Last week, April 25, Nature published an opinion
contribution by researcher Rene Bernards entitled 'Conflict of
interests not always a conflict'.
'Transparency about competing interests is essential when
reporting scientific data. However, use of the term 'conflict of
interests' for such declarations can be misleading for biomedical
A genuine example of a conflict of interest is when academic
researchers are financially rewarded fortheir work by commercial
partners. The situation might be more nuanced for reports of
biomedical discoveries that can be applied in clinical
After all, developing such treatments for patients is a moral
obligation for academic researchers, both towards their funders and
towards society at large - even though it can mean working with
biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies.
Disclosing a financial relationship as a 'conflict of interest'
under such circumstances implies that engagement with for-profit
companies is a nefarious activity, potentially at odds with what
society expects from biomedical scientists.
In that context, a 'declaration of interest' would be a more
accurate term for a mandatory and transparent disclosure of
financial relationships. A 'conflict of interest' should instead be
reserved for authors who cannot document efforts to translate their
discoveries to the clinic.'
It was a special week for Rene Bernards. Tuesday it was
announced that he was elected to the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This prestigious
American society was founded in 1780 and is one of the oldest of
its kind in the United States.