Intellectual Conflicts of Interest Pose Hidden Dangers to Scientific Accuracy

Maurie Markman, MD
Published: Thursday, Jan 31, 2019
Maurie Markman, MD

Maurie Markman, MD
The model of an independent and self-regulating academic medical community continues to be challenged through widely reported accusations of serious scientific misconduct,1 failure of investigators to report potential financial conflicts of interest,2 and suggestions of inadequate transparency related to the questionable role of academic researchers in the analysis and reporting of industry-sponsored clinical trial results.3

Further, potential bias concerning a favorable or unfavorable view of a research project or submitted publication may in reality represent the biases of a collective of individuals rather than a single person. This unfortunate outcome may result from a group’s standard training or prior mentoring experiences, but the point is that this training may fail the test of open-minded as well as clinically valid scientific rigor. The concern here is that if one has an inherent bias when approaching a particular clinical subject, the conclusions reached by an investigator (either positive or negative) may matter more than the critical details of how the supporting analysis was conducted and reported. And that can be a serious, if not a fatal, flaw.

A Bias Against Complimentary Medicine?

Consider, for example, a peer-reviewed publication in a high-impact medical journal that made the assertion that the desire of a patient with cancer to employ complementary medicine was somehow tied to a “refusal of conventional therapy” and may result in decreased overall survival for individuals with “curable cancers.” (The opinions expressed here regarding the flaws in this manuscript and the justification for its publication are my observations and do not represent the opinions of any other individual or organization.)
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