The Ethics and Epistemology of Sponsorship Bias in Science

Private companies are funding the vast majority of scientific research on earth. For example, about 70% of all R&D funding in the UK comes from private donors (National Office of Statistics 2019), a number still small compared to about 76% in China and 78% in South Korea (Eurostats 2020). Similarly, large fields of science are overwhelmingly funded by powerful state institutions such as the US Department of Defense. How do the interests of powerful funding bodies affect the scientific process? My own research has focussed on developing concepts for identifying if and to what extent external interest impact the quality of scientific knowledge. In particular, I argue that we need to pay more attention to the ways in which powerful interests lead to structural changes in scientific incentive structures, rather than isolated violations of methodological or ethical standards.

Published research from this project:

In preparation:

  • [With Aja Watkins]: A review of "Naomi Oreskes: Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Know and Don't Know about the Ocean", stressing the book's relevance for philosophers of science.

  • A paper articulating a general account of structural preference bias in science.