Award Winning Blog

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sponsored But Undisclosed "Research"

You might say fuzzy science made me blog. I decided to create this blog in part because of proliferating undisclosed, sponsored research. Far too many academics and think tank affiliates “contribute” to a public policy debate thanks to an undisclosed benefactor who surely expects something back for the hundreds of thousands invested.

Thanks to that wonderful concept of plausible deniability the sponsored researcher can state with a straight face that he or she does not receive any direct financial support for the White Paper, law review article or legislative testimony that just happens to offer unqualified support for a particular stakeholder or group viewpoint.

The money gets laundered. A stakeholder supports a think tank’s general mission with a sizeable grant. In turn the think tank’s staff or affiliates just happens to come up—unsolicited for sure—with creative thinking about a public policy issue that resonates with the stakeholder’s political and public relations agenda. The stakeholder’s grant helps pay for the employees’ or affiliates’ income, albeit indirectly. Hence no direct quid pro quo. How convenient.

I refuse to believe that so many public policy initiatives in telecommunications policy, first announced through the writing of an academic or think tank affiliate, arose completely unsolicited. We can thank undisclosed, but sponsored research for such innovative rethinking of economics and the law as the Efficient Components Pricing “Rule” and the view that the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as implemented by the FCC, “confiscated” incumbent carrier property.

Research also can pursue a specific and narrow agenda, e.g., attempting to discredit the lawfulness and accuracy of work conducted in official forums such as the World Trade Organization. See Sidak and Singer, Ɯberregulation without Economics: The World Trade Organization’s Decision in the U.S.-Mexico Arbitration on Telecommunications Services; http://law.indiana.edu/fclj/pubs/v57/no1/Sidak.pdf. The piece contained a disclaimer that the American Enterprise Institute takes no position on specific legislative, regulatory, adjudicatory, or executive matters. But the reader gets no disclosure whether or not TelMex provided AEI any funding before or after this legal scholarship made its way into print.

No comments: