The World Medical Association developed the Declaration of Helsinki as a statement regarding ethical principles for medical research involving human research participants and directs physicians to promote and safeguard the health, well-being, and rights of patients. Included in this declaration is the requirement that each potential research participant be informed of possible conflicts of interest among the researchers conducting the study.1 Many clinical trials and biomedical research projects are funded by the private sector and have led to the development of important novel therapeutics and devices that improve the health of individuals and society.
Most institutions will have arrangements with regard to individual conflicts of interest (for researchers, professional/general staff, research ethics committee members, and those involved in research integrity investigations) but almost no institutions have processes to reflect om institutional conflicts but these have the potential to be at least as damaging as unresolved individual conflicts.
The lack of consistency among research institutions and universities related to managing institutional conflicts of interest must be addressed. Potential and real conflicts of interest require full disclosure to participants enrolled in research studies so that informed decisions can be made regarding participation. Institutional officers and committees responsible for protecting the integrity of research must also provide full disclosure and sufficient explanation regarding an investigator’s or the institution’s relationship to external entities that can either directly or indirectly affect research judgment.