Collaborating with the enemy? An ethical exploration of industry partnerships in food studies research

Prof Rachel A. Ankeny1 and Dr Heather J. Bray2

1 School of Humanities, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005 SA, Australia, email:
2 School of Humanities, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005 SA, Australia, email:

The increased emphasis on industry partnerships and funding for research in Australia and beyond given increasing neoliberal pressures in academia often pose critical dilemmas for researchers seeking to do robust scholarly research with the potential for practical impacts. In this paper, we explore the actual and potential intersections of food studies, food science, and the food industry (broadly construed to include large- and small-scale producers, processors, and retailers, among others) in order to assess not only the well-understood pragmatic risks of collaboration, but the less well-explored possible epistemic and other benefits of engagement across these domains. In particular we develop an argument in favour of collaboration under certain circumstances that permits more rigorous reflections on the hidden assumptions and biases often held by those outside of industry and thus support more rigorous research as well as generating more effective impacts on our broader food system. We frame these arguments against the backdrop of a series of case studies based on our own qualitative research projects and those of others, as well as the changing landscape of the food industry.


Rachel A. Ankeny’s research combines bioethics, food studies, and history and philosophy of science. She leads the Food Values Research Group at the University of Adelaide, where she is engaged in several competitively funded grant projects relating to food studies and to history and philosophy of the biological sciences.

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