NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Scientists Fail To Report Financial Interests

February 2, 1999

In an era when some researchers are being accused of pursuing and publicizing "junk science," critics are pointing out that most scientists fail to reveal the sources of support for their work. To flag potential bias, researchers publishing studies are generally supposed to disclose any possible conflicts of interest they may have.

According to an analysis of 210 influential journals -- mostly in the biomedical field -- by Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University and L.S. Rothenberg of the University of California at Los Angeles:

  • A mere 0.5 percent of some 62,000 articles published in 1997 included information on the author's research-related financial ties -- such as stock ownership or patent rights.
  • All 210 journals in the survey have funding and personal- interest disclosure policies, yet 142 of them carried no disclosures whatsoever.
  • Until the early 1990s, few journals insisted on the disclosure of a funding source, but that practice was supposed to have become more widespread.

Krimsky says that in an earlier investigation of 800 scientific papers two years ago, he found that some 34 percent of authors had conflicts of interest -- none of them disclosed.

Last year, a New England Journal of Medicine study disclosed that virtually every researcher supporting the use of new hypertensive drugs had financial ties to the drug maker -- but not one of them was disclosed.

Source: Ralph T. King Jr., "Medical Journals Rarely Disclose Researchers' Ties," Wall Street Journal, February 2, 1999.

 

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