National Academies respond to conflict of interest claims

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are strengthening their conflict of interest policy after it was revealed that the authors of two major reports failed to disclose industry links. Independent reviews into two studies, one on genetically engineered crops and another on chronic pain management, revealed that authors had substantial connections to industry.

A 2016 review published in Plos One found that 6 out of 20 panel members of a report into genetically engineered crops had "had one or more reportable" financial conflicts of interest, none of which were disclosed in the report.

This followed a 2014 analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today of a 2011 study by the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) on managing chronic pain. The investigation found that nine members of the institute’s 19-expert panel had current or recent connections to companies that manufacture narcotic painkillers.

In response to the damning reviews, The National Academies are revising their conflict-of-interest policy that were last updated in 2003.

Academies spokesmen William Kearney claimed the review was part of a routine process, and that the organisation stood by the reports in question. “We fully stand behind that committee and its report which we are very proud of and our decision to review our procedures had nothing to do with that.”

Yet the changes already made by the review appear to be directly related to the two reports. The Academies said it will now publish disclosures of conflicts of interest (COIs) of the scientists who author academy reports in the documents themselves.

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