The scientific method defined and described


Conflicts of interest are a trivial problem



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Conflicts of interest are a trivial problem


Not all financial ties between researchers and business constitute conflicts of interest

Joseph Palca (staff senior correspondent), “Ethics in science: NIH grapples with conflict of interest,” Science, July 7, 1989, p. 23

“The nature of the financial tie between a university researcher and a commercial company can also determine whether the relationship is acceptable. Johns Hopkins University permits paid consultantships for its faculty, but a researcher may not hold an equity interest in a company that supports his research.”
Conflicts are extremely rare

Joseph Palca (staff senior correspondent), “Ethics in science: NIH grapples with conflict of interest,” Science, July 7, 1989, p. 23

“The University of California has extensive reporting requirements for researchers receiving funds from nongovernment sources. But if California’s experience is at all typical, the problem of unacceptable conflicts of interest is a relatively small one. Belle Cole from the US system told the conference that in reviewing some 28,000 statements of outside support over the past seven years, the university found only seven to be inappropriate.”
Charges of conflict are politically motivated

Joseph Palca (staff senior correspondent), “Ethics in science: NIH grapples with conflict of interest,” Science, July 7, 1989, p. 23

“Korn drew applause from the conference participants when he criticized Representative Weiss’s zeal for investigating conflict of interest charges in universities, since his own organization has been accused of harboring special interests.”
Honor codes avert conflicts of interest

Eliot Marshall (staff writer, subsequently deputy news editor), “When Commerce and Academe Collide,” Science, April 13, 1990, p. 154

“Caltech, for example, relies on its strong honor code to keep the faculty out of conflict situations, according to vice provost David Goodstein. ‘There are no requirements for disclosure as far as I know,’ he says. The only ‘really explicit rule’ is that faculty may not take operational responsibilities outside the school. ‘We have not had any problems,’ Goodstein says.”
Voluntary screening averts conflicts of interest

Joseph Palca (staff senior correspondent), “Ethics in science: NIH grapples with conflict of interest,” Science, July 7, 1989, p. 23

“Bernadine Healy of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation published a statement in this year’s 6 April issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that no one participating in a large clinical trial of anti-cholesterol drugs that she heads would have any financial ties to the companies that manufacture the drugs. Financial ties would include buying, selling, or holding stocks in one of the companies or serving as a paid consultant for the company. Healy argued that such restrictions would eliminate any taint to the study’s conclusion.”
Science journals have been policing conflicts of interest for decades

Sheldon Krimsky (Dept. of Urban and Environmental Policy at Tufts University) and L.S. Rotherberg (Dept. of medicine, Univ. of California at Los Angeles), “Conflict of Interest Policies in Science and Medical Journals,” Science and Engineering Ethics, Vol. 7, #2 (2001), p. 206

“Prompted by a new awareness of the growth of academic-industry collaborations and author financial interests related to their research, scientific journals began introducing conflict of interest (COI) policies in the mid-1980s. Conflict of interest has been defined as a set of conditions in which professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) tends to be unduly influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Biomedical journals were among the earliest to adopt such requirements in their ‘Instructions to Authors’. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, a small non-representative group of medical journal editors, has recommended both to authors and editors that financial associations that ‘may pose a conflict of interest’ should be disclosed.”
Researcher ties with industry may benefit the national interest

Deborah Runkle (staff writer), “Conflicts of Interest in Science,” Science, December 1, 1989, p. 1117

“Pointed comment was provided by George C. Levy, director if a Syracuse University data processing lab and founder of New Methods Research, Inc. The company was set up to explore the commercial potential of software developed at the lab and pays it royalties. ‘Undoubtedly I have split loyalties. That really is a problem,’ he said. ‘But the alternative is to let the Japanese buy the United States.’”
Researcher ties with industry may benefit science

Joseph Palca (staff senior correspondent), “Ethics in science: NIH grapples with conflict of interest,” Science, July 7, 1989, p. 23

“But others see Healy’s positions as unnecessarily restrictive. Paul Lietman, a clinical pharmacologist from Johns Hopkins University, argues that long-term consultantships with pharmaceutical companies provide researchers with information that will help them design drugs. Leitman says that even during the study of a particular drug a paid consultantship is legitimate so long as the study is constructed in such a way as to eliminate investigator bias.”
There is no evidence linking financial incentives to invalid science

Sheldon Krimsky (Professor, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, Tufts University), “The Profit of Scientific Discovery and its Normative Implications,” The Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 75 (1999), p. 33

“Some scientists and journal editors scoffed at the idea that such relationships could compromise the integrity of their work. They argued that professional rewards like tenure and promotion or leadership positions in professional societies were more important in influencing the behavior of scientists than consulting relationships or patent applications. The new attention placed on financial conflicts of interest was compared by some to ‘witch trials,’ where guilt was determined by association. These critics are correct, however, in pointing out that there has never been a credible link found between cases of scientific misconduct and conflicts of interest, despite the effort by a congressional subcommittee report to draw the connection.”
New regulations would stifle research

Joseph Palca (staff senior correspondent), “Ethics in science: NIH grapples with conflict of interest,” Science, July 7, 1989, p. 23

“While universities appear willing to take the question of conflict of interest seriously, there is a fear that draconian regulations may be imposed that will stifle research. David Korn, dean of the Stanford University Medical School, says that Stanford’s policy relies heavily on the integrity of individuals. ‘Faculty in universities are a very unregulatable bunch of people by tradition, so that whenever somebody tries to impose a set of new requirements, faculty are extremely suspicious and unwilling to go along.”
Intensive focus on conflict-of-interest issues undermines scientific research

Sheldon Krimsky (Professor, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, Tufts University), “When Conflict-of-Interest is a Factor in Scientific Misconduct,” Medicine and Law, Vol. 26 (2007), p. 460

“In a lengthy and acerbic letter to the journal Environmental Science & Technology, president and principal scientist of the company Applied Pharmacology & Toxicology, Inc. Christopher Borgert wrote that the demand by journals for disclosure of interests among scientists ‘erodes the epistemological basis of scientific reasoning because it focuses subjectivity on the participants in science rather than objectively on the scientific evidence.’ According to Borgert: ‘In science, the facts are asked to first speak for themselves in order to enhance objectivity. The method of science randomizes, double-blinds, measures, controls for biases and confounders, tests probabilities, and replicated in order to remove the participants as far as possible from the process of observation and interpretation ... Scientists should advocate transparency of the scientific process and should insist that scientific journals, funding agencies, and peer-review bodies abandon demands of financial and political disclosure in favor of accessible and verifiable data and transparent methods as the exclusive determinants of scientific merit. To do otherwise is to accede to the invidious doctrine of antiscience interests bent on deciding issues by ad hominem arguments rather than by testable facts.’” [Ellipsis in original text]



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