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Institutional ethics committees needed

A seminar this week will call for ethics panels to vet all substantial funding donations, to protect the reputation of academic institutions.

Helen Gavaghan(gavers@supanet.com)

YORKSHIRE — Concerns that non-government funding can taint university reputations and hold back research continue to bother UK academics. Ethics panels vetting all substantial donations are needed to protect the reputation of academic institutions, argue two sociologists from the University of Lancaster at a seminar this week.

"All people in an institution are affected by the contracts that are accepted," says John Wakeford, a professor at Lancaster, "officials negotiating contracts should have a set of ethical standards to protect the institution's name."

The call is prompted by such high-profile controversies as the University of Nottingham accepting $5.3 million from British American Tobacco in 2000, to establish an International Centre for Corporate and Social Responsibility.

In that case guidelines drawn up in 1998 by Universities UK (formerly the committee of vice-chancellors and principals — a body that promotes the interests of the universities) and the then Cancer Research Campaign signally failed...

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