Conflicts of Interest
Declaring conflicts of interest in research
A conflict of interest exists where an independent observer might reasonably conclude that the professional actions of a person are or may be unduly influenced by other interests. In the context of research, it exists where a person’s individual interests or responsibilities have the potential to influence the carrying out of their institutional role or professional obligations in research or where an institution’s interests or responsibilities have the potential to influence the carrying out of its research obligations.
While a conflict may relate to financial interests, it can also relate to personal, familial, professional or organisational benefits or advantages that depend significantly on or could unduly influence research outcomes. Refer to National Statement Section 5.4 and the NHMRC Disclosure of interests and management of conflicts of interest Guideline Document.
It is essential that all conflicts of interest are identified, transparently reported and appropriately managed to reduce the risk of bias. The nature and extent of the interest for each member of the research team should be explained. An explanation should also be provided on how these interests will be managed and address any potential conflicts that may arise.
** When disclosing financial interests, researchers and institutions should consider the significance of the financial interest, including:
• the monetary value of the payment, gift, or interest
• the significance that a reasonable, independent observer would attach to the payment,
gift or interest
• the circumstances under which a gift or payment is made, for example, if the gift or
payment is a regular payment or a single instance.
Non-financial interests that require disclosure include, but are not limited to:
• board membership (even if unpaid) or other affiliation with an organisation that could stand to benefit from or be affected by the research
• personal or social relationships and current and past professional relationships, where relevant
• recent employment with, or role in, organisations with financial links or affiliations with industry groups that could stand to benefit from or be affected by the research.
^ If a conflict of interest is identified, the appropriate decision maker must determine what measures, if any, are most appropriate to manage that conflict of interest. These measures should be tailored to the individual circumstances and could include one or more of the following:
• requiring the public disclosure of the interests, for example when presenting or publishing the research
• involving an appropriate individual to oversee some or all of the research activity
• requiring the researcher to absent themselves from any deliberative decision making regarding the research
• requiring the researcher to play a different or reduced role in some or all of the research
• requiring the researcher to relinquish financial or other interests.
• Registering the conflict of interest in the conflict of interest register at your institution
• Developing a detailed conflict of interest plan
When to Declare Conflicts of Interest
NSW Health staff declarations
For staff members of NSW Health, compliance with the NSW Health Policy Directive PD2015_045 “Conflicts of Interest and Gifts and Benefits” must be followed. All staff in any permanent, temporary, casual, termed appointment or honorary capacity within NSW Health, including volunteers, patient advocates, contractors, visiting practitioners, students, consultants and researchers performing work within NSW Health facilities are expected to avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest and must not accept gifts or benefits of a non-token value.
1. The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) (National Statement (2007), and as updated, CHAPTER 5.4: CONFLICTS OF INTEREST - https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/national-statement-ethical-conduct-human-research-2007-updated-2018
2. NHMRC: Disclosure of interests and management of conflicts of interest: A guide supporting the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research - https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/file/14503/download?token=YtUTSjW4