Sunday, December 12, 2004

Professors' opinions paid for by PR firms?

I came across this article on Team India which says that the Wall Street Journal recently wrote that "Some companies have been paying professors to promote their points of view on TV shows, in newspaper and magazine articles and letters to the editor. In many cases, the arrangement between the professor and the company is not disclosed."

According to the Team India story, one example is Nicor Corporation which hired Prof. Peter Morici of Maryland University to argue in favour of steel tariffs.

This is definitely not shocking information, but the more stories of this sort that appear in the media, the better it is for the profession.

I haven't seen the original WSJ article - I hope someone can verify that this article actually appeared. The Team India article does not carry any responses of Nucor or Peter Morici.

Updated: Located this article on Professorbrainbridge which has an extract of the original WSJ story. The site says: "I understand the argument made in defense of this practice: that it is not unethical to take money for expressing one's views. It is the argument I use to justify serving as an expert witness. But there is a big difference between an academic being paid to serve as an expert witness in litigation and a professor who is being paid to serve as a PR flack. For one thing, expert witness service is disclosed to all the relevant parties; the PR flack arrangements are rarely disclosed. Hence, the Professor's claim of expertise may receive undue deference from reporters and readers. In addition, unlike expert witness work, in which I express my opinion and let the chips fall where they may, the PR flack Profs often don't even write the material that goes out over their names." Read more here

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