Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

Posts Tagged ‘funding

Canadian experiments

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I’m grateful to Luke Clark for his response to my article in International Gambling Studies.  Luke recently left Cambridge to set up the Centre for Gambling Research at UBC (University of British Columbia). The centre is funded by the Province of BC government and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). For non-Canadian readers, BCLC conducts and manages gambling across the province.

Luke is at the coal face of making a particular funding structure work, trying to put money raised from gambling to good use. His insights are invaluable.

The centre is an example of the blurred boundaries between the gambling industry and government identified as a source of ‘influence and bias’ by Blaszczynski & Gainsbury (2014). According to Griffiths and Auer, ‘It is our experience [in relation to writing consultancy reports rather than research reportds (sic)] that it is work commissioned by government agencies that receives far more scrutiny and criticism than that funded by the gambling industry.’ (2015) Wohl and Wood concur, saying that, ‘From our collective 30 + years of experience, working with all types of funding agencies, the least interference with our research endeavours has come from the gambling industry.’ This point of view was also well represented in Fair Game.

But the interference of government officials in publishing and agenda setting is not an argument for accepting money from industry. On the contrary, it supports the argument that we should be doing more to ensure that these activities are undertaken independently of all beneficiaries of gambling including the industry.

Man-with-electrodes-on-hi-007Luke is wrestling with the thorny question, “What does…‘academic independence’ mean in practice?” The approach that he is developing at UBC is threefold: the research programme is determined by the centre and ‘funding is not tied to any specific projects’. ‘Second, there are no restrictions on publishing, or requirements to submit advanced copies of outputs to any bodies. Third, all outputs from the centre clearly disclose the financial support.’ Able to set the agenda for research, Luke and his colleagues have created a ‘casino lab’, an initiative which failed in the UK. Luke is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that their work will produce findings that will translate into evidence based policy but, ‘on this point, only time will tell’.

Two important experiments are taking place here: the first in machine gambling, the second in research economies. We await the results of both with great interest.

Rebecca Cassidy


Written by samkelly2014

March 24, 2015 at 8:25 am

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

Written by samkelly2014

November 12, 2014 at 12:16 pm