- Throw lots of soft money into funding research chairs, grants, conferences, lectures, consultancies, etc. for cash-strapped scientists at public institutions to investigate your product. Remember, "industry-funded research is 4 to 8 times more likely than independently funded research to result in findings favorable to the sponsor".
- See what they produce and reward those who put out positive results with continued funding, while cutting support when you get results that don't help you sell products. It's survival of the fittest - but don't worry, the theory of evolution is public domain and can be freely exploited without necessitating royalty payments to the descendants of Charles Darwin.
- After a few cycles of this "directed evolution of truth" the data should more or less be saying what you want. Polish things off by having your scientific pawns publish drastically over-hyped and over-stated interpretations of their data in a peer-reviewed journal, the higher the impact factor the better. Boisterously announce the publication of these findings with an even more over-hyped press release to major media outlets. Don't forget to to reward your peons with an all-expenses paid trip or at least a nice dinner party. Or maybe a chocolate bar.
Anyway, now it's chocolate-funded research, and things are just getting so ridiculous it's funny. This great article by blogger Mark Klempner describes how the Mars bar company is manipulating academia to demonstrate the supposed benefits of the "flavanols" in their products, while of course ignoring the massive negative effects of the sugars and fats they contain. I mean come on, we're talking about JUNK FOOD here. I would be embarrassed to be associated with a would-be serious academic institution such as the University of California at Davis, who support a Mars bar endowed chair in nutrition and have allowed their researchers to recieve at total of $10 million in research funding from the chocolate bar maker. Maybe they should be calling themselves something like "Department of Junk Food and Obesity Promotion, University of Mars Bar at Davis" instead. These guys even have a paper in PNAS that is commonly cited on chocolate industry propaganda websites. On these sites you can find quotes from people at the center of this conflict of interest, like Harold Schmitz, Mars Chief Scientific Officer and UC Davis visiting professor in nutrition: "Traditional cocoa processing often destroys the flavanols, but Mars technology helps to retain these naturally occurring nutrients from cocoa. This new research emphasizes the importance of understanding the potential public health applications of emerging cocoa science, which is a challenge we take very seriously at Mars." Priceless.
The saddest part is that it's usually not obvious, when you read a paper like this, see a poster or hear a talk, that the research has been funded for corporate gain. Instead you're just left wondering why you've wasted your time listening to a bunch of meaningless, over-stated, irrelevent and massaged data disguised to look like science.
Great piece though, and I think he's bang on. The Brave New World reference is interesting although disconcerting. (Naturally, Klempner manages to tie global waming into his article as well).