.
Michael thought that the European experience with RRI would be a useful addition to this conference. Its organizers agreed. Following we report the abstract for his paper.
This paper answers a question posed in the Call for this conference: “Could the participation of citizen groups in industry-funded research also prove valuable—to increase the relevance, reliability, and acceptability of industry research?” The question, please note, asks whether it is possible for participation of citizen groups to improve industry-funded research, not how likely such participation is to improve such research. Since what is actual is also possible, the answer to the question posed is yes if there is at least one example of such improved research. While I believe there are many such examples, I shall offer only two here (“PressureTel” and “MY Brain Book”), the second providing redundancy should there be a serious objection to the first.