The Situationist

The Corporate Situation of Universities

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 28, 2010

The Utne Reader recently had a post summarizing and linking to a “spate of recent stories that reveal how a trio of heavies—Big Oil, Big Agriculture, and Big Pharma—are pulling strings at U.S. universities.”  Here’s a sample:

* * *

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on “The Secret Lives of Big Pharma’s ‘Thought Leaders,’” also known as key opinion leaders, or KOLs: the influential academic physician-researchers who are paid by drug companies to basically shill for their brands—but not overtly, of course. That would be unseemly. Instead, they deftly blend their conflicting roles and realize substantial payouts for their credibility-lending efforts. “The KOL is a combination of celebrity spokesperson, neighborhood gossip, and the popular kid in high school,” writes Carl Elliott for The Chronicle. The piece makes me want to read Elliot’s new book, White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine (Beacon Press).

• . . . [A] recent blowup at the University of Minnesota carried another strong whiff of Big Ag influence. An environmental documentary film, Troubled Waters, that ascribed water pollution in part to farming practices was pulled from a public television broadcast amid criticism from a university dean that it “vilified agriculture.” Ultimately, the film was reinstated after a public backlash to the move—and the university vice president who canceled it publicly apologized. . . .

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To read the entire post, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Greasy Situation of University Research,” The Deeply Captured Situation of Spilling Oil,” Tushnet on Teles and The Situation of Ideas – Abstract,”The Situation of Policy Research and Policy Outcomes,” Industry-Funded Research,” “The Situation of Medical Research,” The company ‘had no control or influence over the research’ . . . .,” “The Situation of University Research,” “Captured Science.”  Thanks to Situationist friend Susannah Knox for sending us the link.

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