Conclusions for sale

A flawed smoking study highlights the political nature of science bought and paid for.

The University of Minnesota hosted a recent study to determine, according to the abstract, the validity of the perception of negative economic effects smoking bans had on bars. As quoted in news publications worldwide, the study found that smoking bans do not hurt business. The conclusion, however, could be as tainted as the money used to extract it. The study was funded entirely by ClearWay Minnesota , a non-profit whose mission is, âÄúTo enhance life in Minnesota by reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.âÄù The organization awards grants to âÄúMinnesotans trying to protect their communities from the damage tobacco causes.âÄù The UniversityâÄôs grasp on conflicts of interest appears hazy at best. Unlike partisan ClearWay Minnesota, true science and research have no political ends. Asked if any of the studies funded by ClearWay have concluded against the organizationâÄôs politics, Vice President Andrea Mowery said âÄúI canâÄôt think of one off the top of my head.âÄù Ironically, ClearWayâÄôs funding comes from the Minnesota settlement against tobacco companies for, according to ClearWay, âÄúharming and misleading the citizens of Minnesota with their products and practices,âÄù like bogus tobacco research. The University destroys the credibility of its research faculty and their work when accepting grants from industry or interest groups. Rather than play accessory to the academic crime of mutilating the discipline of science into a business, the University should lead the way by refusing all research funds from industry and interest groups. Perhaps pumping our resources into the sciences with little regard for the liberal arts is causing a shortage of critical thinking. Of course, the University could find that very conclusion, for a nominal fee.