Industry-Funded Research and Bias in Food Science

31 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2020 Last revised: 7 May 2021

See all articles by Anita Rao

Anita Rao

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: September 14, 2020

Abstract

Is industry-funded scientific research likely to be biased towards finding positive results? Is industry more likely to work on topics with likely positive outcomes? Using publication-level data and focusing on food groups that are typically considered healthy, I evaluate each article’s abstract using crowdsourcing tools. I find little evidence to support selection on topics with positive outcomes, but industry is less likely to work on topics classified as unrelated to health. Conditional on a topic, I find that industry-funded research is 4.1% more positive compared to non-industry funded research with grains that receive heavier funding responsible for most of the effect. Industry-funded research is also more likely to receive a mention in certain industry newsletters. Coupled with firm incentives to use science to further their marketing efforts, such increased trade press coverage might play a role in shaping consumers’ opinions on what is healthy.

Keywords: empirical IO, consumer protection, industry funding, bias in science

JEL Classification: L20, M31, O31

Suggested Citation

Rao, Anita, Industry-Funded Research and Bias in Food Science (September 14, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3693449 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3693449

Anita Rao (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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