TRAPS is funded by the Wellcome Trust and the University of York to investigate the alcohol industry, public health sciences and policy. This is an ambitious research programme that seeks to make progress in understanding a series of inter-related issues that do not have well established disciplinary or inter-disciplinary traditions of study. Society benefits from the production and dissemination of scientific evidence, and from evidence informed public health policies. The formulation and implementation of evidence-based policies are needed to ameliorate the rising global health and societal burdens associated with alcohol, brought about, in part, by the commercial operations of the alcohol industry. If industry actors are able to influence decision-makers in ways that result in ineffective policies being adopted, the potential benefits to society of evidence production and evidence use in policy making can be undermined.
Existing evidence suggests that alcohol industry actors have indeed been influential in limiting the adoption of evidence-informed public health policies through their involvement in national policy making processes. Industry actors regard public health sciences as a threat to commercial interests. This is because the evidence-base poses an obstacle to securing desired policy outcomes, largely in identifying the scale and nature of the problem and the need for regulation of industry activities; the most effective alcohol policy measures are those which intervene in pricing and other aspects of sale, and related commercial activities. Public health perspectives also emphasise the conflicts of interest inherent in increasing unhealthy commodity use for commercial reasons and limiting the resulting damage done to public health and society. The extent to which alcohol industry actors have influenced the scientific evidence-base is unclear, as it remains almost entirely unstudied.
The overarching aims of TRAPS are to develop an understanding of how the alcohol industry influences science, the science/policy interface, and policy making, and to develop research capacity to investigate alcohol industry actors and their engagements with public health sciences and policy. Achieving these aims will strengthen the ability of public health scientific and policy communities to better recognise and manage the methods alcohol industry actors use to advance vested interests to the detriment of public health, and so help preserve the integrity of public health science and policy making. In so doing, this research programme will be informed by, and contribute to, broader understanding of the ways in which corporate actors seek to influence public policy making. The programme will thus advance global research agendas on vested interests, science and policy, and inform national and international alcohol policies, whilst contributing more broadly to effective population-level prevention strategies.
The programme is organised in three main inter-related research topic areas; industry engagement with science; the science/policy interface including the use of evidence within policy making; and industry involvement in alcohol policy making. There is also an underpinning set of objectives concerned with better understanding the nature of the alcohol industry, including economic interests underlying scientific and political activities, cross-cutting themes and a commitment to research translation.