The Rock Ethics Institute


General Works

Industry Sponsored bibliography header

The items listed here provide the necessary background knowledge required for tackling the issues about industry-sponsored research, as well as views on the phenomenon as a whole.  The novice reader is well advised to begin with the book by Krimsky, which is the classic general work on this topic.  After that, a good next step is the article by Marks, which gives an excellent overview of the normative terrain.  Each of the pieces here is selected for its utility in filling in necessary background for the specific families of problems below; the entry annotations provide a guide to the contents, so the reader can select according to need and interest.

Angell, Marcia. The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. New York: Random House, 2005.

Angell’s book remains an important discussion of the pharmaceutical industry, and the nature of the business of making and selling medicines.  Many chapters touch on the problematic relationships between for-profit drug companies and public biomedical research.  Angell’s book is heavily critical of the pharmaceutical industry, and in places her discussion can be almost polemical and lack nuance. Nonetheless, this is essential background reading.

Bok, Derek. Beyond the Ivory Tower: Social Responsibilities of the Modern University. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982: Chs. 3, 6-7, 11.

Bok, Derek. “The Benefits and Costs of Commercialization of the Academy.” In Buying In or Selling Out? The Commercialization of the American Research University, edited by Donald G. Stein. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Bok was president of Harvard University from 1971-1991.  These two pieces draw heavily on his experiences overseeing the United States’ premier research university in the era when university-industry sponsorship took off, and give a kind of firsthand perspective on this.  The second piece, in particular, is an excellent overview of what Bok sees as the major ethical issues here.

Etzkowitz, Henry. “The Norms of Entrepreneurial Science: Cognitive Effects of the New University-Industry Linkages.” Research Policy 27, no. 8 (1998): 823- 833.

Etzkowitz gives a good summary here of the idea, either discussed or in the background of many of the pieces on this list, that the institutional changes over the last few decades that structure industry-university partnerships have given rise to a new normative framework for scientific research, “entrepreneurial science”.  The tension between the “new” norms of entrepreneurial science and the “old” Mertonian norms is key to understanding many of the ethical issues with industry-sponsored research.

Florida, Richard. “The Role of the University: Leveraging Talent, Not Technology.” Issues in Science and Technology 15, no. 4 (1999): 67-73.

Florida raises another important background issue: public expectations about scientific research, and the how these factor into industry-university partnerships.  Florida points out that public expectations can often spur universities to seek partnerships with universities, and discusses some of the benefits and risks (and limitations) of partnerships for the purposes of economic development.

Irzik, Gurol. “Why Should Philosophers of Science Pay Attention ot the Commercialization of Academic Science?” In EPSA Epistemology and Methodology of Science: Vol. 1, edited by Mauricio Suarez, Mauro Dorato and Miklos Reidei, 129-138. Dordrecht: Springer, 2010.

Irzik’s essay is a great overview of some of the more abstract issues in philosophy of science raised by industry-sponsorship.  Among those he discusses are two that are particularly pertinent: the effects of industry-sponsorship on “basic” scientific research, and the possible erosion of trust in and credibility of scientific research from industry-sponsorship.

Krimsky, Sheldon. Science in the Private Interest: Has the Lure of Profits Corrupted Biomedical Research? Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

Krimsky’s book is the classic work on industry-sponsored research.  Krimsky gives a broad but also detailed overview of the different problems raised by university-industry partnerships, and fills in a great deal of the historical background.  Krimsky is not neutral; this book is a passionate argument for the need for the independence of science from both corporate and political interests.  This is the best work to start with, for learning about the ethics of industry-sponsored research.

Marks, Jonathan H. “What's the Big Deal? The Ethics of Public-Private Partnerships Related to Food and Health.” Edmund J. Safra Working Papers, No. 11. May 23, 2013.

Marks goes through a number of systemic problems that are raised by industry-sponsorship.  This is a good overview article, but it also makes an important and interesting argument, which is that a great deal of the risks of industry-sponsorship come from a failure to recognize that there are systemic problems.

Moses III, Hamilton, and Joseph B Martin. “Academic Relationships With Industry: A New Model for Biomedical Research.” Journal of the American Medical Assoiation285, no. 7 (2001): 933-935.

Hamilton and Martin discuss different possible institutional strategies for mitigating the possible harms associated with industry-sponsorship.  Along the way they give an overview of the institutional difficulties (that is, the difficulties with designing things such as university conflict of interest policies, managing financial contributions from firms, and so on) attending industry sponsorship of research.

Perkmann, Markus, and Ammon Salter. “How to Create Productive Partnerships With Universities.” MIT Sloan Management Review, 53, no. 4 (2012): 79-88.

Most of the pieces on this list (and on the ethics of industry-sponsored research generally) are written from the perspective of bioethicists, scientists, or university researchers, who are primarily concerned with the potential for industry sponsorship to subvert the goals of scientific research.  This article is written from a different view: that of corporate managers who are trying to build relationships with universities, and who are primarily concerned with how such relationships will affect their business goals.  This is an instructive piece, for this reason; but it also goes through a number of different institutional arrangements for university-industry partnerships, and so is good background reading as well.

Prigge, George W. “University-Industry Partnerships: What Do They Mean to Universities? A Review of the Literature.” Industry and Higher Education 19, no. 3 (2005): 221-229.

Prigge gives an overview of the literature on industry sponsorship (up to 2005).  The special focus here is, as with the above-mentioned Marks piece, the systemic risks of university-industry partnerships.