The Views of Researchers on the Alcohol Industry's Involvement in Science: Findings from an Interview Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Debates in the peer-reviewed literature on alcohol industry involvement in science have been polarized, with the activities of the International Center on Alcohol Policies and industry provision of research funding being particularly contentious. We aimed to explore researchers' views on the nature of the debates and the issues raised.

METHODS: Qualitative interview study with experienced researchers working on alcohol policy-relevant topics across ten countries (n = 37). Thematic analysis of views articulated, supported where appropriate by accounts of how experiences informed particular perspectives.

RESULTS: The main finding is how much common ground there now is among participants, regardless of whether they had previously worked with industry organizations or received alcohol industry funding. Norms have changed and participants agree that the earlier debates were dysfunctional. Participants on all sides of these earlier debates experienced significant psychological burdens as a result of industry-related activity in alcohol research. These include reputational harms from working with industry organizations and/or receiving research funding, and harassment by industry for producing findings contrary to commercial interests. Key ongoing contentious issues include the extent to which conflicts of interest can or should be managed by individual researchers, and how distinct the alcohol industry is from other funders and other industries. Participant views on ways forward include improving the evidence-base underpinning the debates, and having collegiate discussions among researchers, including all strands of opinion and experience.

CONCLUSIONS: This group of alcohol researchers shares more nuanced contemporary positions on issues relating to industry involvement in science than are reflected in the existing material in peer-reviewed journals. Almost all regard the alcohol industry's involvement in research as having been damaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267–274
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean addiction research
Early online date22 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s).

Cite this