Sunday, February 9, 2014

AAUP Chimes In on COI

The American Association of University Professors has now published its 356-page report, Recommended Principles to Guide Academy-Industry Relationships:

What the AAUP essentially appears to have done is to review reports issued previously by such organizations as AAMC and IOM, and select the provisions their committee most approved of. In general, the AAUP has taken a strong stand in favor of what they consider to be academic values and academic freedom, and opposing any intrusion of financial conflicts of interest. For example, among the 56 guiding principles that they offer, Principle 3 demands the right for faculty to publish their research with at most a minimal delay (30-60 days) to protect patent and other so-called "intellectual property" interests. Principle 4 condemns any and all instances of ghostwriting. The report states clearly that disclosing COI is usually not enough and that avoiding COI is by far preferable.

While subsets of principles relate directly to academic medicine and biomedical research, the AAUP here attempts to address the broadest set of academic-industry relationships, and not to restrict their purview solely to medicine and the life sciences. They acknowledge, however, that the medical area has been especially problematic (no surprise to any readers of this blog).

One area that draws special attention in the report is what they call Strategic Corporate Alliances, major multi-year commitments between a university and a corporate sponsor to cover all faculty working in a specific field. The original poster child for such an alliance, discussed at some length in HOOKED, was the 1998 agreement between UC-Berkeley and Novartis for rights to all research conducted in its Plant Biology department. Since then, says the AAUP, such agreements have only grown and expanded. The principles they propose to govern such agreements strongly tips the balance in favor of an academic-governance model and away from giving too much control to the corporate sponsor--so much so that one wonders what corporations would agree to major alliances under the conditions specified.

I suppose in the name of full disclosure I should mention that among the 770 endnotes, at least one cites HOOKED-- I cannot state that I have read all 770 of them, however.

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