Conflict of interest

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The importance of formal procedures to deal with allegations of research misconduct

Professor Richard Epstein (University of Chicago Law School) has written an article in which he emphasises the importance of "established and settled institutional arrangements" (rather than "sloppy and ad hoc procedures") to investigate allegations of research misconduct in each university. Epstein points out that there should be no appearance of bias by the person(s) responsible for the investigation. Referring to his own experience in shaping the procedures at the University of Chicago, he writes that: "in order to avoid any risk of bias, the appointment of the

How should researchers procure goods and services?

Prof. Mark Israel (Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services) has kindly given permission for this hypothetical case study to be reproduced. Simon has been awarded a grant by the UGC. The research will require him to purchase services from interpreters, travel agents, and employ research assistants. He suspects that he might get the best deal from his wife's translation agency, his brother's travel agency, and the daughter of a senior manager at the UGC, who topped the class in the relevant area, is looking for

Should you accept conference honoraria/travel funding from a sponsor?

Professor Peter Miller (School of Psychology, Deakin University) and others argue in an article that researchers should be aware that their objectivity might be compromised if they accept honoraria and travel funds from a sponsor that funds industry-favourable research. Also, they highlight the opportunities to fraternise with industry executives at such conferences. They give the example of the alcohol industry sponsoring academics to attend conferences, at which industry executives have the opportunity to meet researchers. Miller and others argue that, because the alcohol industry funds

Should you peer review an article written by a former colleague?

Prof. Mark Israel (Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services) has kindly given permission for this hypothetical case study to be reproduced. Karen is asked by a journal to review an article written by a former colleague. They have not co-authored together, though they did discuss doing so once. They are both in the same very narrow field of specialisation and have found themselves repeatedly competing for the same jobs around the world. This article appears to be covering similar ground to the work Karen recently

How to decide whether to accept sponsorship funding: PERIL analysis

In an article published in 2007, Peter Adams proposed a decision-making framework known as 'PERIL'. Peter Miller summarises Adams' PERIL framework as follows: Purpose refers to the degree to which purposes are divergent between funder and recipient. For example, if the primary purpose of the recipient is the advancement of public good, receiving funds from dangerous consumption industries such as tobacco, alcohol and gambling will probably conflict with this purpose. Similarly, the risk is mitigated partially if the funder has a clear public good role.

CityU researcher convicted after failure to disclose interest

Facts The researcher was an associate professor in the Department of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU). She was also Associate Director of the Southeast Asian Research Centre (SARC) at CityU. In 2006, SARC obtained a grant of HK$53 million from the British Government to conduct a research project, 'Women's Empowerment in Muslim Contexts'. The Defendant (D) was the main person responsible for the project. D requested quotations from four service providers for the supply of IT services for the project,

How do you avoid conflicts between academic and other commitments?

Prof. Mark Israel (Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services) has kindly given permission for this hypothetical case study to be reproduced. Nolan has a number of commercial clients who have interests in international trusts. In his position as an academic, he has been asked to advise the Hong Kong government on whether or how these should be subject to anti-avoidance rules. He has been asked to avoid any conflicts of interest over this period. What activities might be incompatible with this position? See: Conflict of

Conflict of interest and suppression of legitimate results by a sponsor – a COPE case study

One case study from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) website ( The journal is operated by institute A, and the editor is an employee of institute A. A manuscript was submitted late in 2014 by authors from institute B, a similar type of organisation in the same country. The manuscript was reviewed by two referees who both recommended publication following minor revision. One of the reviewers noted that the abstract contained a vague statement related to the effectiveness of a treatment for a major

R (BAT) v DOH – a landmark judgment on research integrity

On 19 May 2016, Mr Justice Green handed down his judgment in the English High Court case of R. (on the application of British American Tobacco UK Ltd & Others) v Secretary of State for Health [2016] EWHC 1169 (Admin) in which the claimant tobacco companies challenged the legality of the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015. This decision is significant as Mr Justice Green discusses the way in which the Court, in the context of a judicial review, should evaluate expert evidence in

Conflict of interest: HKU and other policies

The HKU Policy on Research Integrity covers conflict of interest in the following sections: Section 1 ('Principles of Research Integrity'): In pursuing their research activities, members of the University should adhere to good research practices; and should not be engaged in research misconduct such as ... non-disclosure of potential conflict of interest. Section 2.2 ('Publication-related conduct'): Where appropriate and with their permission, names of individuals or organisations which have made significant contributions to the research and the roles they played in the project should be acknowledged in publications.  These include