11 Mar Conflicts of Interest in Peer Review of Biomedical Research Funding Studied
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Gallo: Peer review is an evaluation process widely used to help research funders identify the best projects to support. A cornerstone of the process is the independence and integrity of the review panel, which includes a fair and non-conflicted evaluation of the proposed research. Despite the importance of the process, there are few research studies investigating the frequency and type of conflicts that occur, particularly with regard to the independent peer review of basic science research proposals.
To improve our understanding of conflict of interest in the peer review process, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) conducted a retrospective analysis of conflict of interest data from the independent peer review of 282 biomedical research applications.
The overall ‘conflicted-ness’ of these panels was significantly lower than that reported for regulatory review panels, which have been studied by others. This might be explained by the fact that no direct financial conflicts were identified; the majority of identified conflicts were institutional or collaborative in nature.
The analysis revealed that 35 percent of conflicts were self-reported by review panel members. Importantly, peer review panel managers identified 65 percent of conflicts. These results underscore the important role administrators who organize review panels play in identifying conflicts of interest.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Gallo: This study suggests that there would be some benefit to exploring ways to improve the reporting of conflicts of interest. A more standardized system might be beneficial. Because of increasing demands on reviewers’ time, administrators will also need to make this process as efficient as possible while maintaining the highest ethical and review standards.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Gallo: More of these studies, that include analysis of conflicts of interest in peer review, are needed. Future research should focus on the potential impact of different types of conflicts on the decision making process, and this research should help to inform conflict of interest policies.
1) American Institute of Biological Sciences – Scientific Peer Advisory and Review Services (AIBS SPARS) – http://spars.aibs.org
2) Frequency and Type of Conflicts of Interest in the Peer Review of Basic Biomedical Research Funding Applications: Self-Reporting Versus Manual Detection – http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11948-015-9631-7
Gallo SA1, Lemaster M, Glisson SR.
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Stephen Gallo, Ph.D. (2015). Conflicts of Interest in Peer Review of Biomedical Research Funding Studied