Maintaining Integrity of Academic-Industry Partnerships

FASEB COI Guiding Principle #2 admonishes that “Transparency in academia-industry relationships in research is important to advance research and promote trust of colleagues and the public. Transparency describes openness and willingness to accept scrutiny.”

To achieve such transparency, an open, uniform, “mentorable” institutional model for academic-industry partnerships must be advocated by the highest levels of University administration. Such an exemplary model exists at UC Berkeley, which advances its fundamental principles in negotiating industry agreements in “How Academic Freedom and Academic Principles are Preserved in Sponsored Research Agreements with Industry.” These same principles are mirrored in similar corporate research agreement templates used by many universities to preserve academic integrity.

However, unlike Berkeley, not all universities restrict industry prepublication review to 30 d (or even 60 d, as the recommended maximum by FASEB) … some universities are willing to give up part or all of their IP rights, en masse in a master agreement and/or on a case-by-case basis … others accept not being on the same footing as their industry “partner” with regard to being able to terminate a research agreement (e.g., company can terminate at any time, university may only terminate with sufficient notice at specified milestones in the agreement). Roy Poses offers several commentaries on troubling aspects of industry-academia contracts.

FASEB, ORI, and AAMC would like to eliminate the potential for (or perception of) excessive industry influence in academic research through nationally consistent policies and practices for disclosing and managing financial relationships between academia and industry in biomedical research. We’ll see. Some University officials will always feel they are more equal than others when it comes to policing their own industry contracts and COI behind a firewall of confidentiality agreements.

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