Conflict of interest in prevention research

First published: 09/05/2019 | Last updated: May 20th, 2019

Aims

Although it has become a source of concern in a number of scientific disciples in recent years, conflict of interest (COI) has received scant attention in the field of prevention research. Moreover, two recent contributions have come out against studying COI, arguing that it has no adverse affect on research quality and that the concept is too difficult to measure. These issues are discussed, and the extent to which COI is reported is examined through case studies

Methods

Definitions and measurements COI used in the prevention field were reviewed. This was followed by a review of recent studies addressing the effects of COI on research quality and a review of the difference between COI and researcher involvement in ensuring the integrity of program delivery. Disclosures of COI pertaining to two prominent prevention programs (Fast Track and the Strengthening Families Program 10-14) were then examined.

Results

There are a number of definitions of COI that can be operationalized and measured. There is also sufficient evidence linking COI to the use of irregular data analysis practices to raise concern about the effects of the former on research quality. Reporting of COI has improved over time, but there are still gaps and the nature of the conflict affects the likelihood that it is reported.

Conclusions

Prevention research must abandon the idea that investigators are immune to the negative influence of COI on research quality by virtue of their ‘disciplined passion’. Journals should have rigorous reporting requirements and ensure that conflicts are reported.

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Dr Dennis Gorman