, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 217–236 | Cite as

‘We Have to Go Where the Money Is’—Dilemmas in the Role of Nutrition Scientists: An Interview Study

  • Anna Paldam Folker
  • Lotte Holm
  • Peter SandøeEmail author


In Western societies scientists are increasingly expected to seek media exposure and cooperate with industry. Little attention has been given to the way such expectations affect the role of scientific experts in society. To investigate scientists’ own perspectives on these issues eight exploratory, in-depth interviews were conducted in Denmark with reputable nutrition scientists. Additionally, eight interviews were held with ‘key informants’ from the field of nutrition policy. It was found that nutrition scientists experience two dilemmas: first, between their aspiration to make a collective impact on public health and the powerful incentives of each to appear frequently in the media with new messages; second, between their need to cooperate with the food industry for financial reasons and their fear that this may compromise their independence and scientific integrity. It is argued that the dilemmas identified in this study should be dealt with openly by the relevant groups of scientists.


Independence Integrity Credibility Public role Nutrition experts Qualitative methodology 



For stimulating discussions and valuable comments on earlier versions of the article we would like to thank: Morten Andreasen from BioCampus, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, Karsten Klint Jensen, from The Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Birgitte Wandall from the Division of Philosophy, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. For help with editing the paper we want to thank Paul Robinson and Geir Tveit. Finally we are grateful to two anonymous referees for very useful comments on an early version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Paldam Folker
    • 1
  • Lotte Holm
    • 2
  • Peter Sandøe
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Faculty of Life ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Life ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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