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Account Res. 2004 Apr-Jun;11(2):83-102.

Conflicts of interest in academic research: policies, processes, and attitudes.

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  • 1University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Few studies have examined academic researchers' understandings or attitudes toward conflict of interest policies even though these understandings and attitudes represent a crucial component of both compliance and educational efforts. This study reports the results of a large-scale, cross-sectional survey of research faculty at the nine campuses of the University of California regarding their understandings of and attitudes toward campus conflict of interest policies. We gathered information on their general assessments of investigators with financial ties to industry sponsors and reactions to the process of implementing conflict of interest policies at their respective campuses. We surveyed 1,971 faculty members from the nine-campus University of California system and had 779 responses (39% response rate). The sampled faculty were in the ten departments with the most number of financial disclosures at each campus. We utilized the WebSurveyor software to create a secure, online, 21-item survey. Our study reveals faculty with complex, sometimes contradictory, feelings about academic-industry relationships and highlights perceived gaps in policy and process. Most respondents were concerned about unlimited financial relationships, but a sizable number also viewed campus policies as irrelevant. Some expressed considerable anger over the process of policy implementation, rejecting the policies on the basis of professional and individual self-determination and moral integrity. Our study suggests the need for renewed efforts to encourage awareness of the relevance of conflict of interest policies for all faculty, new efforts to increase understanding of the situational nature of conflicts of interest, and reexamination of the processes of policy implementation at the campus level.

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