Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Peril of Non-Disclosable Details in COI's

The last part of my discussion in Conflicts of Interest (COI) and balancing transparency versus confidentiality.  

The conversation started when I had outside work, meaning nothing to do with my university appointment. I was asked to review data for a law firm as a subject matter expert.  It was not a trial, but a private mediation between parties. It was agreed that all information, including the players involved, would be kept confidential.  I agreed with that.

Vague (and approved) verbiage was provided on my website that I was working as an expert for a law firm outside of my job and I was compensated for it. 



What I didn't realize at the time was how this kind of non-disclosable COI is perceived.  To most of us that have such arrangements with companies that fund a trial, share a collaboration, and wish their association to remain confidential, it poses a tremendously dangerous place for loss of public trust. 

What can he possibly be hiding? 

Again, this never crossed my mind because my non-disclosure agreements have been with little ma & pa companies that wish to work in an arena dominated by big names.  It is not biotechnology, for what its worth.  Nobody is claiming that they can't believe my pigment data in sprouts because I'm "shilling for big microgreen."

We all have COIs, and many have non-disclosure agreements.  The problem is that when we honor confidentiality it disturbs public trust.

This will continue to be a challenge for those of us that wish to continue research under NDAs.  We probably are best suited to step out of science communication.