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Conflict of Interest in Research

A conflict of interest (COI) is any interaction with an outside entity by an individual that could directly and significantly affect one's responsibilities in research design, conduct and reporting. This page provides information on COIs and how to manage them.

COIs can negatively impact the integrity of research. They can lead to biased results that are not in the best interests of Saint Louis University, our students, research subjects, the academic community, and the public. For this reason, it is important for researchers to disclose any potential COIs to their institutions.

To protect against the potential risks involved with financial conflicts of interest in research and to comply with federal regulations, SLU has developed an Individual Outside Interest Policy.

The University believes that establishing clear guidelines and principles for disclosing and managing financial conflicts of interest ensures that SLU's research endeavors maintain the highest level of integrity. A financial conflict of interest does not indicate wrongdoing on the part of the investigator; however, if a conflict exists, it must be reduced, managed or eliminated.

Types of Conflicts of Interest

Many types of conflicts of interest can arise in research. Some of the most common types include:

  • Financial conflicts: These occur when a researcher has a financial interest in the outcome of their research. For example, a researcher who owns stock in a company that is developing a new drug may be biased toward finding positive results for that drug.
  • Personal conflicts: These occur when a researcher has a personal relationship with someone who is involved in the research. For example, a researcher married to a pharmaceutical company executive may be biased toward conducting research that is favorable to that company.

How to Manage Conflicts of Interest

There are several steps that researchers can take to manage conflicts of interest. These include:

  • Disclosing potential COIs: Researchers are required to disclose their own outside interests, as well as outside interests of their immediate family, that reasonably appear to be related to the covered individual's institutional responsibilities. This can be done through the Outside Interest Disclosure (OID) form.
  • Minimizing conflicts of interest: Even if a conflict of interest cannot be avoided, it can often be minimized through a COI Management Plan. 

By taking steps to manage conflicts of interest, researchers can help to ensure that their work is conducted in an ethical and unbiased manner.

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