The National Institutes of Health has announced it intends to revise its policies governing financial conflicts of interest. The changes will increase disclosure responsibilities on institutions that receive funding from the agency, increase transparency and accountability, and toughen-up rules it first promulgated in 1995.
“We cannot afford to take chances with the integrity of the research process,” NIH Director Francis Collins remarked at a press conference introducing the proposed changes. “We believe it is essential to tighten up this situation in order to be sure that we are obtaining and maintaining the public trust in the integrity of the scientific enterprise.”
Among the revisions, the NIH proposes to reduce the reporting threshold for conflicts from $10,000 to $5,000. In addition, the NIH wants to shift responsibility for deciding whether a particular relationship is in fact a conflict from the investigator to his or her institution. This would require institutions to establish review processes for potential conflicts and report such matters to the NIH.
The NIH is also proposing that for the first time, Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research grants and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program would be covered under these policies.
The new rules do exclude income from teaching, lectures, seminars, or service on review or advisory committees review panels for institutions of higher learning or government agencies.
A further change would require grant receiving bodies to disclose on publicly accessible websites any significant financial interests involving their faculty or others related to the entities.
“The public may not always understand the intricacies of rigorous science, but most individuals quickly grasp the concept of bias,” wrote Collins in a commentary in JAMA. “Americans do not want financial conflicts of interest to influence the federally funded research.”