Researcher Views About Funding Sources and Conflicts of Interest in Nanotechnology

Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (4):699-717 (2012)
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Abstract

Dependence in nanotechnology on external funding and academic-industry relationships has led to questions concerning its influence on research directions, as well as the potential for conflicts of interest to arise and impact scientific integrity and public trust. This study uses a survey of 193 nanotechnology industry and academic researchers to explore whether they share similar concerns. Although these concerns are not unique to nanotechnology, its emerging nature and the prominence of industry funding lend credence to understanding its researchers’ views, as these researchers are shaping the norms and direction of the field. The results of the survey show general agreement that funding sources are influencing research directions in nanotechnology; many respondents saw this influence in their own work as well as other researchers’ work. Respondents also agreed that funding considerations were likely to influence whether researchers shared their results. Irrespective of their institutional affiliation or funding status, twice as many researchers as not considered financial conflicts of interest a cause for concern, and three times as many respondents as not disagreed financial conflicts of interest in nanotechnology were uncommon. Only a third was satisfied with the way that conflicts of interest are currently managed and believed current procedures would protect the integrity of nanotechnology research. The results also found differences in views depending on researchers’ institutional affiliation and funding status.

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