Tobacco money behind research at top institutions

The recent revelation in the New York Times that a tobacco company had quietly--some say secretly--funded a research program on lung cancer prompted the Boston Globe to go out in search of tobacco money behind local research groups. It didn't have to go very far. Philip Morris USA says it gave grants to scientists at Boston University, Harvard, MIT and the University of Massachusetts to research health effects linked to smoking. In the Globe's words, it was as if the mafia had underwritten research into fighting crime. But the company says that the researchers had to disclose the source of the funds and the company never made any attempt to influence their work.

That rationale won't go far to persuade many critics of tobacco money, which for years was used to fund questionable scientific research programs aimed at creating doubt about the link between smoking and cancer. In research circles, tobacco money is considered tainted and any work that it funds is tainted as well. Many prestigious journals refuse to publish work funded by tobacco companies.

"Their interest now is to try to convince the public that they are truly concerned companies and that they care enough to fund important research at reputable institutions," Dr. Michael Siegel, a Boston University School of Public Health researcher, told the Globe.

- read the article in the Boston Globe
- and here's the story in the New York Times

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Tobacco giants funding MA universities' research. Report