Conflict of interest (COI) in research represents situations that pose risks of undue influence on scientific objectivity and judgment because of secondary interests. This is complex but is inherent to biomedical research. The role of a clinician scientist can be conflicted when scientific objectivity is perceived to compete with scientific success (publications, grants), partiality to patients (clinical trials), obligations to colleagues (allowing poor scholarship to pass), research sponsors (industry), and financial gains (patents, royalties). While there are many ways which COIs can occur in research, COI mitigations remain reliable. Collaborations between investigators and industry are valuable to the development of novel therapies and undue discouragement of these relationships may inadvertently harm the advancement of healthcare. As a result, proper management of COI is fundamental and crucial to the maintenance of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between industry and academia. The nature of COI in research and methods of mitigation are discussed from the perspective of a clinician scientist.
A 69-year-old female, non-smoker, who enjoyed good health in the past, was referred to our chest clinic for a 6-month history of worsening breathlessness, nocturnal cough and occasional blood stained sputum. She denied any fever, weight loss or recent travel history. Physical examination showed polyphonic wheeze. Lung function test showed FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in one second)/FVC (forced vital capacity) of 0.56; FEV1 of 53% predicted with 21% of improvement after bronchodilator. Thus, diagnosis of asthma was confirmed.
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