Staff Editorial: Create stricter safeguards for industry research

The National Institutes of Health is clamping down on professors involved with health research across the country.

New mandates such as lowering the financial disclosure threshold from $10,000 to $5,000, revealing sponsored travel, providing online training for professors and creating a public-access database of conflict-of-interest cases will soon be in effect for research institutions.

The University will also look to review its entire conflict-of-interest policy this fall, opening up the opportunity for the implementation of increased safeguards and stricter policies for faculty involved in research.

The new NIH guidelines demonstrate the significance of a transparent and detailed policy regarding conflict of interest, an approach that should be applied to those professors who have industry or corporate research partnerships.

As the University continues to promote and foster connections between industry and faculty, any review of the conflict-of-interest policy should take into acount this enhanced partnership with the private sector.

The University could implement a stricter definition of what it means to have a significant financial interest. The current threshold for disclosing an interest is either $10,000 or 5 percent ownership depending on whichever is lower. This interest should be lowered to the NIH standard of $5,000.

As of now, faculty are required to report any compensation or income related with an outside entity that exceeds $10,000 over the past 12 months. Not only could this threshold be lowered, but expanding this rule to 24 months or longer would allow the University to gain a better perspective of any involvement by a faculty member over a period of time.

Any major conflict-of-interest incident would be embarrassing and would significantly hurt industry-backed research endeavors at a time when the University is just beginning to intensify its efforts. Implementing specific preemptive measures regarding faculty-industry partnerships is a crucial step for the future of research at the institution.

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