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Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice
eral government (through a presidential memo) established policies to limit conflicts of interest among special government employees serving as advisory committee members and consultants. In the academic community, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the American Council on Education (ACE) issued a joint statement, On Preventing Conflicts of Interest in Government-Sponsored Research at Universities (AAUP/ACE, 1965). The statement spoke of the importance of university-industry relationships but stressed the need to protect the integrity of educational institutions in the face of ties between these institutions and both government and industry. It called for universities to advise government research agencies about the steps they were taking to avoid problems. According to McNeil and Roberts (1991), this statement forestalled government regulation and led to the adoption of policies by most major research universities of “very general guidelines” on conflict of interest that relied on faculty-initiated disclosure (p. 149). By 1967, a number of universities, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, Chicago, Minnesota, and California, had adopted conflict of interest policies that had been approved by the Federal Office of Science and Technology (Wellman, 1967).
A few years after AAUP and ACE issued their statement and after some incidents that raised concerns about bias and conflict of interest, the National Academy of Sciences approved a letter, On Potential Sources of Bias, which it issued in 1971. The letter asked members of the organization’s scientific study committees to describe financial and other factors that in their judgment “others may deem prejudicial” (quoted in Parascandola ). According to Parascandola, “[s]cientists universally opposed the policy, however, for a range of reasons—while some argued that all experienced and knowledgeable experts were inherently conflicted, others were offended at the suggestion that any expert could be biased” (p. 3774).
Such negatives responses to conflict of interest policies continue. Nonetheless, the adoption of policies has expanded as the scope and complexity of relationships with industry have increased and instances of questionable or illegal behavior have accumulated—with the attendant negative publicity.
In 1984, the Association of American Universities declined to propose conflict of interest policies for its members, but it did undertake a survey of university policies (OTA, 1984; McNeil and Roberts, 1991). It found that 19 of the 46 responding institutions relied on faculty members to determine whether they had a possible conflict of interest and then to initiate disclosure; 26 institutions had a university-initiated, annual disclosure process (reported in Maatz ). In addition, 21 schools had policies on faculty equity or managerial ties to industry that required disclosure and approval.
In what appears to be the first policy of its sort, the editor of the New