Peter d’Errico: Impressed by report into UMass corporate research

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Gazette reporter Dusty Christensen’s exposé of UMass corporate research (“Redacted: UMass research raises questions,” Nov. 19, and Bulletin, Dec. 4) puts the Gazette into the front rank of investigative journalism. Congratulations! I was so impressed that I am mailing a check to support this work.

I am quietly amused when I hear simplistic phrases like “trust science.” Christensen’s findings demonstrate that science is as much a business as anything else. The search for knowledge follows the money. Corporate profit dictates what is studied and in which direction. As science historian said to Christensen, “The funding sources shape the questions researchers ask.” Her chilling example deserves repetition: “When chemical corporations fund entomological research, we learn less about ecology and more about how to kill insects with chemicals produced by [the funding] corporations.”

UMass and capitalist corporations are not the only site of the impulse to secrecy. As Carl Schmitt wrote, “The impulse to secrecy and to learn the secret is the first tendency of any power, whatever form of government or method of administration it serves. No ruler can escape this impulse, which becomes greater and more intense the stronger and more effective power becomes.” [The Nomos of the Earth]

Examples could be multiplied across all fields of inquiry. Perhaps the Gazette will publish more challenges to the UMass corporate impulse to secrecy as the university reluctantly gives up stonewalling access to documents.

Peter d’Errico