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The Ties That Bind

The Ties That BindNew Tufts study finds few scientists and researchers report financial ties that may influence their work.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.27.01] While as many as one in every two researchers have a financial stake in their industries, a new Tufts study shows that few divulge their ties alongside their published research.

Calling the Tufts study "the first comprehensive analysis of disclosure policies," The New York Times reported that fewer than one percent of the published articles included a disclosure.

Tufts' Sheldon Krimsky and a colleague reviewed over 61,000 scholarly articles in 181 journals to determine how many scientists reported any industry ties -- a disclosure required by many journals.

"Just one half of one percent detailed personal financial interests, including consulting arrangements, honorariums, expert witness fees, company equity and stock and patents," the Times reported. "All of those few disclosures appeared in just a third of the 181 journals."

While it may be possible that few scientists have conflicts to report, Krimsky said that explanation for his findings is unlikely.

The Tufts professor of urban and environmental policy told the Times that either the editors of many journals "are not forceful enough" in enforcing their disclosure policies or many scientists simply break the rules.

"Growth in university-industry collaborations has intensified the conflicts of interest among academic researchers and weakened public trust in science," Krimsky said. "Disclosure of such interests, while not a panacea, will help to restore that trust."

Other findings included:

* 74 percent of the editors reported that they always or almost always publish conflict-of-interest disclosures while nearly 11 percent never do so.

* 19 percent said they have rejected a submitted manuscript primarily on conflict-of-interest grounds.

* 54 percent reported that they expect peer reviewers to use financial interest information in their evaluation of manuscripts.

* 36 percent indicated that they do not request financial conflict-of-interest information from peer reviewers.

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