Institutional financial conflicts of interest in research universities


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Harvard Law School organiseerde in 2012 een symposium over financiële ‘conflicts of interest’ binnen universiteiten, over het raakvlak van wetenschap en ondernemerschap.

About the symposium

In the latter 1990s, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the now-named Government Accountability Office (GAO) sharply questioned the trustworthiness of research universities as stewards of federal research funds and overseers of the research, especially research that involved human subjects, when the institutions themselves increasingly had financial interests in research conducted by their faculty scientists. This was the first time the federal government had expressed concerns about institutional fCOIs in research universities and academic medical centers.

These concerns have only intensified in the ensuing years as research universities have been exhorted with increasing urgency to become ever more deeply engaged with industry in accelerating the translation of their faculties’ inventive research into tangible public benefits. Defining, let alone mitigating, institutional fCOIs in research universities becomes especially challenging as the institutions, in response to expanding and intensifying public expectations, progressively accrete missions that may themselves not be concordant.

This symposium, organized by Professor David Korn and co-sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, was intended to examine, clarify, and deepen our understanding of institutional fCOIs in the contemporary research university, and thereby help to identify effective measures that will ensure the continuing trustworthiness of these vital institutions.

Abridged table of contents

About the Symposium & Welcome

Introduction and Overview

Evolving Roles, Enduring Values, and Conflicting Public Expectations of American Research Universities

  • A Quest for Utopia: The Great American University Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
  • The University’s Capacity for Attestation

Institutional Conflicts of Interest in Practice

  • Investing in Faculty Start-Ups and Other Adventures
  • The Olivieri Case: Institutional Financial Conflicts Perspectives
  • Walking the Tightrope: Protecting Trustworthiness While Engaging with Industry at MIT
  • The Lion in the Path: Research Universities Confront Society’s New Expectations

Institutional Conflicts of Interest in Awardee Institutions

  • Managing Financial Conflicts of Interest in an Expanding World of Industry-Academia Collaborations in Science and Medicine
  • The Perspective of the DHHS OIG

Concluding Session & Some Reflections on the Day

Download the report