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Conflict of Interest

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Conflict of Interest Toolkit

Focusing on the biomedical sciences, this resource developed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology gives a clear introduction to what is meant by conflict of interest, guidelines for researchers, and links to further resources.

Shared Responsibility, Individual Integrity: Scientists Addressing Conflict of Interest in Biomedical Research

This report from a conference held in 2006 by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biography, gives an extremely good overview of the different types of conflict of interest that exist and guiding principles for addressing conflicts.

National Institutes of Health Conflict of Interest Policies

A collection of policies and articles by the United States' National Institutes of Health detailing how they handle conflicts of interest in government-funded research.

National Science Foundation Conflict of Interest Policy 

 A Collection of policies dealing with conflict of interest for employees of the National Science Foundation, and for scientists working with NSF funding.


Davis, Michael. 2001. Conflict of interest in the professions. New York: Oxford University Press.

A collections of article discussing issues of conflict of interest in the professions, including engineering, science, the social sciences and medicine.

Krimsky, Sheldon. 2003. Science in the private interest: Has the lure of profits corrupted the virtue of biomedical research? Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

A strongly argued book by a physicist and policy analyst at Tufts University School of Medicine looking at the involvement of industry in the sponsoring of academic research, and how these kinds of partnerships can give rise to conflicts of interest and, in some cases, the undermining of the integrity of science.

Resnik, David B. 2007. The price of truth: How money affects the norms of science. New York: Oxford University Press.

In The Price of Truth, David B. Resnik examines some of the important and difficult questions resulting from the financial and economic aspects of modern science. How does money affect scientific research? Have scientists become entrepreneurs bent on making money instead of investigators searching for the truth? How does the commercialization of research affect the public's perception of science? Can scientists prevent money from corrupting the research enterprise? What types of rules, polices, and guidelines should scientists adopt to prevent financial interests from adversely affecting research and the public's opinion of science?

Spence, Roy G., David S. Shimm and Allen E. Buchanan. 1996. Conflicts of interest in clinical practice and research. New York: Oxford University Press.

This collection of essays examine a broad set of issues involving conflicts of interest in medicine and other fields, providing an overview of what constitutes a conflict of interest a detailed discussion of conflicts of interest in medicine, and a final chapter focusing on conflicts of interest between physician and the pharmaceutical industry.

Stark, Andrew. 2003. Conflict of interest in American public life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Taking a broad approach to conflict of interest, this book analyzes the historical and recent debate and conception of conflicts of interest, and draws from case studies from a wide variety of disciplines.

Journal Articles

Anker, Jessica S., Annette Flanagan. 2007. A comparison of conflict of interest policies at peer-reviewed journals in different scientific disciplines. Science and Engineering Ethics. 13(2): 147-157.

This article presents the results of a survey of high-impact peer-reviewed journals in twelve different scientific disciplines to compare their conflict of interest policies. The authors found that out of eighty-four journals, only twenty-eight had published policies, though a number of journals when contacted did respond that they did have such a policy. The authors found that frequency of policies varied among disciplines, with medical journals being the likeliest to have one and physics the least likely. Having a policy was correlated with the ranking of the journal, the highest impact journal in a discipline having a policy, as well as a reported history of conflict of interest problems. The authors found that though there was an increase in journals having conflict of interest policies from a study done in 1997, there is a further need for these policies to be readily available and to include a clear definition of conflict of interest and details about how disclosures would be managed during peer review and publication.

Bekelman, Justin E., Yan Li, and Cary P. Gross. 2003. Scope and impact of financial conflicts of interest in biomedical research. JAMA 289(4): 454-65.

This study sought to look at the extent, impact, and management of financial conflicts of interest in biomedical research. The authors found that financial relationships among scientific investigators, industry, and academic institutions are widespread, and that conflicts of interest arising from these ties can influence biomedical research in important ways.

Boyd, EA, and Lisa A. Bero. 2007. Defining financial conflicts and managing research relationships: An analysis of university conflict of interest committee decisions. Science and Engineering Ethics 13: 415-35.

This article analyzes the discussions and decisions of three conflict of interest committees in California universities to look at the decision-making processes of these committees, as they struggle to understand complex financial relationships, reconcile institutional, state, and federal policies, and protect the integrity of the scientific process.

Davis, Michael. 1998. Conflict of interest. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. San Diego: Academic Press.

This encyclopedia article provides a clear description of what is meant by a conflict of interest, different kinds of conflicts of interest that exist, and strategies for dealing with conflicts as they arise

DuVal, Gordon. Institutional conflicts of interest: Protecting human subjects, scientific integrity, and institutional accountability. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 32(4): 613-625.

Describes the difficulties arising from the conflicting interests of universities and research institutions overseeing research, and the potential threat these pose to human research subjects and research integrity. This is doubly true in regard to the shift of funding for biomedical research from government to industry, and the increasing commercial involvement in research.

Farthing, M.A. 2006. Authors and publication practices. Science and Engineering Ethics 12(1): 41-52.

Article discusses the need for authors, editors and reviews to disclose any conflicts of interests they may have.

Friedman, P.J. 2002. The impact of conflict of interest on trust in science. Science and Engineering Ethics 8(4):413-420.

The article discusses the erosive effect conflicts of interest have on the integrity of scientific research and how it damages the way in which the public views scientists and their work, and the relationships among scientists themselves. The author recognizes disclosure as the key way to manage conflicts of interest, but also reviews other ways to improve the situation such as the improvement of rules and sanctions, new techniques for avoidance of financial conflicts by developing new funding resources for evaluative research, and new thinking about how to reduce institutional conflicts of interest.

Gingras, Yves, and Pierre-Marc Gosselin. 2008. The emergence and evolution of the expression “conflict of interest” in “Science”: A historical overview, 1880-2006.

The article discusses the development of the concept of "conflicts of interest" in the area of science, and shows that the content of discussions over conflicts of interest have changed over time with the transformation of the research system. The authors look at the presence of the phrase "conflicts of interest" in the journal Science over the past century to show how three different meanings have emerged, and how the changes in meaning are closely linked with the changing structure of the relations between the scientific community with the State and with industry.

Glaser, B.E. and L.A. Bero. 2005. Attitudes of academic and clinical researchers toward financial ties in research: A systematic review. Science and Engineering Ethics. 11(4):553-573.

This article summarizes the data from seventeen surveys looking at the attitudes of researchers to financial ties in research. The literature review revealed that investigators are concerned about the impact of financial ties on choice of research topic, research conduct and publication, but this concern is less among investigators already involved with industry. Researchers approve of industry collaboration and financial ties when the ties are indirectly related to the research, disclosure is upfront, and results and ideas are freely publicized. However, their trust in disclosure as a way to manage conflicts may reveal a lack of awareness of the actual impact of financial incentives on themselves and other researchers.

Healy, David. 2003. In the grip of the python: Conflicts at the university-industry interface. Science and Engineering Ethics 9(1): 59-71.

The author discusses a case he was personally involved with where a pharmaceutical company he was working with infringed on his academic freedom. The author discusses some of the disturbing observations he made during his involvement in the case, including evidence that pharmaceutical companies have miscoded raw data on suicidal acts and suicidal ideation caused by their antidepressants, and a growing body of examples of ghostwriting of articles in the therapeutics domain. Many of the tensions evident in this case, therefore, can be linked to company abilities to keep clinical trial data out of the public domain. This, the author argues, is the point at which the pharmaceutical python gets a grip on academia.

Krimsky, S. and S. Rothenberg. 2001. Conflict of interest policies in science and medical journals: Editorial practices and author disclosures. Science and Engineering Ethics 7: 205-218.

This study looks at how scientific and biomedical journals have adopted conflict of interest policies for authors, and if these policies have lead to any financial disclosure statements being published by the journals. Of the journal editors surveyed, about three-fourths do publish these kinds of disclosure statements. The authors conjecture that this low rate suggests that either authors have a low rate of financial interest in the subject matter of their publications, or there is poor compliance to journals' conflict of interest policies.

Marklin, Ruth. 2008. How independent are IRBs? IRB: Ethics and Human Research 30(3): 15-19.

This article explores the independence of institutional review boards and other ethical committees charged with reviewing research proposals. The author discusses issues of conflict of interest that can arise, and suggests some different arrangements that could minimize conflicts of interest and ensure the operation of truly independent research ethics committees.

Martin, Joseph B. 2002. Academic-industrial relationships: Opportunities and pitfalls. Science and Engineering Ethics 8(3): 443-454.

This article discusses a meeting of leaders in academic medicine convened by the leadership of the Harvard Medical School to formulate guidelines on individual conflicts of interest that often arise in industry sponsored clinical trials at universities.

Reidenberg, M.M. 2002. Conflict of interest and medical publication. Science and Engineering Ethics 8(3): 455-457.

The paper discusses the ethical requirement for researchers to publish the results of some medical studies, even if the data is "negative". Since publication is an essential part of research and patients have been recruited into a study in the belief that they are participating in medical research, there is an ethical commitment to publish the observations made on volunteer subjects.

Resnik, David B. 1998. Conflicts of interest in science. Perspectives on Science 6(4): 381-408.

The essay gives an overview of some current conflict in interest policies, and distinguishes real, apparent, and potential conflicts of interest. It then looks at some short, fictional case studies and uses these to suggest some strategies for reducing the impact of conflicts of interest in science.

Schieppati, Arrigo, Norberto Perico and Guiseppe Remuzzi. 2002. Conflict of interest as seen from a researcher’s perspective. Science and Engineering Ethics 8(3):337-342.

Discusses how the expansion and the rush to market in the pharmaceutical industry is creating new conflicts of interest, and the need for academic medicine and governments to find means to sustain the development of independent clinical research to help avoid these conflicts from occurring.

Schrag, Brian, et al. 2003. Barking up the wrong tree? Industry funding of academic research: A case study with commentaries. Science and Engineering Ethics 9(4): 569-582.

This article presents a case study involving conflicts of interest arising from the industrial funding of academic research, and is accompanied by discussion questions and four commentaries about the case.

Sollitto, Sharmon, et al. 2003. Intrinsic conflicts of interest in clinical research: A need for disclosure. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 13(2): 83-91.

Though financial conflicts of interest are addressed by university policies, government regulations and professional guidelines, intrinsic conflicts of interest – or conflicts of interest in all clinical research, still pose many moral issues. They should be disclosed to research subjects and managed as assiduously as financial conflicts of interest.

Steiner, Daniel.Competing interests: The need to control conflict of interests in biomedical research. Science and Engineering Ethics 2(4): 457-468.

The author looks at the increasing concern over conflict of interests that occur in biomedical research, especially in regard to collaborative relationships between universities and industries that can make individual and organization financial conflicts of interest more acute. The author looks at the types of conflict of interest that can occur, and analyzes an actual problem posed by two proposed clinical trials.

Developed for the National Academy of Engineering's Online Ethics Center, 4/21/2010.