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Conflicting Interests

Learn more about conflict of interest.

There is one aspect that we all should consider when thinking about who conducts research, what is the purpose and objective of their research and who pays for it.

The issue is the conflicting interest that may arise in the process of funding research, in conducting research, in disseminating the results, and in the recognition of merits and contributions.

Funds for public research, that should ideally be independent and to the benefit of all (if not all, at least a part of us and possibly those in need) are usually scarce, the personnel is extremely busy with teaching activities or searching for funds, or to go to meetings, or to publish articles (necessary for their job position). And are often underpaid as compared to professionals with the same competence but working for the industry. There is no polemic in this, both are qualified professionals; owever this is a fact. Private research, on the other side, thrives to reach a different set of goals: to increase the Company’s business, to raise and protect the Company’s patents and get new ones, to have the Company win credibility and trust upon their costumers, protect and promote their image and brand, etc… At the same time, these goals should be in parallel to please the consumers or clients with their products or services. Nothing wrong or illegitimate in all this, in fact if a Company grows it will create jobs. But clearly the goal is different, and the Company’s internal research points to a different direction, that is not necessarily for benefit of all.

Now, conflict of interests come in many forms, which fall in two main categories :

*when a subject – at the same time – “serves two masters” with opposite or contrasting objectives,
*when a subject is – at the same time – the one who decides on and the one who benefits from a decision.

They are both very wrong, because they induce people to manipulate situations, to be unfair and unjust. But in research this is even worse, as people may be tempted to even hide unwanted results, bluff on desired results or even fake. Regrettably, episodes of frauds or fake in research have occurred and therefore the issue can not be overlooked.

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