February 14, 2016

The Data Quality Act and the Continuing War on Industry Sponsored Science

The controversy concerning the integrity of industry sponsored science has been going on for years.  However what continues to be absent from the debate is the Data [Information] Quality Act which was passed some fifteen years ago with the intent of breaking this impasse.

More specifically the Act sets standards for all scientific data disseminated by any federal agency. In addition it sets standards for all data submitted to a federal agency by an outside party.

Why then has not this tie breaker entered in to the industry sponsored science debate? It is most certainly not because it is not needed.

Recently a leading food nutritionist stated:

“Just because a claim is supposedly backed by “clinical studies” doesn’t mean it can be trusted. Even if the research is scientifically sound, Nestle said, ultimately the basis for many corporate-sponsored research is marketing, not just public health. And if there is no scientific basis for the research, companies can make one up.”

Even Scientific American joined the bandwagon when it states:

“A review of studies that assess clinical antidepressants shows hidden conflicts of interest and financial ties to corporate drugmakers”.

However not all publications have a bias towards industry sponsored research, a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes:

Academics have written a lot of articles claiming their competitors in the private sector selectively publish trials that favor their own interests don’t care as much about transparency as academia, but is that really true?

When it comes to investigational drugs, devices and biologic therapies, the data is available and it shows that industry was actually 3X more likely to comply with legal requirements than academic studies after disclosure was mandated.”

 In addition  there are some distinguished researchers that recognize the importance of the quality of the underlying data:

Advocates of industry funding, like Dr. Andrew Brown, a scientist and researcher at the Nutrition and Obesity Research Center & Office of Energetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, argue that corporate funding is not really the issue on which to focus. “We like to say that with science, there’s only three things that matter: the data, the way the data were collected, and the logic connecting the data to the conclusions,” Brown said.”

Where does this leave us?

What is needed is a coalition of likeminded firms to expand upon the CRE Rebirth of the Data Quality Act initiative to develop and implement a government-wide “Quality in Government” program applicable to all federal agencies which would eliminate preconceived prejudices of data because of its origin–not its quality.

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