Conflict Of Interest
Would knowing an academic has shares in a mining company affect how much trust you place in their comments on climate change? How about if the academic sat on the board? Or owned the company? All of these are potential conflicts of interest and all might influence how much weight the media and the public place on that expert’s opinion.
Yet sadly, as a new study just published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows, actually getting hold of this information about academics at universities around Australia is often not a simple process.
The survey of Australian universities by Simon Chapman and his colleagues showed that of the 25 institutions who responded, none required their academics to state their conflicts of interest on their website profile. Perhaps more importantly, although the researchers found public comment policies for 21 universities, “none required that staff declare potential conflict of interests to media when making a public comment”.
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