Within research, a conflict of interest refers to a situation in which an individual involved in undertaking research has an alternative interest that may compromise, or appear to compromise, their judgment and/or the integrity of the research.
For example, a researcher studying a new product has a conflict of interest if they will receive a significant financial reward if their study results in positive findings. The conflict arises because the financial gain to be had by the researcher could lead to a real/perceived increased bias in their conducting/reporting of the research.
According to Newcastle University’s Code of Good Practice in Research, researchers should declare and manage any real/potential conflicts of interest, which might include:
- Where the researcher has an existing/potential interest in the outcome of the research.
- Where there is a private, or private practice, benefit that is significantly dependent on the outcome of the research.
- Where the researcher’s professional/personal gain from the research could be more than might be usual for research.
Researchers may be offered funding from an individual/organisation to conduct research. Before accepting, researchers should carefully consider whether accepting the funding could lead to a conflict of interest. They should consider:
- What are the motives of the funder?
- Are the motives in agreement with the University’s aim to further excellence in scholarship, teaching and research?
- Could the funder place any restrictions on the publication of the research?
- Could the results be exploited by the funder in any way that could pose harm or increased risk of harm?
- Would acceptance of the funding lead to a bias/perceived bias in the research design or results?
- Does the funder have a declared ethical policy and record?
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