Interests, Bias, and Consensus in Science and Regulation

Yehoshua Socol, Yair Y. Shaki, Moshe Yanovskiy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scientists are human. As such, they are prone to bias based on political and economic interests. While conflicts of interest are usually associated with private funding, research funded by public sources is also subject to special interests and therefore prone to bias. Such bias may lead to consensus not based on evidence. While appealing to scientific consensus is a legitimate tool in public debate and regulatory decisions, such an appeal is illegitimate in scientific discussion itself. We provide examples of decades-long scientific consensus on erroneous hypotheses. For policy advice purposes, a scientific statement or model should be considered as the subject of proper scientific consensus only if shared by those who would directly benefit from proving it wrong. Otherwise, specialists from adjacent fields of science and technology should be consulted.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDose-Response
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.

Funding

The authors would like thank Prof. Avi Caspi (Jerusalem College of Technology) for his encouragement of this study. The authors acknowledge fruitful discussions with Prof. Gregory Falkovich (Weizmann Institute of Science), Prof. Eli Sloutskin (Bar-Ilan University), Mr Yaakov Socol (Hebrew University Medical School), Mrs Raisa Stroug (Technion—Israel Institute of Technology), and Prof. Alexander Vaiserman (Institute of Gerontology, Kiev, Ukraine). The authors would also like to thank Prof. Ludwig Feinendegen (Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf) and Dr Bobby R. Scott (Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute) for their interest in this work and important feedback. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported in part by the Jerusalem College of Technology Grant No. 5969. The above policy of increased scrutiny is fully implemented when research is funded by private sources. We would like to mention, however, that in the case of competitive private funding, even without increased scrutiny, the large number of different funding sources with different (and often conflicting) interests make significant bias rather improbable.

FundersFunder number
Jerusalem College of Technology5969
Jerusalem College of Technology - Lev Academic Center

    Keywords

    • LNT
    • incentives
    • radiation
    • regulatory science
    • secondhand smoke

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