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Eval Program Plann. 2007 Nov;30(4):422-9. Epub 2007 Jul 6.

Conflict of interest in the evaluation and dissemination of "model" school-based drug and violence prevention programs.

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1
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Texas A&M Health Science Center, School of Rural Public Health, TAMU 1266, College Station, TX 77843-1266, USA. gorman@srph.tamhsc.edu

Abstract

Conflict of interest refers to a set of conditions in which professional judgment concerning the validity of research might be influenced by a secondary competing interest. The competing interest that has received most attention in the literature addressing the prevalence and effects of such conflicts on the practice of empirical research has been that of financial relationships between investigators and research sponsors. The potential for conflicts of interest to arise in the evaluation of drug prevention programs was raised by Moskowitz in this journal in 1993, but to date there has been no attempt made to estimate the scope of this problem. The present study addressed this issue using a sample of "model" school-based drug and violence prevention interventions by first, identifying the types or relationships that exist between program developers and program distributors, and, second, by assessing how many of the evaluations of these programs published in peer-reviewed journals had been conducted by the developers of the programs compared to independent evaluation teams. The data presented indicate that there are relatively few published evaluations that do not involve program developers and that there are few instances in which there is complete separation between the program developer and program distributor. Using the open systems model of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Research Integrity as a framework, it is argued that the culture and norms of the program developer and those of the program evaluator are fundamentally distinct and therefore failure to separate these roles produces high potential for conflict of interest to arise.

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