Professor Peter Miller and others apply the PERIL analysis to determine if a funding opportunity which is accompanied by conditions should be accepted.

Case study: PERIL analysis of a funding opportunity limited by conditions imposed by a collaborating organisation

A residential rehabilitation charity approaches you to collaborate in an application to fund doctoral research into the long-term effect of its project. The charity reports that it has been involved in research previously and has found it beneficial. The methodology is discussed and agreed. The application is designed to go to a government funding body which provides match funding for collaborations between community organisations and universities. The charity expresses concern about the confidentiality of its service users and requests that “We would, however, want the research findings to be kept confidential except in so far as they are needed to fulfil the requirements for the degree.” Subsequent investigation shows that while the charity refers to a strong research pedigree, findings have only been published in non peer-reviewed trade magazines or internal reports.

PERIL analysis

Is the purpose of your academic institution (e.g., excellent medical care through research and education) consistent with the stated purpose of the charity? At first glance it would appear that the charity has the laudable goal of assessing its effectiveness through independent research. However, its desire to control dissemination (presumably in case of unfavourable findings) and its previous track record of publishing only in non peer-reviewed journals would suggest that its goal might not be excellence.

What about the extent of the funding? In this example this is unlikely to be a major factor as the amount involved would be comparatively small.

Is there relevant harm? There is a chance of some harm in this case if the findings are unfavourable and the charity chooses not to disseminate the report. In this situation, the charity is clearly providing ineffective treatment and using resources that might be better used elsewhere. In addition, it may be skewing the knowledge-base through omission of negative findings.

There is also a significant issue that the researchers and university will be identified with the evaluation. It is within the interest of the charity to point to the fact that the research was independently conducted.

Finally, is the nature of the link between recipient and donor direct or indirect? In this case it is indirect, so it may not involve a major conflict of interest, and there are no limitations on publication imposed by the funder. In this case, it would be possible for the researchers or the university to insist that the charity remove its right to control release of the data. If that were done, the PERIL analysis would suggest that the funding is worth pursuing.

See also


Miller, P. et al, ‘Relationships with the Alcohol-Beverage Industry, Pharmaceutical Companies, and other Funding Agencies: Holy Grail or Poisoned Chalice?’, Publishing Addiction Science: A Guide for the Perplexed (2008), 190-212, Box 16.8