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What do words cost?

May 23rd, 2005

Dr Petra

Many years ago, I attended a lecture by an eminent academic. They talked enthusiastically about their work, and I was inspired by their ideas and the way they delivered them. The lecture was free to attend, and had everyone buzzing for weeks afterwards.

Recently I was on a train, flicking through a paper someone had left behind, and I caught sight of the name of this prestigious academic. They were endorsing a piece of research that seemed a bit flimsy. It had been funded by a PR company, which didn’t make it wrong, but I was surprised this person would complete ‘quick and dirty’ research like that. However I assumed it must be good, because I’d seen this person talk and I believed in them.

But today I discovered from colleagues that many PR companies pay around £500 for one quote to support a promotional study.

So the academic who I had trusted and admired, who talked so passionately about the importance of quality research, now supports studies that have no scientific basis, and which they’ve no involvement in apart from putting their name to a quote that the PR company may have even written for them.

I liked them better when their words didn’t come at such a high price. At least I could believe them then. £500 is a nice little earner. But not when what you say hasn’t any value anymore.

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