Conflict of Interest Policies at Canadian Universities: Clarity and Content
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- Williams-Jones, B. & MacDonald, C. J Acad Ethics (2008) 6: 79. doi:10.1007/s10805-007-9052-6
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Discussions of conflict of interest (COI) in the university have tended to focus on financial interests in the context of medical research; much less attention has been given to COI in general or to the policies that seek to manage COI. Are university COI policies accessible and understandable? To whom are these policies addressed (faculty, staff, students)? Is COI clearly defined in these policies and are procedures laid out for avoiding or remedying such situations? To begin tackling these important ethical and governance questions, our study examines the COI policies at the Group of Thirteen (G13) leading Canadian research universities. Using automated readability analysis tools and an ethical content analysis, we begin the task of comparing the strengths and weaknesses of these documents, paying particular attention to their clarity, readability, and utility in explaining and managing COI.