'Is Money Corrupting Research?'
Is Money Corrupting Research?: The integrity of research and expert opinions in Washington came into question last week, prompting the resignation of Robert Litan ... from his position as a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Senator Elizabeth Warren raised the issue of a conflict of interest in Mr. Litan’s testimony before a Senate committee... Senator Warren was herself criticized by economists and pundits, on the left and right. ... 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. ...
He goes on to suggest some steps to strengthen the reputational incentive.
Posted by Mark Thoma on Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 12:33 AM in Economics |
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