Ethics Issues in Academic-Industry Relationships in the Life Sciences: The Continuing Debate
Academic Medicine. 1996 Dec; 71(12): 1291-1296.
The author reviews in detail the status of academic-industry relationships (AIRs) in the life sciences from both ethical and empirical perspectives, and identifies ethical issues that have been resolved and those that must still be debated. He summarizes by stating that ethical reasoning militates against the involvement of scientists and universities in those AIRs in which a financial conflict of interest on the part of life science investigators may affect the welfare of human subjects and trainees. Even in other types of AIRs, conflicts of interest have effects on professional decision making that could damage the integrity and productivity of life sciences research, especially scientists' withholding of data and their redirecting of research in more commercial directions. These effects could also help undermine public trust in and support of university researchers. Balanced against these worrisome effects are the benefits of AIRs in increasing some investigators' creativity and productivity, in encouraging technology transfer, and thus in promoting economic growth and public health. He concludes that more research is needed on the harms and benefits of AIRs, especially the development of better data on the effects of withholding data, and also on the economic and health benefits of AIRs and public attitudes toward issues of scientific research that involve possible conflicts of interest. More information on these questions would allow policymakers to make more realistic estimates of the gains and losses associated with AIRs. In the meantime, current information suggests that in general the conflicts of interest created by AIRs are real, consequential, but tolerable if managed carefully. Until more is known about the effects of AIRs, it is prudent for universities and faculty to participate at modest levels in such relationships and to monitor them carefully. This article is one of three in this issue of Academic Medicine that deal with issues of conflict of interest in university-industry research relationships. These articles are discussed in an overview that precedes them.
Attitudes; Biomedical Research; Conflict of Interest; Decision Making; Disclosure; Ethics; Faculty; Financial Support; Health; Human Experimentation; Industry; Information Dissemination; Investigators; Life; Life Sciences; Medicine; Public Health; Regulation; Research; Researchers; Risks and Benefits; Science; Technology; Technology Transfer; Trust; Universities;
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