Over the last thirty years, the commercialization of science in the United States and around the world has increased dramatically. The revolution in genetics, patent protections for bioengineered molecules, laws strengthening intellectual property rights, and the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act authorizing licensing and patenting of results from federally-sponsored research created new incentives for scientists, clinicians, and academic institutions to join forces with for-profit industry in an unprecedented array of entrepreneurial activities.
Although many have cheered partnerships between industry and the research community, it is also acknowledged that they entail conflicts of interest that may compromise the judgment of trusted professionals, the credibility of research institutions and scientific journals, the safety and transparency of human subjects research, the norms of free inquiry, and the legitimacy of science-based policy.
- There is strong evidence that researchers’ financial ties to chemical, pharmaceutical, or tobacco manufacturers directly influence their published positions in supporting the benefit or downplaying the harm of the manufacturers’ product.
- A growing body of evidence indicates that pharmaceutical industry gifts and inducements bias clinicians’ judgments and influence doctors’ prescribing practices.
- There are well-known cases of industry seeking to discredit or prevent the publication of research results that are critical of its products.
- Studies of life-science faculty indicate that researchers with industry funding are more likely to withhold research results in order to secure commercial advantage.
- Increasingly, the same academic institutions that are responsible for oversight of scientific integrity and human subjects protection are entering financial relationships with the industries whose product-evaluations they oversee.
In response to the commercialization of science and the growing problem of conflicts of interest, the Integrity in Science Project seeks to:
- raise awareness about the role that corporate funding and other corporate interests play in scientific research, oversight, and publication;
- investigate and publicize conflicts of interest and other potentially destructive influences of industry-sponsored science;
- advocate for full disclosure of funding sources by individuals, governmental and non-governmental organizations that conduct, regulate, or provide oversight of scientific investigation or promote specific scientific findings;
- encourage policy-makers at all levels of government to seek balance on expert advisory committees and to provide public, web-based access to conflict-of-interest information collected in the course of committee formation;
- encourage journalists to routinely ask scientists and others about their possible conflicts of interests and to provide this information to the public.