Problems for biomedical research at the academia-industrial interface
Throughout much of the world, universities have driven towards industrial partnerships. This collaboration, which, in the biochemical field at least, has to continue if potential benefits for patients are to be realised, has brought with it a number of problems. These include the neglect of long-term research in favour of short-term projects, the curtailing of free dissemination of research information within university departments and the biasing of results of clinical trials by the financial interests of the investigators.
It is very important that governments, universities, and industry itself address these problems. Universities should monitor the amount of basic, curiosity-driven research that is being carried on, compared with that which is more short-term goal orientated. PhD students and post-doctoral fellows should be exposed to the principles of bioethics early on in their careers. Further work is necessary on the terms of research contracts to protect, on the one hand, the rights of individual scientists and, on the other, industry from rogue scientists. Where problems arise, procedures should be in place for independent reviews to be conducted by bodies such as the Medical Research Council in the UK or the National Institutes of Health in the USA. The conflict-of-interest rules recently introduced for publication in medical journals should be extended to all branches of science.
Keywordsbiomedical research conflict of interest commercialisation of science
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