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The Newsletter of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation June 2017  
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AB InBev Foundation Award – Working with the Industry
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  From the CEO:
Thoughts on Ethical Issues: Working with the Alcohol Industry
  Potential Alcohol Industry Funding at PIRE
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Editor in Chief:
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Joey Dacanay

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Contributors to this Issue
  • Raul Caetano
  • Karen Friend
  • Paul LaVoie
  • Juliet Lee
  • Bernie Murphy

 

AB InBev Foundation Award – Working with the Industry

FROM THE CEO:

Thoughts on Ethical Issues: Working with the Alcohol Industry
The AB InBev Foundation Contract

Bernie Murphy

by Bernie Murphy

The concerns and risks of accepting funding and working with the alcohol industry have been well documented in multiple publications and are well summarized in Raul Caetano’s article. It was with these cautions in mind that we embarked on a review of the RFP issued by the InBev Foundation to provide the evaluation of its Global Smart Drinking Goals.

Some have argued that the risk to any institution or scientist working with the alcohol industry is too great and that its history of misusing or spuriously and liberally interpreting the findings to its advantage will result in bad science and taint any participating scientists’ reputations. Others have pointed out that the InBev effort is one of the most significant -- and perhaps the last – large, privately funded, international preventive initiatives of our time (Anderson, 2016). 

One of the more compelling arguments that persuaded me to consider pursuing the RFP, and to move a preliminary internal review forward, were InBev’s stated goals of reducing DUIs, preventing underage drinking, and reducing the harmful effects of consumption. These goals are fully consonant with our corporate strength, expertise, and vision.  If a private group were going to fund efforts to reduce the impact of excessive drinking, a topic in which we are internationally recognized experts, shouldn’t we take the chance and wade into these waters and evaluate this initiative? After careful review and consideration of the RFP, we decided to submit a proposal.  And we won.

This project, and its evaluation, are messy. It is not a randomized control trial, we have no control over the mix of interventions that are implemented in each study site, and the evaluation faces numerous measurement and design challenges. As such, it is not something all scientists would care to be involved with, and some have shunned it as unlikely to produce “good science”.  It presents, however, an opportunity for the private sector to address a key public health problem from an international perspective when governments are funding such efforts less frequently.  Further, it is an opportunity for HBSA/PIRE to show the field how to design and implement a well-designed study of a challenging program, much as we did with Community Trials. Some investigators at HBSA/PIRE elected to attempt to surmount these challenges, record the process, and document the outcomes. I commend them for putting their reputations on the line and accepting this challenge.

The following represents the thinking of various groups with whom I have discussed the topic of the risk to PIRE’s reputation and the merits of this project.  That said, there is a key continuing role for those who remain skeptical of this decision, and in the best PIRE tradition we will always welcome an open and transparent dialogue.

Points & Preparations

We recognize that while there are items needing our attention as we establish a working relationship with the InBev Foundation and its partners, this is an ongoing process that requires ongoing attention.

We invite skeptics and doubters to become key informants.  As you attend conferences and meetings, please engage in discussions with colleagues who inquire about this study and HBSA’s role in it.  The project’s leadership and I are committed to listening to all concerns, explore all rumors, and attend to all apprehensions. We will remain open to learning, challenging ourselves and remaining ever vigilant to maintain our HBSA/PIRE reputation. 

We are committed to transparency of work, process and outcomes and to ensure that all evaluation-related activities fully conform to our Principles and Standards of Internal Governance. Our work on this study will periodically be reviewed by qualified critics. In that regard, we will use an Advisory Group, composed of HBSA/PIRE’s outside Board Directors, to review, monitor, and consult on the project.

Inquiries and questions are welcomed.

We have defined a number of relationships and boundaries in our contract, which was signed by both parties:

  • Academic freedom to publish without Foundation oversight or interpretation.
  • 30 day opt-out clause for both parties, for any reason.
  • A clause designed to protect HBSA/PIRE's reputation, not allowing AB InBev to use HBSA/PIRE or any of our individual names in public communications without our permission.
  • A defined scope of work, which includes providing some accountability for AB InBev’s success in meeting its global smart drinking goals, which are based on the WHO’s goal to reduce harmful drinking worldwide by 10%.  Part of this accountability concerns whether AB InBev is endorsing and implementing evidence-based interventions.

We are using two co-equal PIs to better ensure that internal checks and balances are maintained. In addition, two other Senior Scientists are assigned significant project roles related to the evaluation. Extensive discussions are being held by the four Senior Staff to ensure that the study’s methodology is as rigorous as possible. Staff from three PIRE Centers are collaborating on this project.

As the Corporate Monitor for this project, I welcome your comments and suggestions. My door is always open if you would like to discuss this further. 

Bernie signature

 

Anderson, P. and Rehm, J. (2016), Evaluating Alcohol Industry Action to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, Alcohol and Alcoholism 51 (4):383-7