Where is the voice? Shame them
What should be done about scientists, who represent themselves as neutral parties but actually much benefit from corporate sponsorship of their research?
In 2005, William W. Clark, a hearing scientist at Washington University medical school, in St. Louis, published a study concluding that “firefighters are not at risk for occupational noise-induced hearing loss, even though they work nonstandard shifts and are occasionally exposed too high levels of noise.” This study was presented as evidence by a siren manufacturer, Federal Signal Corp, the defendants in a massive class-action suit filed against them by firefighters who held that they had suffered hearing loss as result of their proximity to fire sirens.
Dr. Clark failed to mention that he was a paid expert for Federal Signal Corp at the same time he conducted his study which was based on data gathered by the company. Dr. Clark a Ph.D. and director of his medical school’s Audiology and Communication Sciences Program, on prior occasions has prepared other hearing loss studies related to the railroad and mining industries while these industries were also paying for him.
Critics found serious flaws in Clark’s tainted work. An article in the journal Laryngoscope, by Karl Kryter from the Stanford Research Institute states that “there were some serious flaws in the analyses of the data and the conclusions reached.” Two years later after that, Dr. Clark published a study concluding that miners did not suffer significant occupational hearing loss his research was rebutted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety.
Washington University medical school released a letter saying that Dr. Clark hadn’t violated any university policies.
Clark is hardly alone. What should be done with scientists who sell their integrity and the health of their fellow human beings, for a bucket of gold? Post their pictures and addresses on a web page, called Shame? A sign on their offices and lab doors? A letter to their families? Where is the voice?
Amitai Etzioni most recent book is Security First; For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy The official website is www.securityfirstbook.com
Hard Case When Academics Double as Expert Witnesses by David Armstrong Wall Street Journal June 22, 2007 VOL CCXLIX NO. 145