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Archive for July 24th, 2017

Corporate funding for antitrust academics can be a problem, by Cyril Ritter

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[Cyril Ritter, an ‘academically-minded Commission official’ (Chillin’ Competition) has recently written a post addressing one of the issues of the day. Interested as I always am in his views, I was delighted when he told us that he was keen to ‘multicast’ his views to make them available on our blog. I am sure there will be reactions to this piece — I myself have some comments, that I will be posting at some point in the coming days. Enjoy!]

Please note that the following are Cyril’s personal views

The topic of corporate funding for academic articles — and the possibility of academic bias — have been the subject of many recent press articles (here and here), blog posts (hereherehere and here), reports (here and here) and academic articles (herehereherehere and here, for example). This debate is playing out on both sides of the Atlantic, mostly in the areas of antitrust, intellectual property, and internet regulation.

Corporate funding has been linked to ethical issues in medical research, food safety and nutrition, financial regulation, and other fields. There is no reason to believe that antitrust law and economics are necessarily immune to such concerns.

The response from some antitrust academics has been to make a series of arguments that are not particularly consistent with each other: (a) the funding doesn’t matter, only the ideas and arguments matter; (b) the campaign for better disclosure of corporate funding is itself driven by corporate funding from the other side, with a particular agenda in mind; (c) there is no evidence of academic bias; (d) there is no bias when academics express their sincere views; (e) at the same time, let’s aim for better disclosure of funding — but not all types of funding.

To be fair, antitrust agencies sometimes have relationships with academics as well, either as advisers or to produce studies, or by hiring academics in part-time or short-term positions. And corporate funding for academics can take place on both sides of an argument (antitrust defendants and antitrust complainants, licensors and licensees, content providers and platforms, infrastructure owners and “over the top” providers, etc).

The one constituency which is systematically under-represented in academic debates is consumers. This is probably another manifestation of the collective action problem: more concentrated interests are better at defending themselves, while larger groups — whose members have more diffuse interests — have more difficulty organising and financing efforts to push their interests. Given that many European academics’ salaries are paid by taxpayers, one would expect them to work in the public interest, instead of working for particular corporate interests (I am indebted to Ioannis Lianos for this idea).

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Written by Pablo Ibanez Colomo

24 July 2017 at 9:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized