Sources of funding as an influence on alcohol studies

Robin Room


Room, R. (2016). Sources of funding as an influence on alcohol studies. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, 5(1), 15-16. doi:

When I first read Thomas Kuhn’s (1962) seminal work, shortly after its first publication, I was awakened to the historical evidence that even the “hardest” science is a human construction deeply influenced by the social order and the conceptual traditions in which the scientist works. On the other hand, as constructivism took hold in sociology, I realized I was a “soft” constructivist, willing to acknowledge that our conceptual and other constructions face some limits from the physical world and its operating rules (Room, 1984). But in fields like ours, the constraints are quite broad, so that what constitutes alcohol social science—what its research questions are, and how it approaches them—has varied a great deal over the last century or so, and varies considerably among the societies which have been willing to fund such research. I remember discovering that temperance-oriented survey studies, when they turned attention at all beyond the boundary between drinker and abstainer, focused only on frequency of drinking, ignoring amount per occasion (Lindgren, 1973)— a pattern found also in drug war–era drug surveys. What we collect as material for study and what we focus on in analyzing it are deeply influenced by our intellectual and cultural-political heritage and environment.


funding; reputational risk; economic interests; conflict of interest

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