Folta and Kenward make exactly the same arguments that every researcher has made to excuse the COI and resulting bias that’s rampant in medical research. “Judge me by the results.” “I’m ethical, how dare imply otherwise.” the evidence contradicts these defenses: COI affects results. It’s in the code of ethics of every media outlet I’ve ever worked for: you can’t take money or gifts from entities that may, even in the distant future, figure in your reporting.
This article falls at the first hurdle, where it says:
“As a general rule, journalists aren’t allowed to take money from the people, organizations, and companies that they cover.”
That is a sweeping generalisation that is, er, fake news. Without citation, “as a general rule” seems to mean, “I just made it up”.
For a start, “money” often isn’t the issue. Even when “laundered” through something like the WCSJ, money doesn’t move in my direction if a company buys me a glass of champagne or flies me into the Arctic. (I admit to both these crimes against humanity.)
Then there is the “aren’t allowed” bit. Who does this allowing”? The journalists’ union? Their publication?
There are too many other chasms in this argument to waste my time navigating them. I’m with Kevin Folta. Worry about something that matters rather than hypothetical concerns.
My experience, all 40 years of it, is that science journalists at least will be the first to bite the hands that feed them when a good story comes along. If J&J thinks it will get an easy ride by sponsoring WCSJ2017, I fear for its future.
I hate this argument. It assumes that journalists have no ethics and will be influenced by the sponsors enabling them to attend. Corporate sponsorship for conferences is essential and enables broader participation. Judge journalists on their work. If they synthesis flies in the face of facts and evidence, then start to try to understand potential influences.
In my experience, the people that claim others are influenced by sponsorship are the people that are most influenced by sponsorship. Respect others’ integrity until there’s reason to impugn it.
Corporate sponsorship seems like a necessary evil when planning such large conferences. But it does make you think about the how the independent voices of those journalists involved might be stifled, even if it might only be to a small extent. But since conferences like this need so much funding, is there any way around it?
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