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Coca-Cola – a model of transparency in research partnerships? A network analysis of Coca-Cola’s research funding (2008–2016)

  • Paulo M Serôdio (a1), Martin McKee (a2) and David Stuckler (a3)
Abstract
Objective

To (i) evaluate the extent to which Coca-Cola’s ‘Transparency Lists’ of 218 researchers that it funds are comprehensive; (ii) map all scientific research acknowledging funding from Coca-Cola; (iii) identify those institutions, authors and research topics funded by Coca-Cola; and (iv) use Coca-Cola’s disclosure to gauge whether its funded researchers acknowledge the source of funding.

Design

Using Web of Science Core Collection database, we retrieved all studies declaring receipt of direct funding from the Coca-Cola brand, published between 2008 and 2016. Using conservative eligibility criteria, we iteratively removed studies and recreated Coca-Cola’s transparency lists using our data. We used network analysis and structural topic modelling to assess the structure, organization and thematic focus of Coca-Cola’s research enterprise, and string matching to evaluate the completeness of Coca-Cola’s transparency lists.

Results

Three hundred and eighty-nine articles, published in 169 different journals, and authored by 907 researchers, cite funding from The Coca-Cola Company. Of these, Coca-Cola acknowledges funding forty-two authors (<5 %). We observed that the funded research focuses mostly on nutrition and emphasizes the importance of physical activity and the concept of ‘energy balance’.

Conclusions

The Coca-Cola Company appears to have failed to declare a comprehensive list of its research activities. Further, several funded authors appear to have failed to declare receipt of funding. Most of Coca-Cola’s research support is directed towards physical activity and disregards the role of diet in obesity. Despite initiatives for greater transparency of research funding, the full scale of Coca-Cola’s involvement is still not known.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Email paulo.serodio@sociology.ox.ac.uk
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