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A Conflict Here and There

About 3 percent of grants awarded by the US National Institutes of Health in 2018 involved at least one researcher with a financial conflict of interest, according to ScienceInsider.

A new report from the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Inspector General says NIH is doing better at assessing researchers' financial conflicts of interest, but could improve even more. This report follows on one from 2008 that found the agency was barely monitoring the financial conflicts of interests of its grantees.

Unlike in 2008, the report finds that the NIH was now able to provide data on the number and types of financial conflicts of interests among the researchers it funds. In particular, it found that about 3 percent of the nearly 56,000 grants NIH awarded in 2018 had one or more investigators with a financial conflict of interest and, most commonly, this conflict involved equity interests.

NIH could not, the report notes, determine the number of these conflicts that involved foreign entities, and it suggests that the agency examine further whether that might be necessary.

Some experts tell ScienceInsider that this number of financial conflicts of interest seems low, as other estimates have suggested that about 25 percent of researchers have industry ties.