Since our release Tuesday of our Google Academics Inc. report, we have heard a wide range of feedback. We wanted to address the points made in one place.
Many, if not most, agreed with the need for us to shine a light on Google’s funding of academic research with a bearing on the policy sphere, and of corporate funding more generally. Some sent Google-funded papers that should be included in the database; other academics objected to the inclusion of their work in the tally of papers and took issue with aspects of our methodology.
Here are some of the issues raised and our thinking on them. There’s no single way to do this, and we’re necessarily limited by the information Google, academics and institutions themselves disclose. However, it’s an evolving document so we plan to keep updating our database with new information as we receive it. Broadly, the main questions raised were:
Some authors felt that only those who had directly received Google money should be included. They argued that working for an institution that receives funding from Google should not merit inclusion in the list. However, we felt that would give an incomplete picture of the ways in which Google funds academic research that can advance its public policy positions. Google funds many universities, programs and departments, and our analysis of correspondence obtained through open-records requests makes clear that many academics at places like George Mason University are regularly called upon by Google’s public policy office to aid its positions, even if they do not receive funding as individuals. Studies have found that “other types of financial ties besides direct sponsorship can have an effect on results,” so omitting them would obscure the ways in which Google attempts to influence research.