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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsShould we try to manage non-financial interests? (Papers: Miriam Wiersma, et al)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Should we try to manage non-financial interests? (Papers: Miriam Wiersma, et al)


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Ideological biases influence medical research and practice and should be disclosed and managed, say Miriam Wiersma and colleagues. But Marc Rodwin argues that many of these interests are widespread and inherent to life and cannot be avoided or eliminated

Yes—Miriam Wiersma, Ian Kerridge, Wendy Lipworth

This is a great contribution to the discussion about non-financial conflicts of interest.

Non-financial conflicts of interest in medical research and practice, which include those of a political, ideological, individual, or religious nature,1 2 are often overlooked, denied, and even defined out of existence.3 4 The focus is directed instead towards financial interests, such as those stemming from drug industry sponsorship of research, or payments to doctors. But dismissing non-financial conflicts of interest is naive, empirically unfounded, and dangerous. It is also unnecessary because non-financial conflicts can be managed with nuance and sensitivity.

Strong drivers
Research shows, and common sense dictates, that people are driven at least as much by non-financial motives as they are by financial gain. These motives, which include the desire to protect ourselves or our family from harm, to reinforce our deeply held beliefs and values, to reciprocate gifts or favours, to attain status, and to avoid social disapproval, unquestionably exert a powerful influence on human behaviour.5 6 As argued by Cappola and Fitzgerald in relation to academia, “the prospect of fame may be even more seductive than fortune.”7

Wiersma, M., Kerridge, I,. Lipworth, W., Rodwin, M.. (2018). “Should we try to manage non-financial interests?” BMJ 361.

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