Giving Compass' Take:

· Writing for The New Food Economy, Kate Cox and H. Claire Brown explain that research funding from private industries, like agribusiness, is swaying priorities and pushing focus to further their own interests and grow. 

· How can donors support a balance between academic freedom and industry priorities? 

· Check out this article to learn more about agricultural research

In a windowless conference room, epidemiologist Steve Wing was frantically blacking out chunks of his own research.

Wing had been working on a study looking into the impacts of industrial-scale hog operations on health for the University of North Carolina. But the state’s Pork Council had caught wind of the research,and filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) to gain access to his findings. “They went after Steve, asking him to turn over any documentation. They went directly to the university and got the lawyers to try and make him hand it over,” says Naeema Muhammad, one of Wing’s community partners.

Wing had promised the community members who had spoken to him that he’d protect their privacy. Revealing even a few basic details could have compromised their identities. “Because … if their occupation was a nurse, they lived in a household with three other people, they were age 35-39 … there’s only one person like that in a rural area,” Wing said in a 2015 interview.

The university warned Wing that if he failed to hand over the documents, he could be arrested for theft of state property and even sent to jail. The data didn’t belong to him, it belonged to the state. But handing over the identities put his subjects in jeopardy. It wasn’t unheard of for people to lose their jobs for taking a public stand against the politically powerful pork industry.

Read the full article about academic freedom and research funding by Kate Cox and H. Claire Brown at The New Food Economy.