Letters Journal policy on tobacco funded research

Policy of banning tobacco funded research is “antiscience”

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7489 (Published 23 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7489
  1. Christopher J Proctor, chief scientific officer1
  1. 1Group R&D, British American Tobacco, Southampton SO15 8TL, UK
  1. christopher_proctor{at}bat.com

We are disappointed by your decision not to consider for publication any scientific studies funded by the tobacco industry.1 Among our concerns:

  • The detrimental effect your decision has on ensuring that the widest possible range of scientific research is funded and promulgated

  • The failure to recognise the valuable contributions industry can make to science

  • The choice of a censorship approach rather than a focus on improving the journal’s peer review process

  • The choice of isolating one industry from participating in the development of scientific knowledge on the basis of prejudice originating from ideology rather than science, while continuing to support and favour other industries that also have ideological detractors.

The BMJ’s new policy is particularly disappointing in light of its past policy of encouraging robust scientific discourse independent of ideology. Ten years ago the BMJ was “passionately anti-tobacco” but also “passionately pro-debate and pro-science” and rightly rejected a similar proposed ban.2

It is ironic that the BMJ has revised its position. There is a new commitment to transparency throughout the scientific world. The US Food and Drug Administration recognises that the regulated tobacco industry has a role to play in emerging tobacco science.3 National governments are looking to industry to help fund research projects to aid competitiveness.

British American Tobacco has also evolved its approach to become more transparent. We encourage our scientists to participate in scientific debate and share research through the library of www.bat-science.com. We register every clinical trial in advance and commit to publishing the results.

Science should be judged on its merits as ascertained through peer review; good science should be published. The source of funding should be disclosed, whatever the source.

We respectfully invite you to revisit this decision on the basis that such a policy is, in the BMJ’s own words, “antiscience.”2


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7489



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