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ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 5. Conflicts of Interest

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If a researcher has a significant conflict of interest, as defined by Federal, state, institutional, journal, or other policies, it must be reported and managed or eliminated. “Managing” a conflict means finding a way to assure that the interests do not adversely influence the research. Some options for managing conflicts of interest include:
  • requiring full disclosure of all interests so that others are aware of potential conflicts and can act accordingly;
  • monitoring the research or checking research results for accuracy and objectivity; or
  • removing the person with the conflict from crucial steps in the research process, such as the interpretation of data or participating in a particular review decision.
These and other options are either worked out by a conflict of interest review committee or an administrator charged with overseeing conflicts of interest.
If the conflicts cannot be managed and could have an adverse impact on the research, then they must be eliminated, by divesting equity, reducing the income received from the research, assigning supervisory responsibilities to someone else, stepping out of the room when a particular proposal is discussed, or some other action.
 
Finally, it is important to note that research administrators, funding agencies, journal editors, and conflict of interest committees, not the researcher, should make final decisions about the management of conflicts of interest. This protects the researcher from charges of acting in her or his own interest and helps assure that the most responsible decisions are made.