with judgment about grants worthy of funding or papers worthy of publication. Similarly, though not formally acknowledged, romantic relationships can interfere with a researcher’s judgment (and have the potential to lead to charges of sexual harassment and discrimination). For this reason, romantic relationships between professors and their advisees are generally unwise and are often prohibited by university policy.

Regulations and codes of conduct specify how some of these conflicts should be identified and managed. Funding agencies, research organizations, and many journals have policies that require researchers to identify their financial interests and personal relationships. Researchers should be aware of these policies and understand how they benefit science and their professional reputation. In some cases, the conflict cannot be allowed, and other ways must be found to carry out the research. Other financial conflicts of interest are managed through a formal review process in which potential conflicts are identified, disclosed, and discussed. However managed, timely and full disclosure of relevant information is important, since in some cases researchers joining a team or project may not be aware of a problem.

Conflicts of interest should be distinguished from conflicts of commitment. Researchers, particularly students, have to make difficult decisions about how to divide their time between research and other responsibilities, how to serve their scientific disciplines, how to respect their employer’s interests, mission, and values, and how to represent science to the broader society. Conflicts between these commitments can be a source of considerable strain in a researcher’s life and can cause problems in his or her career. Managing these responsibilities is challenging but different from managing conflicts of interest.

As in the case of conflicts of interest, many institutional policies offer some guidance on conflicts of commitment. For example, there are limits in many academic institutions regarding time spent on

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement