The Influence of Industry Sponsorship on the Research Agenda: A Scoping Review

Corporate interests have the potential to influence public debate and policymaking by influencing the research agenda, namely the initial step in conducting research, in which the purpose of the study is defined and the questions are framed. In this scoping review, authors identified  and synthesized studies that explored the influence of industry sponsorship on research agendas across different fields.

The 36 articles reviewed included nineteen cross-sectional studies that quantitatively analyzed patterns in research topics by sponsorship and showed that industry tends to prioritize lines of inquiry that focus on products, processes, or activities that can be commercialized. Seven studies analyzed internal industry documents and provided insight on the strategies the industry used to reshape entire fields of research through the prioritization of topics that supported its policy and legal positions. Ten studies used surveys and interviews to explore the researchers’ experiences and perceptions of the influence of industry funding on research agendas, showing that they were generally aware of the risk that sponsorship could influence the choice of research priorities.

The authors concluded that corporate interests can drive research agendas away from questions that are the most relevant for public health. Strategies to counteract corporate influence on the research agenda are needed, including heightened disclosure of funding sources and conflicts of interest in published articles to allow an assessment of commercial biases. They also recommended policy actions beyond disclosure such as increasing funding for independent research and strict guidelines to regulate the interaction of research institutes with commercial entities. The results of the scoping review support the need to develop strategies to counteract corporate influence on the research agenda.

Citation: Fabbri A, Lai A, Grundy Q, Bero LA.The Influence of Industry Sponsorship on the Research Agenda: A Scoping Review. American journal of public health. 2018 Nov;108(11):e9-16.

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