Conflict of interest in insurance science?
Today, it is lore (though not necessarily untrue) that the tobacco industry funded researchers that could/would turn out information questioning the association between smoking and tobacco use. In Merchants of Doubt, Erik Conway and Naomi Orestes, explored this case study to lay the ground work for interrogating the association between business and the researchers in the area of climate change.
Concerns about these 'conflicts of interest' or more generally, politicization of expertise are common:
- Exxon's selective research activities about GHGs
- Monsanto's questionable control over GMO research
- Coca-Cola's research efforts to alter perceptions of soda as well, unhealthy
Then of course, there is the numerous concerns about a conflicts of interest between researchers and the pharmaceutical/biomedical industry as well as, physician kick-backs for writing specific prescriptions and product placement.
So why would it be surprising to find that insurers may do the same thing?
Consider the Willis Research Network. Willis Re (now WillisWatson Tower) is a market dominant global reinsurer. The informational pamphlet about their research network boasts relationships with university researchers near and far including, NCAR and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. Then within these research centers, the pamphlet highlights the significance of very specific researchers.
At least two avenues for a conflict of interest seem present.
First, academic institution and their researchers societal trusted sources for factual information about the world. If the researchers funded by insurers one must question who's problem the researchers intent to solve. I think this is a separate issue (though a very fuzzy divide) than researchers independently consulting for insurers. Second, many academic institutions are publicly funded and even private institutions accept a good deal of public grant money. I wonder to what extent insurer needs and wants influence publicly funded research activity.