Anthony Hennen of the Martin Center focuses on credibility concerns in nutrition science.

In recent years, psychology has dealt with a legitimacy crisis. Many influential psychological studies could not be reproduced by other psychologists, discrediting some key insights and weakening academic faith in the entire field.

Nutrition science has a similar problem.

The loudest critics argue that the methodologies relied on by researchers give bad data that are meaningless at best. Others worry that funding gives undue influence to the federal government, big business, or influential nonprofit associations. And some critics think nutrition science focuses on the wrong questions entirely about nutrition.

Defenders of the field say that the research methods used are reliable and improving with trial and error. They also argue that funding sources don’t have as much influence as critics fear.

Critics and defenders, however, both agree that nutrition science is an extremely challenging field for getting good data. It’s more like a social science than a hard science in that respect. The challenge for its defenders is building credibility. Whether they can also has implications for higher education research. Billions of dollars in taxpayer money go to colleges for research purposes, but the information that’s produced might not be socially useful.