Saturday, July 15, 2017

WSJ -- Paying Professors: Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign

Google is paying university professors to help sway public opinion and public policy, on campuses from Harvard University to my own campus at the University of California, Berkeley.

Over the past decade, Google has financed hundreds of research papers to help it defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying researchers and professors $5,000 to $400,000 a pop. The papers are used in courtrooms, regulatory hearings, and congressional hearings.

Some professors have even allowed Google to see their papers before they’re published, to allow Google to give them "suggestions," according to emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

Nor do the researchers always reveal Google’s backing when the papers are published. Few disclose the financial backing in subsequent articles on the same or similar topics, the Journal found.

I find this unethical and dangerous. In an era when Trump and his collaborators yell “fake news” at any report that's critical of Trump -- and when the American public is becoming increasingly confused about where the truth lies -- it’s especially important that people who are supposed to research and reveal the truth don’t have conflicts of interest or ulterior motives.

At the least, they should clearly and plainly disclose any sources of outside funding that might have a financial interest in their research results.

By Brody Mullins and  Jack Nicas