A "Shield" and a "Front"
The Grant Applications and Special Projects
of the Council for Tobacco Research
On this page, you can explore two separate datasets that document the efforts of the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) to undermine tobacco-related research: On the one hand, it’s the grant applications You can download a CSV file of the grant applications dataset here. that the CTR received, which show the industry’s lavish funding for distraction research. On the other hand, it’s a list of all 140 Special Projects You can download a CSV file of the Special Projects dataset here. through which the CTR supported researchers willing to directly attack an already established consensus about smoking’s health harms.
If you would like to know more about the insights that we have gathered through these datasets, have a look at the Essay "Manufacturing Doubt: Distraction and Subversion Research at the Council for Tobacco Research"
CTR Grant Applications
The tobacco documents contain more than 12,955 grant applications that the CTR received from 1954 to 1998. You can find all of them in the TTID by looking for the datatype “application, grant”. Through this dataset, we can gain insights into the distraction research funded by the CTR, to look closely at what kinds of projects and institutions applied for funding and which ones didn’t.
During the pre-processing, we have filtered out 2014 suspected duplicates (2014 in total) if they had the same title, author, and document date. However, some duplicates do remain, caused, either for example, by slight misspellings in a title (e.g. “Cell Biology of Mac-1” vs. “Cell Biology of Ma-1”) or because two different documents listed two different authors or groups of authors for the same grant. In addition, we eliminated 17 empty application forms. This left 10924 grant applications. Among those, we have been able to identify the applicant institution in 8206 cases.
It’s worth remembering that a submitted application does not mean that the application was approved. The scientific advisory board of the CTR, which reviewed the applications, seems to have had two main criteria for approving research projects: First, it had to be a viable scientific endeavor somewhere in the biomedical realm. Second, it had to be basic science, far removed from any application or, god have mercy, look at any of the health effects of smoking. In the case of nicotine, for example, studies on nicotine metabolism were ok. Studies on nicotine addiction weren’t. However, the applications were of course largely available of these constraints and rarely applied with projects that were obviously dangerous to the tobacco industry’s goals.
While working with this dataset, you will come across grant applications with the same titles. In many cases, those are applications for grant renewals. Once a grant had been approved, awardees could usually apply for two renewals. During the 1980s, there was a specific form for grant renewals where applicants could select whether this was the first or second renewal. See, for example, John Castellot, “Application for Renewal of Research Grant. First Renewal. Growth Regulation in Pulmonary Artery Smooth Muscle Cells.” 26 May 1989. Because of this renewal process, it’s a strong indication that an application was approved if you can find the same title in successive years. However, the tobacco documents also contain straight-up duplicates, either because the two titles were slightly misspelled (e.g. “Cell Biology of Mac-1” vs. “Cell Biology of Ma-1”) or because two different documents listed two different authors for the same grant.
CTR Special Projects
If the grant applications give us insight into the industry’s distraction research program, the Special Projects chronicle a much more direct attack on scientific research. The $18 million that the CTR disbursed through 140 secret “Special Projects” went to all the projects that the industry (and in particular its lawyers) really wanted to see done, but which most reputable researchers wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole. Here, we find studies doubting the link between smoking and cancer, studies doubting the effects of second-hand smoke and pointing instead to indoor air pollution problems, and finally a large number of studies on basic epistemology, on what “causes” and “evidence” really are (and how the industry might exploit their meanings).