The Chocolate Milk Mustache of the Corporatization of the University

From Vox, Julia Belluz has quite a story.

The University of Maryland issued a press release about a new study on the effects of a single brand of chocolate milk on cognitive and motor skill tests in high school athletes.

The story, as she documents, is that Fifth Quaker Fresh funded research, the scientists did some shoddy research and didn’t even bother to submit it for peer review, the university made a splashy press release, and everyone goes home happy. Well, except for Integrity.

So here we have a milk manufacturer working in partnership with the University of Maryland to fund a sloppy study, and the university then blasts the results, persuading schools and the press that this milk works wonders on students’ brains.

It’s everything wrong with modern-day science-by-press-release in one anecdote.

I see this (as Belluz does too) as a consequence of the university as a profit-center. When said institution is a public university, the science is especially suspect, and the corporate sponsorship especially visible, then it’s easy to mock. Most university scientists seem to spend their careers lurching from funding source to funding source, their jobs (and the jobs of their staff) contingent on outside money. It’s structural and leads to … well … being told that a specific brand of chocolate milk is good for athletes.

Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine?

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