Ali denar kvari raziskave in raziskovalce?

Follow up na članek ta teden Večine rezultatov (ekonomskih) raziskav ni mogoče ponoviti. Znani ekonomist Luigi Zingales piše v New York Timesu o zadnjih aferah v ZDA, ko se je izkazal velik konflikt interesov med raziskovalci, ki so konzultanti vladi (ali ki pričajo v Congresu) ter njihovim angažmajem za zasebna podjetja. Ta teden je zaradi tega škandala denimo moral odstopiti Robert Litan, raziskovalec na Brookings inštitutu.V konkretnem primeru ni bil problem, ker je bila Litanova raziskava financirana s strani zasebnega podjetja, pač pa da je Litan pozabil razkriti, da je bila tudi naročena s strani tega istega podjetja.

Zingales pravi, da denar lahko kvari traziskovalce in njihove izsledke in da pri tem “reputacijsko tveganje” (tveganje izgube ugleda) očitno ne deluje dovolj učinkovito, da bi preprečilo “koruptivnost” raziskovalcev – svetovalcev. Rešitev seveda ni v prepovedi zasebnega financiranja raziskav, pač pa v njihovem razkritju. Prav tako je smiselno, da javna institucija predhodno javno objavi takšno študijo in da lahko pridobi še alternativna mnenja drugih ekspertov.

Senator Elizabeth Warren raised the issue of a conflict of interest in Mr. Litan’s testimony before a Senate committee examining a proposed Labor Department rule designed to protect consumers in their dealing with retirement-plan brokers.

The testimony was based on a paper Mr. Litan had prepared for the Capital Group, a mutual fund company. Mr. Litan disclosed that the Capital Group, which has a stake in the debate, had funded his paper, but he did not disclose that it had also commissioned it. Mr. Litan concluded that the regulatory rule, while well intentioned, would be too costly. He resigned because he testified as a Brookings fellow, violating a recent Brookings rule change that would have prohibited that.

Senator Warren was herself criticized by economists and pundits, on the left and right. Hal Singer, a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and a co-author of the research she criticized, said, “This is McCarthyism of the left.”

But at stake is the integrity of the research process and the trust the nation puts in experts, who advise governments and testify in Congress. Our opinions shape government policy and judicial decisions. Even when we are paid to testify…, integrity is expected from us. …

Yet it is disingenuous for anybody (especially an economist) to believe that reputational incentives do not matter. Had the conclusions not pleased the Capital Group, it would probably have found a more compliant expert. And the reputation of not being “cooperative” would have haunted Mr. Litan’s career as a consultant. …

Reputational … concerns do not work as well with sealed expert-witness testimony or paid-for policy papers that circulate only in small policy groups. … A scarier possibility is that reputational incentives do not work because the practice of bending an opinion for money is so widespread as to be the norm.

Should congressional testimony and expert witnesses be banned and private funding of research prohibited? Eliminating private funding will leave research completely in public funding’s hands. It will not eliminate the bias; it will simply tilt it in the direction of the government.

A better solution is transparency. By shedding light on how funding of research can affect its content, Senator Warren increased the reputational penalty for experts who bend to special interests. Shaming is essential in maintaining the integrity of the process.

But we need two more changes. Congressional testimony and policy papers should be posted online at least two weeks in advance of a hearing and open for comments, so that Congress could crowdsource alternative experts’ comments.

And all expert witnesses should be disclosed to the public, with a time delay if needed for confidentiality.

Knowledge is essential to judge and deliberate. If the knowledge transmission process is corrupt, so is our judicial and legislative system.

Preberite več v Luigi Zingales, Is Money Corrupting Research?

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