The intense controversy surrounding the new conflict-of-interest regulations at the National Institutes of Health prompted The Science Advisory Board to look closely at what constitutes acceptable pursuits for government scientists to engage in for compensation from industry.
Only 15% respondents to a recent Instant Poll believe that government scientists should not receive compensation for engaging in any activities sponsored by the pharmaceutical and/or biotechnology industry. Of the remaining 85% of those polled who believe it is o.k. for government scientists to receive some type of payment for their services to industry, 25% think that training scientists is the most worthy commission.
Conducting research and reviewing scientific materials were tied for second place with 19% each. Recruiting scientists, designing experiments, and authoring scientific materials for industry were deemed the most unacceptable activities for government scientists.
“The majority opinion is that government scientists can have outside consulting arrangements with industry within carefully constructed limits,” observes Tamara Zemlo, Ph.D., MPH, Executive Director of The Science Advisory Board. Helping train scientists, by sharing one’s knowledge and expertise, is seen as a noble and enlightened effort that can benefit the enterprise as a whole. Other activities that might confer an advantage to one specific company over another—recruiting scientists, designing experiments, and authoring scientific materials—were not viewed as favorably.