The purpose of this paper is to bring attention to the complex issue of conflicts of interest (COIs) from the point of view of Scientific Societies and their responsibility in managing secondary interests possibly undermining their activities such as improvement of professional quality, research promotion, and development of guidelines. The first publication on the issue of COIs dates back to more than a century, but only in the last decades the related ethical and legal problems have received public and professional attention. The growing role of industry in biomedical research, the significant decrease in public contributions to health, care, training, and research, and the involvement of physicians in industry-funded research have obliged to study how to identify and manage COIs. The Bioethics and Palliative Care Study Group of the Italian Neurological Society addressed the issue with a specific focus on Scientific Societies that, in our opinion, should also set an example for individual practice, raising awareness among their associates on COIs and implementing strategies for their identification and management. The paper is focused on the nature of the COI, why and how it could be managed, which policies can be implemented, and which kind of action should be considered by Scientific Societies. We emphasize the role of Scientific Societies in fostering knowledge and awareness of conflicts of interest through training and continuing education.
Keywords: Biomedical research; Conflict of interest; Ethics; Pharmaceutical industry; Policy; Scientific Society.