Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

Talking about a revolution: incremental change will not redeem gambling research

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Earlier this year Alex Blaszczynski, editor of International Gambling Studies (IGS) invited me to contribute a short editorial about the challenges of publishing gambling research based on Fair Game. In the editorial I described a vicious circle: industry funding rewards work which focuses on benign ideas like responsible gambling and harm minimization which are easily absorbed and encourage a ‘business as usual’ approach.

Cartoon by Jonik

Cartoon by Jonik

I described how early career researchers are faced with a stark choice: either accept industry funding or leave the field and how the current system was underpinned by the social capital of senior researchers willing to accept money from the industry.

I also argued that policies on disclosure of interests, and indeed understandings of what constitutes a conflict of interest are wholly inadequate in the field of gambling studies, particularly when compared to the fields of alcohol, tobacco, food and pharma. I used IGS’s policies to illustrate this failure.

When I received the proofs of my article the text was virtually unchanged, but I was informed by the copy editor that the policy on declarations of interest had changed. The new policy can now be found in the journal’s style sheet.

Many of us believe that interests (and their absence) must be declared at conferences and whenever our data is presented. Conceding this principle is the first step towards a more transparent and accountable field. However, I expect that there will be disagreement about what constitutes a conflict of interest, or indeed an interest that must be declared. The declarations of interest by the editors of IGS, for example, can be found here.

Alex Blaszczynski declares that:

I do not hold any ongoing position, receive ongoing or significant funding, and am not engaged in any business or organisation that creates a conflict of interest (real, perceived, actual or potential) in the work I would conduct as Editor of International Gambling Studies.

The declaration raises as many questions as it answers. For example, what about the $1.2million Blaszczynski received from the NSW clubs industry and leading poker machine makers in May this year?

Is this funding not ‘significant’? Has Blaszczynski chosen to return it? Or does he not consider it a conflict of interest ‘real, perceived, actual or potential’? In which case, what does constitute a conflict of interest in these narrow terms?

I hope that we can continue to discuss these issues in the pages of The Conversation and elsewhere. As Rob Simpson has made clear, research is failing. Incremental changes are not sufficient. A radical overhaul of our entire field is essential if we are to regain public trust.

Rebecca Cassidy

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Written by samkelly2014

November 12, 2014 at 12:16 pm

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