Why Having a (Nonfinancial) Interest Is Not a Conflict of Interest

PLoS Biol. 2016 Dec 21;14(12):e2001221. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001221. eCollection 2016 Dec.


A current debate about conflicts of interest related to biomedical research is to question whether the focus on financial conflicts of interest overshadows "nonfinancial" interests that could put scientific judgment at equal or greater risk of bias. There is substantial evidence that financial conflicts of interest such as commercial sponsorship of research and investigators lead to systematic biases in scientific research at all stages of the research process. Conflation of "conflicts of interest" with "interests" in general serves to muddy the waters about how to manage conflicts of interest. We call for heightened disclosure of conflicts of interest and policy action beyond disclosure as the sole management strategy. We propose a different strategy to manage interests more broadly to ensure fair representation and accountability.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics*
  • Conflict of Interest*

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.