Addressing conflicts of interest in the research paper: A societal demand in contemporary science?

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In the last decade, dialogue between science and society has found a forum in an increasing number of publications on topics such as public engagement with science and public trust in science. Concerning the latter, issues that include cases of research misconduct, accountability in research, and conflicts of interest (COIs) have shaped global discussions on the communication of science. In the publication setting, the perception that hiding COIs and/or not managing them well may affect public trust in the research record has grown among editors. We conducted a search for editorials addressing COIs between 1989 and 2011, using four major databases: Medline/PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Knowledge. We explored the content of these editorials and the relationship they established between COIs and the public trust in science. Our results demonstrate that the relationship between disclosure of COIs and public trust in science has become a major concern among editors. We, thus, argue that COIs should be discussed more openly and frequently in graduate courses in the sciences, around the globe, not only in biomedical but also in non-biomedical areas. This is a critical issue in contemporary science, as graduate students are the future voices and decision-makers of the research community. Therefore, COIs, especially in the broader context of science and society, merit closer attention from policymakers, researchers, and educators. At times of great expectations for public engagement with science, mishandling of COIs may have undesirable consequences for public engagement with science and confidence in the scientific endeavor.




Vasconcelos, S. M. R., Cassimiro, M. C., Martins, M. F. M., & Palácios, M. (2013). Addressing conflicts of interest in the research paper: A societal demand in contemporary science? Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 46(12), 1007–1013.

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