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Open Letter to Temple University on Disclosure of Funding Sources for Research

While we take no position on the methodology and conclusions of Professor Hakim and Blackstone’s study, we are troubled about the lack of transparency and adequate disclosure of the funding source of their research.

Susan Snyder’s article at the Philadelphia Inquirer Temple probing funding of two professors’ research describes the background to the following open letter.

October 14, 2014

Office of the Secretary

Sullivan Hall – 3rd Floor Mezzanine

Temple University

Philadelphia, PA 19122

RE: Temple University Policy for Disclosure of Research Funding

Dear Members of the Board of Trustees:

We, the undersigned current and former faculty members and scholars at institutions of higher learning, submit this joint letter in reference to a controversy concerning the integrity of academic research at Temple University.

According to recent news reports, a working paper released last year by Temple Professors Simon Hakim and Edwin A. Blackstone, entitled “Cost Analysis of Public and Contractor-Operated Prisons,” did not initially disclose that the study had received funding from the nation’s three largest for-profit prison companies.

In addition, when Professors Hakim and Blackstone submitted editorials to at least five newspapers concerning their research findings, the majority of their editorials failed to disclose the corporate funding they received from the private prison industry.

When questioned about this lack of disclosure, Professor Hakim was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 10, 2014 (enclosed) as saying: “It’s not that important.”

We disagree.

While we take no position on the methodology and conclusions of Professor Hakim and Blackstone’s study, we are troubled about the lack of transparency and adequate disclosure of the funding source of their research.

Working papers released in advance of publication may circulate for a lengthy period of time, in some cases for years, before the research is peer reviewed and published. In other cases the research may never be published, leaving the working paper as the only version of a study made publicly available.

Further, editorials are intended to inform and influence, and disclosure of a study’s funding source in such writings is essential to ensure that the public is fully informed with respect to material issues such as actual or apparent conflicts of interest.

In this case, we believe it is material that Professor Hakim and Blackstone’s cost analysis of private and public prisons was funded by the very industry that is the subject of the study and which stands to benefit from the findings of same.

We understand that an ethics complaint was filed against Professors Hakim and Blackstone regarding their failure to adequately disclose the funding source of their study, and that the University took action as a result (see enclosed July 16, 2014 Inquirer article). While that is encouraging, unless policy changes are made there is no guarantee that future research by Temple staff will include transparent disclosure of corporate funding sources.

Therefore, we urge Temple University to adopt a formal policy requiring disclosure of the funding sources for academic research at all stages of the publication process—including working papers—as well as for other writings produced by all faculty members related to their research, such as editorials and white papers, that are made publicly available.

We submit that the integrity of academic research at Temple University requires nothing less and that Temple has a responsibility to its faculty and the public to adopt such a policy.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter;


(Institutional affiliations below are included for identification purposes only; signatories are in their individual capacities)

Byron E. Price, Ph.D.

Professor of Public Administration

Medgar Evers College, CUNY

Michelle Alexander

Associate Professor of Law

Ohio State University

Professor Robert Barsky

Department of French and Italian

Vanderbilt University

Joanne Belknap, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

University of Colorado Boulder

C. George Caffentzis

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy

University of Southern Maine

Andrew Dilts

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Loyola Marymount University

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Professor Emerita

California State University, East Bay

Sara M. Evans

Regents Professor Emerita

University of Minnesota​

Eric M. Fink

Associate Professor of Law

Elon University School of Law

Robert Gable, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Emeritus

Claremont Graduate University

Dr. Lisa Guenther

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy

Vanderbilt University

Dr. Hans B. Hallundbaek, M-Div, D-Min.

Adjunct Professor Ethics and Prison Issues

Marist College

Dr. Grace Hunt

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Western Kentucky University

Marie Kennedy

Professor Emerita of Community Planning

University of Massachusetts Boston

Visiting Professor in Urban Planning

University of California Los Angeles

Paul Landsbergis, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Associate Professor

School of Public Health

State University of New York-Downstate Medical Center

Lewis L. Laska

Professor of Business Law

Tennessee State University

Dr. Paul Leighton

Dept of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology

Eastern Michigan University

Mechthild Nagel, Ph.D.

Professor of Philosophy

SUNY Cortland

Visiting Fellow, Cornell University

Professor Nicole Rafter

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Northeastern University

Professor Norma M. Riccucci

School of Public Affairs & Administration

Rutgers University

Gwenola Ricordeau, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of Lille (France)

Marguerite G. Rosenthal, Ph.D.

Professor Emerita, School of Social Work

Salem State University

Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph.D.

Professor, School of Criminal Justice

University of Baltimore

D. Fairchild Ruggles

Department of Landscape Architecture

University of Illinois, Urbana-Illinois

Amy L. Sayward

Professor of History

Middle Tennessee State University

Dr. Shannon Speed

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Director, Native American and Indigenous Studies

University of Texas at Austin

William Sullivan

Professor of Landscape Architecture

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Chris Tilly

Professor, Dept. of Urban Planning

University of California Los Angeles

Sam Vong, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor

Gustavus Adolphus College

Janet L. Wolf

Adjunct Professor

New Brunswick Theological Seminary