Declared Funding and Authorship by Alcohol Industry Actors in the Scientific Literature: A Bibliometric Study
Alcohol industry actors are known to be involved in scientific research. Despite concerns regarding bias, the extent of involvement and coverage of this research are unknown.
The researchers aimed to investigate the extent and type of scientific research 1918–2019 which was supported by the alcohol industry, including alcohol companies themselves and other organizations, such as trade associations. The study identified bibliographic records from the Web of Science suite of databases which have named alcohol companies or organizations in the fields relating to author affiliations and support declarations. The researchers then ascertained trends in publications over time, type of support, funding, outlets (such as journal titles), subject areas covered (such as health) and named companies (such as Carlsberg) and organizations (such as Drinkaware).
The analysis included 13,481 unique records, 11,014 (82%) were authored or funded by alcohol companies and 2488 (18%) were authored or funded by other organizations. The majority of the records (90%) were journal publications. The most common subject areas covered by the publications were biology (40%), chemistry (29%) and health (27%).
In line with general publishing trends, there has been an overall increase in research funded or supported by alcohol companies and organizations since records began. The main exception is the steady decline in company author affiliations, particularly in health-related topics since the mid-1990s.
Alcohol companies and related organizations are extensively involved in or supporting scientific research according to data in Web of Science. This does not, however, necessarily reflect the totality of scientific research produced by alcohol companies and related organizations.
Co-author of the study Dr. Su Golder brought up the following implications which emerged from the study, according to Eureka Alert.
While there has been a steep decline in the alcohol industry conducting its own research on health at the same time there has been an increase in the alcohol industry funding such research, by providing financial support to researchers or via alcohol related organisations,” said Dr. Su Golder, study co-author, as per Eureka Alert.
This allows alcohol companies to exploit a ‘transparency loophole’ as many people assume these organisations are charities and don’t realise the connection to the industry.
While there are many legitimate fields for research funded by the alcohol industry – such as studies into ingredients and environmental impacts – their involvement in health research is particular cause for concern. Many of these studies make claims about the protective cardiovascular effects of alcohol and suggest that substance abuse problems are down to individual choices rather than industry behaviours.”Dr. Su Golder, study co-author, Department of Health Sciences University of York
More implications of the study regarding transparency were discussed by study co-author Professor Jim McCambridge.
While researchers are meant to declare funders in peer reviewed research publications this often doesn’t happen and we don’t get the level of transparency we should have,” said Professor Jim McCambridge, study co-author, as per Eureka Alert.
…the scale, nature and breadth of the alcohol industry’s influence on scientific research provides cause for concern.”Professor Jim McCambridge, study co-author, Department of Health Sciences at the University of York