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April 8, 2010 Volume 31, No. 26

UM System is updating conflict policy

Institutional conflicts

Conflict of interest policy targets human subjects research

The University of Missouri System has joined a short list of American colleges and universities that are ensuring that their conflict of interest policies cover not only the actions of individuals but entire institutions.

Gary Forsee, president of the UM System, issued an executive order to the chancellors of the University’s four campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla. That order expands the university’s conflict of interest policy to ensure that research involving human subjects is not compromised by the University’s financial interests.

“For more than 20 years, the University of Missouri has had policies that covered individual conflicts of interest for employees, those involved in research and those serving on our governing board,” Forsee said when he announced the order March 26. “Today we’re broadening our policies to address concerns or conflicts that might arise when the institution’s financial interests could give the appearance of influencing our scientific research or other work.

“This new policy underscores our continued commitment to the integrity and transparency of our research programs, as well as the safety of research subjects,” he added.

The new policy, Institutional Conflicts of Interest in Human Subjects Research, identifies potential areas of institutional conflict, such as gifts or grants the University may receive from a company whose product is the subject of university research, as well as procedures on how to manage the conflict. The expanded policy calls for periodic review of the University’s financial interests and investments and compares this information to ongoing research involving human subjects.

A 12-member intercampus task force was formed to develop this initial policy. The task force reviewed institutional conflict of interest policies from a short list of other research institutions. In the coming weeks, a second Universitywide task force will be formed to consider institutional conflicts of interest that go beyond just those involving human subjects research.