The Ubiquitous Experience of Alcohol Industry Involvement in Science: Findings From a Qualitative Interview Study
There is little formal study of alcohol industry involvement in science, despite longstanding concerns about various activities and broader evidence of corporate manipulation of research. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of researchers who had no relationship with the alcohol industry, including how industry involvement in alcohol science more broadly had impacted their research work.
This was a qualitative, semi-structured interview study with senior researchers working on alcohol policy–relevant topics who had not received any form of payment from the alcohol industry or performed any unpaid work for alcohol industry companies or organizations they have created (n = 14). A thematic analysis of transcripts using NVivo software was undertaken.
Despite not having worked with industry, contact with industry was nonetheless unavoidable for these alcohol researchers. This was particularly the case at conferences and policy-related events, which formed a key strand of broader industry surveillance of the research field, including individuals in the research community, and research outputs. Monitoring of the research community at conferences also afforded opportunities for informal relationship building and attempts to exercise influence. Where research findings were contrary to business interests, surveillance served as a platform for interventions of various kinds, including issuing legal threats.
The alcohol industry extensively monitors research and researchers. Researchers who study the alcohol industry are targeted in particular, both covertly and overtly. Researchers experience the alcohol industry as ubiquitous in alcohol policy–related research, with conferences and policy-related events key venues for both relationship building and surveillance.