An awkward conflict of interest inevitably arises when researching the politics of foundations, since so many of the researchers rely on foundation grants.
"It’s something so obvious that saying it out loud seems rude. Nonetheless, it’s worth pointing out: The trouble with social scientists studying philanthropic foundations is that social scientists are also funded and will continue to seek funding by such philanthropies. Heck, as I’m typing this, I’m receiving research support from at least two different philanthropic foundations. This fact can make researching them super-awkward. It doesn’t preclude the possibility of doing good research, but it’s a conflict-of-interest that needs to be acknowledged.
I’m honestly not sure if there’s a good solution to this conflict-of-interest question. A political scientist could choose to study philanthropies and then rely solely on government funding from the National Science Foundation. Given how that pot of money is getting squeezed, however, I’m not sure it’s a viable strategy. Relying solely on university support is tricky, because as institutions universities really like to get research grants. Asocial scientist could strive to be independently wealthy enough to abstain from seeking any outside support. And any social scientist who earns that kind of coin is probably not going to be a social scientist for much longer." -- Daniel W. Drezner, The Washington Post