Archive for 2019

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[Commlist] cfp: Money talks? - The impact of corporate funding on academic research in information law and policy

Wed Jun 26 11:03:57 GMT 2019


Money talks? - The impact of corporate funding on academic research in information law and policy

October 23, 2019, Amsterdam

We have a number of announcements to make!

First, we are happy to have Sandra Braman (Texas A&M University) as the keynote speaker for the conference!

Second, we received an offer by a top tier academic press to publish quality conference papers, so we hope to have a lasting impact!

Third, we decided to extend the deadline till the 7^th of July, so more people have the chance to participate!

Fourth, we would like to widen the scope of the discussion by accepting contributions in the form of code of best practices, blog posts, newspaper articles, etc. And last but not least,

we can confirm the members of the program committee (see below).

Call text and additional information:

Concerns about the corporate funding of scientific research, and about the presence of corporate sponsors in scientific events are not an exceptional issue in the academic field. For decades, scientific domains like medicine, climate research[1], health [2] and nutrition [3] science have been struggling with controversies [4] and dilemmas around the direct and indirect impact of corporate funding [5] on the quality of their scholarship, integrity, independence, both actual, and as perceived by others.

Research in the domain of the information society is not immune to these controversies. For example, the emerging giants of the information society are active research funders, and promote academic research as a way to influence public policy, or at least are perceived to do so. The information industry is also increasingly in exclusive control of fundamental research resources, such as data, or technology design. The 2017 Campaign for Accountability (CA) [6]  controversy perfectly captures the complexity of the situation this creates around science. CA was apparently set out to identify Google’s influence on information policy research and (controversially) identified 329 research papers on public policy matters that were directly or indirectly funded by the search company. Only later it turned out that one of the funders of CA was Oracle [7], which at the same time was fighting Google in Court, and perceived CA as part of that effort.

In September 2018 a wide group of academics raised concerns [8] about the role of surveillance technology company Palantir as sponsor of academic events on data privacy. The subsequent debate raised important questions about the dimensions in which different corporations active in the online world should be critically assessed, and the terms on which science can engage with them.

The growing concerns about the influence of corporate funding of academic research in all disciplines can be attributed to the effects of several connected factors. For a number of financial, political and social reasons there is a significant pressure on  academics to be entrepreneurial, and attract and pursue funding from private sources [9]. Large corporations have been responding to this situation with often substantial amounts of funding, and various forms of collaborations.

On the other hand, access to private funders and corporate sponsors may carry benefits: corporate participation is a prerequisite of a substantive and inclusive dialogue on contentious issues and policy developments. It can also foster collaborations, and provide scientists access to information, data, people, which would otherwise remain beyond reach. However, the intentions of corporations to invest in academic research are not always transparent. Some consider it to be relatively harmless when corporate sponsorship is motivated by the desire to associate their brand with academia, or to contribute to society to boost the public company image. Others claim that corporations may decide to fund research with malevolent intentions in order to influence the public debate, or pursue some hidden agenda.  It often remains unclear for the public what motivates a company to fund academic research. Corporate sponsorship may be seen as suspicious, and detrimental to the results of the scientific outcomes, even if it was done with the right motivation, an ultimately it may also have an impact on the public trust in science.

In order to prevent a conflict of interest and to ensure objectivity and transparency in research, institutions [10] and governments have been developing [11] policies [12] and guidelines [13]  to foster integrity. The resulting codes of conducts are based on several widely supported fundamental principles which are translated into more specific standards for good research practices. The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity [14], for instance, is built around four principles: reliability, honesty, respect and accountability.

Yet, it remains to be seen how effectively such international [15], European, national, and domain specific codes of conducts can be monitored, and enforced, and how effective they can be in safeguarding both the integrity of research, and it’s public perception.

Recent events and the call for an action-oriented discussion on corporate sponsorship therefore warrant the impact of corporate funding on academic research as the theme for the next meeting for the European Hub of the Global Network of Centers for Internet and Society (NoC). The conference strives to bring together scholars within the information law discipline, as well as related fields to discuss questions such as:

Understanding the problem: the scope, structure, amount, topics and beneficiaries of corporate funding  in research

●             How big corporate influence is in the first place? How much money are we talking about?

●             What are the forms of (corporate) research funding, such as financial support, funded positions, data access, etc.?

●             What drives corporate funding decisions?

Internal safeguards of research independence and integrity

●             What are the best ways to safeguard research independence and integrity?

●             Are the current principles and safeguards that guide engagement with corporate sponsors and funders adequate?

●             What are the limitations of current integrity safeguards? Is there room for improvement?

●             Are there specific/additional principles that should to inform such engagement in the area of information law and policy?

●             Does it make sense to differentiate between different forms of sponsoring (institutional/project, in-kind/access/money)?

Interfaces and firewalls between academia and industry

●             What kind of integrity-infrastructure does academia need for the future where more and more essential resources are going to be in the exclusive control of corporations?

●             What legal and policy innovations are needed to ensure due access to privately held or controller data sources?

●             How could standards be set for the acceptance of corporate funding? What are the existing methods of standard setting?

●             What is a proper way to signal the company support without creating the impression of industry research?

The impact of corporate funding

●             How to manage public trust in academia which is increasingly funded by private parties?

●             What are the effects of increased acceptance of private funding of academic research on government spending on science?

●             Are some geographies, institutions, and initiatives more dependent on, or more exposed to corporate funding? How to address these differences?

●             Are there neglected research topics because they do not attract corporate funding?

●             How to deal with public funding from authoritarian regimes?

We welcome individual paper proposals and panel and workshop proposals, and other forms of interventions and actions, such as code of conducts, blog posts, best practices, etc.

Please submit paper abstracts, and panel proposals of no more than a 1000 words to the following email address: (money.talks /at/ <mailto:(money.talks /at/> by July 7st, 2019.  Acceptance decisions will be communicated in about a month.

The event is organized by the Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam, as part of the European Hub of the Global Network of Centers for Internet and Society (NoC).

Program Committee: Dr. Balazs Bodo, Prof. Dr. Mireille van Eechoud, Prof Dr. Nico Van Eijk, Sarah Eskens, Prof. Dr. Natali Helberger, Prof. Dr. Joris van Hoboken, Prof. Dr. Bernt Hugenholtz


[1] Farrell, Justin. “Corporate Funding and Ideological Polarization about Climate Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 19, 2015, 201509433.

[2] Besley, John C., Aaron M. McCright, Nagwan R. Zahry, Kevin C. Elliott, Norbert E. Kaminski, and Joseph D. Martin. “Perceived Conflict of Interest in Health Science Partnerships.” PLOS ONE 12, no. 4 (April 20, 2017): e0175643.

[3] Aveyard, Paul, Derek Yach, Anna B. Gilmore, and Simon Capewell. “Should We Welcome Food Industry Funding of Public Health Research?” BMJ 353 (April 20, 2016): i2161.


[5] Krimsky, Sheldon. “Do Financial Conflicts of Interest Bias Research?: An Inquiry into the ‘Funding Effect’ Hypothesis.” Science, Technology, & Human Values, September 20, 2012.




[9] Holloway, Kelly Joslin. “Normalizing Complaint: Scientists and the Challenge of Commercialization.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 40, no. 5 (September 1, 2015): 744–65.







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