Sometimes values conflict. For example, a particular circumstance might compromise – or appear to compromise – professional judgments. Maybe a researcher has a financial interest in a particular company, which might create a bias in scientific decisions affecting the future of that company (as might be the case if a researcher with stock in a company were paid to determine the usefulness of a new device produced by the company). Or a scientist might receive a manuscript or proposal to review that discusses work similar to but a step ahead of that being done by the reviewer. These are difficult situations that require trade-offs and hard choices, and the scientific community is still debating what is and is not proper when many of these situations arise.

Virtually all institutions that conduct research now have policies and procedures for managing conflicts of interest. In addition, many editors of scientific journals have established explicit policies regarding conflicts of interest. These policies and procedures are designed to protect the integrity of the scientific process, the missions of the institutions, the investment of stakeholders in institutions (including the investments of parents and students in universities), and public confidence in the integrity of research.

Disclosure of conflicts of interest subjects these concerns to the same social mechanisms that are so effective elsewhere in society. In some cases it may only be necessary for a researcher to inform a journal editor of a potential conflict of interest, leaving it for the editor to decide what action is necessary. In other cases careful monitoring of research activities can allow important research with a potential conflict of interest to go forward while protecting the integrity of the institution and of science. In any of these cases the intent is to involve outside monitors or otherwise create checks to reduce the possibility that bias will enter into science.

–> 2.7 Prevention of Error and Negligence in Science.