Context: A growing number of academic researchers receive industry funding for clinical and basic research, but little is known about the personal financial relationships of researchers with their industry sponsors.
Objectives: To assess the extent to which faculty researchers have personal financial relationships with the sponsors of their research, the nature of those financial relationships, and efforts made at the institutional level to address disclosed financial relationships and perceived conflicts of interest.
Design and setting: Case study of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Data sources included disclosure forms and official documents maintained by the UCSF Office of Research Administration from December 1980 to October 1999, including decisions made by the UCSF Chancellor's Advisory Panel on Relations with Industry.
Main outcome measures: Number and types of personal financial relationships with external sponsors (positive financial disclosures from all clinical, basic, or social science faculty who were principal investigators), amount of annual income received from sponsors, and decisions and management strategies used by the advisory panel.
Results: By 1999, almost 7.6% of faculty investigators reported personal financial ties with sponsors of their research. Throughout the study period, 34% of disclosed relationships involved paid speaking engagements (range, $250-$20, 000 per year), 33% involved consulting agreements between researcher and sponsor (range, <$1000-$120,000 per year), and 32% involved the investigator holding a position on a scientific advisory board or board of directors. Fourteen percent involved equity ownership, and 12% involved multiple relationships. The advisory panel recommended managing perceived conflicts of interest in 26% of the cases, including recommending the sale of stock, refusing additional payment for talks, resigning from a management position, or naming a new principal investigator for a project.
Conclusions: Faculty researchers are increasingly involved in financial relationships with their research sponsors. Guidelines for what constitutes a conflict and how the conflict should be managed are needed if researchers are to have consistent standards of behavior among institutions. JAMA. 2000;284:2209-2214.