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Are the National Academies Fair and Balanced?
Today Center for Science in the Public (CSPI) Interest hosted a public forum to discuss conflicts of interest on National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issue panels. CSPI's most notable finding was that out of 320 NAS issue panel committee members evaluated, 18% had "direct conflicts of interest " defined as "a direct and recent connection to a company or industry with a financial stake in the study outcome." CSPI has made clear that they do not dispute the high quality of reports produced by NAS, but feel that full disclosure of industry ties should be mandated and strictly enforced to allow panels to be balanced with scientists who have contrasting views.
Six presenters were on hand at the conference to give their impressions of the report and on the issues related to the intersection of industry and science--not just limited to the NAS, but also including EPA and FDA advisory panels. In brief, here are some of their positions on the matter:
Dr. David Michaels, chairman of George Washington University School of Public Health, believes that scientist with conflicts of interest should be barred from government agency panels that "reach conclusions." He also discussed the results-driven leanings of science firms for hire that manipulate science to help companies clear regulatory hurdles and arrive at their desired outcome.