TA. Research ethics, methods, and financing: Dilemmas of the division between public and private

In the last decades, public funds for research have decreased substantially worldwide. This has caused academics to seek funding from the private sector. In parallel, the influence of the food industry on research has been put under scrutiny, with researchers and public officials being accused of partnering with the industry to hide the perverse effects of the products of the food industry (Kearns et al 2016; Nestlé 2002). This discussion table talks about issues related to ethics, methods, policies, and legitimacy that arise from partnerships between the public and private sectors.

We will consider the ethics of private research funding and how it is modified to the extent that public funding for research is decreasing worldwide. Under what terms should academics collaborate with the industry or accept funds from private institutions? What steps can we take to maintain a critical distance from the interests of the industry? In practice, research in academic and commercial fields not only implies different research objectives but also different measures of legitimacy, temporary organization of work, ways of working, and communication methods (Gershon 2017; Wilf 2016; Goulet et al. 2015). How can researchers work to establish a common vocabulary with their interlocutors in the private sector?

While some disciplines have developed a set of parameters regarding the terms under which academics can accept private funding (Cosgrove et al., 2009), the responsibility to reflect on ethical issues and negotiate specific collaborations often falls on individual researchers, while commercial entities have at their disposal more experience and greater resources (legal and otherwise) to negotiate the terms of these associations. How can we deal with the power of relationships that often characterize public/private partnerships? How do the stigmas surrounding private funding further limit the support available for research when negotiating such agreements?

We will question the dichotomy between public and private funds and their implications for research, in terms of the type of projects obtained and the claim of legitimacy on the part of researchers. How do notions about the "dirty" nature of private financing (Jones 2014) reinforce inequalities among researchers, causing an increasingly small group of researchers to have access to public funds that are considered exempt from ethical concessions?


· Public/private associations

· Financing investigation

· Conflicts of interest

· Ethics