source: Social History of Alcohol Review 26-27:19-24, 1993.
Thomas B. Turner and Virginia Bennett. Forward Together: Industry and Academia. Baltimore: Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation, 1993.
Reviewed by Ron Roizen.
Funding provided by the alcoholic beverage industry has played an important, though largely unrecognized, role in the emergence of modem alcohol science in the U.S. in the post-Repeal era. In the early 1930s, and before Repeal's passage, the United States Brewers Association (USBA) supported research by University of Chicago physiologist Anton J. Carlson aimed at demonstrating beer's trivially low intoxicating potential (see Pauly, 1994; Carlson et al., 1934). Rutgers historian Philip J. Pauly (1994) has noted that Carlson's findings reinforced Yale physiologist Yandell Henderson's case for the benign character of low alcohol-content beverages, thus providing an important scientific rationale for both the normalization of drinking and the promotion of Repeal.
The Research Council on Problems of Alcohol (RCPA)-a group made well-known in Mark Keller's various accounts of the origins of the "new scientific approach" to alcohol problems that emerged shortly after Repeal (Keller 1990a, 1990b, 1985, 1982, 1979, 1975) -- began quietly accepting funds from major distillers in 1939 (see Roizen, 1991:Chapter 8). Keller (1979:25-26) suggested that the issue of beverage industry support ultimately drove a wedge between the RCPA and Howard W. Haggard's alcohol research program at Yale's Laboratory of Applied Physiology. But the Yale-based group also received industry-related support in the form of maltster Guido H. Rahr's generous patronage (Rubin 1979; Gordon n.d. [19481; Roizen 1993). Rahr was a 1925 Yale graduate and president of the family-owned Rahr Malting Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. He made substantial financial contributions to both the Yale-based group's Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol and its Summer School of Alcohol Studies in the early 1940s (Roizen 1993).
Beverage industry support for alcohol science has ordinarily been problematic for both the givers and the takers. Concerns that industry funds would influence the directions, the results, and, perhaps most importantly, the scientific and popular receptions of such research have by now made a couple of generations of alcohol scientists wary of accepting industry support. Industry patrons, on the other hand, have had to fear that any research results perceived as favorable to their interests might be dismissed as mere self-serving public relations. Both sides have employed protective strategies in relation to these damned-if-you-do prospects.
Such strategies have varied. Carlson's support from the USBA was straightforwawly disclosed and acknowledged in the report conveying his group's results. The report's preface also described a prestudy codicil established with the USBA that insured the authors' freedom of publication regardless what results their project generated. Here, in other words, careful prestructuring and candid disclosure served as the authors' chief mechanisms for blunting concerns over potential bias (Carlson et al. 1934). The RCPA's strategy for staving off the same sort of potential charges was deliberately to focus their research on the problem of alcoholism-as I have argued elsewhere, this decision played an important part in launching the scientific wing of the so-called "modern alcoholism movement' that would emerge in post-Repeal America.1 The Yale-based group apparently used secrecy to thwart both the possibility and the appearance of industry-funding bias. Aside from the group's directors, Yale's early scientific staff seems to have been wholly unaware of Rahr's early patronage (personal conversations with Robert Straus and Edith Gomberg). The Yale-based group's higher-ups remained diffident about the matter for many years to follow.2
Now comes Thomas B. Turner and Virginia L. Bennett's nearly 500-page volume, Forward Together: Industry and Academia, offering a long, candid, and intriguing account of the history of the brewer-supported Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation (ABMRF) and its predecessor group, the Medical Advisory Group (MAG), from 1969 to 1991. These authors are in an excellent position to recount several aspects of the ABMRF's historical experience: Turner, formerly dean of the medical faculty of Johns Hopkins University, is the founding father and the main organizer of the MAG/ABMRF enterprises; Bennett, is Turner's longtime administrative and editorial assistant in relation to these pursuits.
According to Turner and Bennett's account, the earlier of the two organizations, the Medical Advisory Group, was launched in 1969 after brewing interests grew concerned about an outbreak of cases of a rare and severe inflammation of the heart muscle. Several cases came to light first in Quebec and later elsewhere in North America and in Europe in the late 1960s. It was reported that some victims consumed unusually great quantities of beer every day -- leading to suspicions that beer somehow played a part in the condition's causation. Turner assembled a small group of researchers to look into the epidemic's causes, focusing particularly on whether unusually high levels of cobalt in some beers may have been at fault. Thereafter, the MAG remained in existence and provided an ongoing group of medically oriented scientists ready to monitor the medical literature for beer-related news and supply consulting expertise to the USBA. Their work was initially addressed primarily to the impact or potential impact of additives and other foreign materials in commercial beers. USBA resources were made available to the MAG to support a number of additional small-scale projects. MAG's members conducted brief studies, held meetings, and read papers to one another over the course of the 1970s and to the end of 1981.
In 1982, the MAG was transformed into a larger and more independent research-supporting enterprise, the ABMRF. The new enterprise was jointly supported by American and Canadian national brewing associations. According to Turner and Bennett's account, the felt need for this stepped-up enterprise grew out of the growing perception that research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) was becoming increasingly preoccupied with the problematic consequences of alcohol consumption and their treatment, thus giving short shrift to the health-related effects of light to moderate drinking (p. 61).
The ABMRF was bom on January 1, 1982. Its operating budget of $1-2 million per annum was a mere fraction of NIAAA's but adequate, according to the authors, to its avowed purpose of augmenting NIAAA research with studies focused on moderate drinking. The ABMRF constructed a peer review structure deliberately patterned on NIAAA'S. It also retained -- for a time, at least -- the MAG's home base and close association with Johns Hopkins University. Just over $11 million in research support was dispersed by the ABNW by the end of 1991 (the period this volume covers) -- for research projects, the organization's annual international meetings, and other special awards. Individual grants ranged from small, short-term awards of less than $2,500 to the over $100,000 per year awarded to Arthur L. Klatsky's research at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland, California. Most grants seem to have ranged between $20,000 and $50,000.
In 1985 the ABMRF fell into a controversy that would in due course end its warm relations and institutional home at Johns Hopkins University. Results of an ABMRF-funded research project addressing the purported health benefits of
moderate drinking conducted by Alex Richman at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, were picked up in the popular press. U.S. press accounts, in particular, emphasized the link between the research and Johns Hopkins University -- which unfavorable publicity before long drew the disfavor of the University's boardroom mandarins. By 1989 the ABMRF and the University had parted company. Though the conflict's full story is not provided in this volume, what is provided offers a rare glimpse into the separate realities and divergent moral preoccupations that characterized ABMRF's and the University's sides of the conflict. Forward Together provides an intriguing exchange of correspondence between Peter Baron Hutt, legal advisor to the ABMRF, and Johns Hopkins provosts Richard P. Longaker and (Longaker's successor) John V. Lombardi. It affords a fascinating fast-hand picture of the ABMRF's rhetoric
of procedural blamelessness alongside the frankly prestige- and reputation-preserving preoccupations of the University.
Forward Together was not written by historians and does not offer a conventional historical narrative of brewer-supported alcohol research. The volume is written in an informal style, suggesting a sort of prose home-movie or even a chonicler's affectionate account of a series of family reunions. The greater part of this volume's text is devoted to accounts of the ABMRF's international meetings between 1982 and 1991 and was doubtless developed out of the authors' notes thereof.
Science is only one of this narrative's topics. For example, the narrative finds ample room to recall the warm sociability and memorable excursions, banquets, and after-dinner talks associated with each year's meetings. The authors took pains to note and acknowledge the names and work of a great many of the alcohol scientists who have won ABMRF grants over the years-and many are also shown in individual or group photos. Just such content also makes Forward Together into a fascinating hermeneutical puzzle and target for future analyses in the sociology or history of science. Another of the volume's valuable features is its ten detailed appendices, including: one providing biographical sketches of ABMRF-supported scientists and other principals (Appendix A); a complete roster of MAG- (Appendix C) and ABMRF-supported (Appendix D) projects and their grant award amounts; a complete list of research publications stemming from MAG- and ABMRF-supported research (Appendix E); and a complete list of financial contributors to the ABMRF (Appendix 1).
The appendixes will provide an invaluable resource for the historian or sociologist who one day undertakes to chart the substantive and participatory dimensions of ABNIRF-supported research. Turner and Bennett clearly intended Forward Together as a proud document, a commemorative volume recounting and celebrating over two decades of seemingly productive and pleasant collaboration between the brewing industry and alcohol scientists. For historians and sociologists with an interest in alcohol studies, however, this volume represents an oasis of rich and evocative material relating to the phenomenology, orientations, and problematics of an ongoing relationship between the brewing industry and alcohol science. In a topic area where the historical record has in the past ordinarily yielded up only a few suggestive crumbs, Forward Together provides the historical/sociological reader with a veritable interpretive feast. It will be read with hungry interest by readers who recognize the bounty it proffers.
1RCPA Executive Secretary Karl Bowman reasoned that the results of research on alcoholism (unlike the results of more traditional research on alcohol's effects) would have no direct bearing on alcohol's popular reputation. Research on alcoholism, therefore, would confirm no direct benefits or disadvantages upon the interests of their beverage-industry patrons. Because research focused on alcoholism was inherently free of potential charges of bias stemming from industry suppom such research could make free use of industry support (see Roizen, 1991:Chap. 8).
2In a 1955 interview-format article ("Alcohol re-examined" 1955), Yale Alcohol Center representatives Selden Bacon, Leon Greenberg, and unspecified "others" were asked whether the Yale group had "ever received substantial support from the alcohol beverage industry?" Their carefully worded response read: "If the industry can be subdivided into three parts -- distillers, vintners, and brewers-it can be said that Yale has never received any support form the distillers or from the vintners. Several years ago the Center received a large personal gift from an individual who is connected with the brewing industry. He was a Yale graduate and a one-time student of Dr. Haggard. It should also be said that he was involved in many other business affairs" ("Alcohol re-examined" 1955, p. 25). The response also went on to note that "in the last two years a rather large grant was made for a laboratory study by a research institute backed by the brewers," and that funds had never been received from dry interests, though these would be welcomed so long as, as in all other funding arrangements, no strings were attached (ibid.) (see Roizen  for a discussion of the Yale group's early funding).
"Alcohol Re-examined," Social Progress 45 (1955):1-33.
Carlson, A.J., Kleitnian, N., Muchlberger, C.W., McLean, F.C., Guilicksen, H., and Carlson, R.B. Studies on the Possible Intoxicating Action of 3.2 per cent Beer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934.
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Roizen, Ron. "Paradigm Sidetracked: Explaining Early Resistance to the Alcoholism Paradigm at Yale's Laboratory of Applied Physiology, 1940-1944." Presented at the Alcohol & Temperance History Group's International Congress on the Social History of Alcohol, Huron College, London, Ontario, Canada, 13-15 May 1993.
Roizen, Ron. "The American Discovery of Alcoholism, 1933-1939." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1991.Rubin, Jay L. "Shifting Perspectives on the Alcoholism Treatment Movement 1940-1955." Journal of Studies on Alcohol 40 (1979):376-386.