References and Resources
(1) Recognizing and Managing Personal Financial Conflicts of Interest, Chapter V. Mentoring Relationships, Council on Government Relations, 2002.
(2) Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors, Association of American Medical Colleges, 2006
Financial interests should not impede a trainee's timely progress toward his/her degree, restrict a trainee's right to publish his/her research in a timely manner, compromise a trainee's career progress, or restrict a trainee's freedom of inquiry. Whenever the possibility exists that a mentor's advice or counsel might be influenced by personal financial interests, then there also exists the potential for significant negative impacts to the training or career development of the person being mentored (1).
"Timely": The institution, mentor, and trainee should discuss the right to publish and agree upon a definition of "timely" prior to the start of trainee involvement.
Responsibility of mentors: Mentors and institutions should make trainees aware of their rights and responsibilities in industry relationships. There should be a very high threshold on restrictions that directly impact trainees. Any agreements that would place restrictions on trainee activities should be fully disclosed to the institution, department, and trainee, and the implications well understood prior to their involvement in the research. Provide sources of information and institutional contacts to trainees that will help them understand these issues, answer any questions, and make fully-informed decisions.
Teaching trainees about conflict of interest issues: As a proactive approach, mentors should consider their industry relationships as opportunities for mentoring trainees on conflict of interest issues. While students and postdocs may receive formal training in research integrity from the institution, it is important to reinforce ethical values in practice as well as provide opportunities to discuss these issues in the laboratory environment.
There are several ways in which this can be accomplished.
1. Mentors could describe the process by which industry relationships are reported to and reviewed by the institution.
2. Mentors could discuss this issue in the context of publishing papers when trainee authors are asked to disclose conflicts of interest to the journal or when submitting abstracts for scientific meetings.
3. This issue could be discussed when developing a training plan. For example, the AAMC Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors (2) suggests that both parties agree that they will respect and promote all ethical standards when conducting research including compliance with institutional and federal regulations as they relate to the responsible conduct of research.
4. A laboratory meeting could be devoted to research integrity issues and regulations, including conflicts of interest in research.
Tool. Points for discussion of academic-industry relationship issues with trainees (PDF): Discussion questions for mentors and trainees in cases in which trainees may be engaged in research in which the PI has an outside financial interest