I observe media uses health studies or research and come up with conclusions to influence the consumers today with headlines suitable for few corporations

New study says caffeine can help strengthen memory function

Research shows beer can be good for you

  • Is it true that some research today are manipulated to suit corporate agenda particularly private funded?

  • Is there a way to identify commercial research?

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    Omission of negative results is a common consequence. Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 8:11
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    Microsoft Research has published more than 6,000 peer-reviewed publications. I would guess that a significant number of these papers suit the agenda of Microsoft Research, which is private funded.
    – user102
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 11:09
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    @Charles Morisset - The vast majority of these papers contain new techniques, algorithms, and approaches to achieve certain goals. That's a different purpose than showing correlations or connections in nature. So Microsoft's influence will mainly be the goals of research that they are interested in (e.g., bioinformatics) and things like the programming languages used in the papers' examples.
    – DCTLib
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 12:10
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    Your question needs to be refined. It is trivially true that corporations can affect research. Almost all funding dictates what research you may conduct with it. You probably mean to ask if corporate involvement is likely to significantly bias research, but now you must define what you consider significant, and what you consider likely, and which fields you are speaking of.
    – Superbest
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 16:32
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    @MarcClaesen being naive would be to think that publicly-funded scientists do not publish 'attempted claim to fame' e.g. 'our stuff works better than X, proof included ... now give us your grant money, and tenure.' The truth is practically no one publishes negative results, regardless of the funding.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 12:12

5 Answers 5


There is always a possibility that an Industry funded project (meaning a company is funding it vs. the government) is influenced. However, in academia, the idea is that peer reviewed work looks at the methodology and results to decide if it makes sense. There are also different types of 'research'.

  1. In the media 'A new study...' does not necessarily mean academic publication (in the case of your link, it was). Anything is possible, and if an upcoming researcher who needs funding tries to find meaning that benefits a company to get more funding later, than yes, it is possible for research to be 'manipulated'. In the case that it was a company producing the research themselves, such as a coffee company posting its own research, most likely it is biased. An example is the bing challenge, which says that research shows people choose bing over google, but that was Microsoft's research.

  2. A company can fund academic research that leads to a publication. In this situation, there is an acknowledgement of who funded the research. There are often conflict of interest statements that are included in the publication.

  • Thx. Am not aware about pubic funded research regulations. Can they be used by Corporates for profit or by entrepreneurs with royalty? Are they done in a direction suitable for companies?
    – Gopi
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 11:18
  • It sounds like your asking about intellectual property ownership from government funding? This depends on the type of funding, and if the 'research' resulted in academic papers or patents. Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 11:24
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    Note that if forged results are not too far off, they can make perfect sense from a peer-review point of view and the forgery is only detectable by reproduction.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 12:43

Industry funded research is a common phenomenon, and honestly I don't see much problem with it, as long as it's clearly stated that the project is designed, funded and/or carried out by a profit-driven company, held privately or publicly.

Many journals I follow, mostly within medical and biomedical research) specifically ask for the funding information, as well as declaration of any conflict of interest. While the use of these sections are not limited to corporate funding cases, it is also a good place to denote involvement.

I believe the important part of your question is how corporate funded research is framed/presented towards general public. That is more of a discussion on media ethics and protocol than academia, I would say. Practically all respectable journals have peer-review (often blind), obvious cases of undeclared conflict of interest are relatively easy to pick up.

  • Agree with you.Media must mention in case its research to promote their product.
    – Gopi
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 11:12
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    My dissertation was largely corporate funded, and the firewalls between the "Research funding people" and the "We sell stuff people" were awe-inspiring. The grant was a PITA for other reasons, but the protections for intellectual freedom were impressive.
    – Fomite
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 15:25

The first thing to point out here is that you are referring to media directed at the general public, not scientific publications. "Science" article in newspapers and magazines are rarely objective and most of the time fail to convey the actual conclusion of the paper they cite.

This can be harmful to the public's perception of research results in many ways and I get upset by it quite often. Scientists themselves almost never write to the newspaper to correct false conclusions made from their work, not even when their own words are misinterpreted, taken out of context, or simply made up.

Is it true that some research today are manipulated to suit corporate agenda particularly private funded?

It has been shown that, even with rigorous methodology, researchers will have a tendency to make companies that pays them happy. Note that this is not restricted to privately-funded research. Government agencies that fund research obviously also have agendas and are generally far more powerful than the average commercial company (the US Department of Defense comes to mind). There is also a 'scientifically correct' among public funding agencies and scientist throughout history have struggled when their findings conflicted with popular political opinions.

In general, what diminishes this effect is when a lot of people from various places and with competing or opposite interests are researching on the same topic. One can expect the biases to level themselves out.

Is there a way to identify commercial research?

Yes. First, read actual scientific literature and not lay articles in men's health or gossip magazines. Second, reputable journals always ask authors to state every source of funding, and possible conflicts of interest. Third, switch your brain on when you read and use your judgment. If one lone article by Smith J. et al. states that products manufactured by Smith J. LLC are the next big thing, use extra scrutiny.

  • and follow the trail of cited publications and reviewers. All too often there's a conflict of interest there, reviewers being the authors of cited publications, I've seen many cases even where the author of the article was also the author of every single cited publication, hundreds of them, and the "truthfulness" of the article was pushed as being due to the high number of cited publications all agreeing with it.
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 6:30

The existing answers address the fact that industries do sponsor research. However, you should note that the wording of a given headline is entirely chosen by either the marketing department in a company, or by some journalist aiming to maximize click-through to his article. It's very common for a fairly mundane paper to generate sensationalist headlines, through no fault of the researcher.


There are many "studies" funded by interest groups with agendas where the "researchers" know what the outcome is supposed to be based on that agenda.
Most such however are not funded by private industry (at least directly) but by political pressure groups, government agencies, and yes, sometimes industry groups (like a group set up to promote the drinking of beer might fund a "study" to show that beer is healthy).

This has been going on for centuries, possibly thousands of years, it's nothing new.

"Peer review" can help undermine such things, but sadly that too is all too easily corrupted. Just fund a "scientific journal" and have the review staff filled with more "scientists" who know where their paycheck is coming from and what they're supposed to agree with if they want funding for their own next "study".

Science is expensive, people need to eat, and as long as there's people with an agenda to push and enough money to push it through shady (pseudo)scientific "studies" there's going to be "scientists" eager to take that money.

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