Lesson #1

Kevin C. Elliott

in Is a Little Pollution Good for You?

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199755622
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199827121 | DOI:
Lesson #1

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This chapter argues that current financial conflict‐of‐interest (COI) policies are severely limited in their ability to prevent powerful interest groups from hijacking university research. It considers the three major elements of these policies (i.e., elimination of conflicts, disclosure, and management) and argues that none of them is likely to be both effective and practical. Given the current economic emphasis on creating links between universities and industry, outright elimination of conflicts will generally not be feasible. Moreover, despite the popularity of disclosure policies, psychologists warn that those who receive information about conflicts are often unable to employ that information effectively. By highlighting the wide array of value judgments that permeate scientific practice, this book strengthens these psychological arguments by highlighting how difficult it would be for the recipients of information to estimate how financial conflicts might be influencing such a diverse array of judgments. Finally, the prevalence of these judgments makes it unlikely that management committees could prevent questionable influences on science without instituting an unreasonable amount of bureaucratic oversight. Chapter 4 suggests that, instead of depending only on COI policies, university administrators and policy makers would do well to consider at least five additional options. These include providing more funding for independent research, preventing particularly egregious institutional conflicts, creating trial registries, and developing both adversarial and consensual deliberative forums.

Keywords: hormesis; conflict of interest; bias; disclosure; special interests; value judgments; deliberation; research ethics

Chapter.  12051 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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