How to build an international conflict of interest database
09-30, 11:15–12:30 (Europe/Berlin), Vortragssaal II
Language: English

Conflict of interest in scientific research and twisted results is an eternal source of stories for investigative journalists. Scientific research is crucial to develop medicines to cure or relieve illnesses. It is also indispensable to build science-based policies on climate change, obesity or daily exposure to chemicals.

Scientists are also quoted in the media and shape the opinion on GMOs, pesticides or 5G. But are all these experts impartial? Could their opinion be blurred by corporate research fundings or invitations to sit in the scientific advisory boards of global companies?

The capture of scientific knowledge by corporate interests is no secret and has been used to prevent regulation and maintain harmful products on the market. Now imagine there is a centralized conflict of interest database where you can get the list of industry collaborations of an expert in 10 seconds.

This is what a multidisciplinary team of journalists, computer scientists and social science academics in three countries are trying to do. They call for a shared, open access, global database of conflicts of interest.

To get there, they have set up a unique collaboration. Stéphane Horel at Le Monde, who initiated the project; Ioana Manolescu, senior scientist at INRIA, the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation; and Gary Fooks and Tom Mills, social scientists from Aston University (Birmingham, UK) specialising in corporate influence and elites have joined forces in a multiple year project. At SciCAR, they’ll present their methodology and the status of the project.

Moderator: Holger Wormer, Professor of Science Journalism, TU Dortmund

Stéphane Horel is an investigative journalist at Le Monde. As an author of several films and books, she specialises in corporate harm, toxic industries, conflict of interest and scientific disinformation. In early 2023, she supervised the European map of PFAS contamination of the "Forever Pollution Project". Her long-term investigation on the European regulation of endocrine disruptors was shortlisted for the Albert Londres Prize (2016) and received the Louise Weiss Prize for European Journalism (2017). Her series of articles on the "Monsanto papers", co-authored with Stéphane Foucart was awarded the 2018 European Press Prize for Investigation. In the past years, she has worked on environmental pollution, pesticides, Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol, and is trying to improve the world at the margin with cross-border investigation. She also loves cheese...

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Holger Wormer ist Professor für Wissenschaftsjournalismus an der TU Dortmund und einer der Leiter des Rhine Ruhr Center for Science Communication Research (RRC).

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Gary Fooks is Professor of Criminology at the University of Bristol in the UK. He has published widely on corporate influence in public policy and on the commercial determinants of health. His current work centres on corporate influence in biomedical science and the impact of financialisation on the economic and commercial determinants of health.

Ioana Manolescu is a senior researcher at Inria Saclay and a part-time professor at Ecole Polytechnique, France. She is the lead of the CEDAR INRIA team focusing on rich data analytics at cloud scale. She is also the scientific director of LabIA, a program ran by the French government whereas AI problems raised by branches of the local and national French public administration are tackled by French research teams.

She has co-authored more than 150 articles in international journals and conferences and co-authored books on "Web Data Management" and on "Cloud-based RDF Data Management". Her main research interests algebraic and storage optimizations for semistructured data, in particular Semantic Web graphs, novel data models and languages for complex data management, data models and algorithms for fact-checking and data journalism, notably collaborating with Le Monde and RadioFrance. She is also a recipient of the ANR AI Chair titled "SourcesSay: Intelligent Analysis and Interconnexion of Heterogeneous Data in Digital Arenas"

Tom Mills is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University in the UK. He is interested in media and communications, corporate power, elite institutions and networks, and the use of digital methods.