Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 875–894 | Cite as

The Influence of Disclosure and Ethics Education on Perceptions of Financial Conflicts of Interest

  • Donald F. Sacco
  • Samuel V. Bruton
  • Alen Hajnal
  • Chris J. N. Lustgraaf
Original Paper


This study explored how disclosure of financial conflicts of interest (FCOI) influences naïve or “lay” individuals’ perceptions of the ethicality of researcher conduct. On a between-subjects basis, participants read ten scenarios in which researchers disclosed or failed to disclose relevant financial conflicts of interest. Participants evaluated the extent to which each vignette represented a FCOI, its possible influence on researcher objectivity, and the ethics of the financial relationship. Participants were then asked if they had completed a college-level ethics course. Results indicated that FCOI disclosure significantly influenced participants’ perceptions of the ethicality of the situation, but only marginally affected perceptions of researcher objectivity and had no significant influence on perceptions of the existence of FCOIs. Participants who had previously completed a college-level ethics course appeared more sensitive to the importance of FCOI disclosure than those who lacked such background. This result suggests that formal ethical training may help individuals become more critical consumers of scientific research.


Financial conflict of interest Disclosure Ethics Education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald F. Sacco
    • 1
  • Samuel V. Bruton
    • 2
  • Alen Hajnal
    • 1
  • Chris J. N. Lustgraaf
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and ReligionThe University of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA

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