Institutional conflict-of-interest policies at US academic research institutions, Resnik D.B, Ariansen, MS, Jamal, J. and Kissling, G.E.
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This informative although confined study shows that only 28% of United States academic research institutions have published or accessible policies about institutional conflicts of interest. Most had policies regarding conflicts of interest of faculty members and of members of institutional review boards.
In our work with Australian tertiary institutions, we have noticed a similar trend but have not assessed its extent. We agree with the authors of this resource that institutional conflicts of interest are important and need to be addressed publicly and specifically.
The authors refer to the Jesse Gelsinger incident involving the University of Pennsylvania and the subsequent enquiry that showed the likely influence of such conflicts. A more notorious example was that involving Dr Nancy Olivieri, the University of Toronto and the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. This was a long-running and complex saga that culminated in a 500 page report by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. The importance of the issues and the challenges they present to those involved in ethical conduct of research are well described by Baylis.
Institutional conflicts of interest (ICOIs) occur when the institution or leaders with authority to act on behalf of the institution have conflicts of interest (COIs) that may threaten the objectivity, integrity, or trustworthiness of research because they could impact institutional decision making. The purpose of this study was to gather and analyze information about the ICOI policies of the top 100 U.S. academic research institutions, ranked according to total research funding.
From May–June 2014, the authors attempted to obtain ICOI policy information for the top 100 U.S. academic research institutions from publicly available Web sites or via e-mail inquiry. If an ICOI policy was not found, the institutions’ online COI policies were examined. Data on each institution’s total research funding, national funding rank, public versus private status, and involvement in clinical research were collected. The authors developed a coding system for categorizing the ICOI policies and used it to code the policies for nine items. Interrater agreement and P values were assessed.
Only 28/100 (28.0%) institutions had an ICOI policy. ICOI policies varied among the 28 institutions. Having an ICOI policy was positively associated with total research funding and national funding ranking but not with public versus private status or involvement in clinical research.
Although most U.S. medical schools have policies that address ICOIs, most of the top academic research institutions do not. Federal regulation and guidance may be necessary to encourage institutions to adopt ICOI policies and establish a standard form of ICOI review.
Resnik, D. B., Ariansen, J. L., Jamal, J., & Kissling, G. E. (2016). Institutional Conflict of Interest Policies at U.S. Academic Research Institutions. Academic medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 91(2), 242-6. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000980
HHS Public access: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4731244/