Context A growing number of academic researchers receive industry funding for
clinical and basic research, but little is known about the personal financial
relationships of researchers with their industry sponsors.
Objectives To assess the extent to which faculty researchers have personal financial
relationships with the sponsors of their research, the nature of those financial
relationships, and efforts made at the institutional level to address disclosed
financial relationships and perceived conflicts of interest.
Design and Setting Case study of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Data
sources included disclosure forms and official documents maintained by the
UCSF Office of Research Administration from December 1980 to October 1999,
including decisions made by the UCSF Chancellor's Advisory Panel on Relations
Main Outcome Measures Number and types of personal financial relationships with external sponsors
(positive financial disclosures from all clinical, basic, or social science
faculty who were principal investigators), amount of annual income received
from sponsors, and decisions and management strategies used by the advisory
Results By 1999, almost 7.6% of faculty investigators reported personal financial
ties with sponsors of their research. Throughout the study period, 34% of
disclosed relationships involved paid speaking engagements (range, $250–$20,000
per year), 33% involved consulting agreements between researcher and sponsor
(range, <$1000–$120,000 per year), and 32% involved the investigator
holding a position on a scientific advisory board or board of directors. Fourteen
percent involved equity ownership, and 12% involved multiple relationships.
The advisory panel recommended managing perceived conflicts of interest in
26% of the cases, including recommending the sale of stock, refusing additional
payment for talks, resigning from a management position, or naming a new principal
investigator for a project.
Conclusions Faculty researchers are increasingly involved in financial relationships
with their research sponsors. Guidelines for what constitutes a conflict and
how the conflict should be managed are needed if researchers are to have consistent
standards of behavior among institutions.