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Education And Debate

Working with the private sector: the need for institutional guidelines

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 24 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:432
  1. Gill Walt, professor of international health policy (,
  2. Ruairi Brugha, senior lecturer in public health,
  3. Andy Haines, dean
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  1. Correspondence to: G Walt
  • Accepted 7 March 2002

Cooperation between academic institutions and the private sector does not always run smoothly. Gill Walt, Ruairi Brugha, and Andy Haines from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine point up the need for guidance on entering into partnership with a commercial partner and describe the school's experience in formulating guidelines for its staff

One of the most striking changes in the research environment over the past 10 years has been the marked expansion of links between the private and public sectors. While certain research groups in universities and research institutes have long received some funding from the private sector, such sponsorship is growing and is often now described as “partnership.” The increasing frequency and complexity of interactions between research and industry suggest that institutions require policies, especially when dealing with potential conflicts of interest. A number of academic institutions, mainly in the United States, have developed policies and procedures to guide staff in developing relationships with the private sector (box 4), as have many of the organisations of the United Nations. Research institutions in the United Kingdom are beginning to look at this issue. For example, the Confederation of British Industry has collaborated with a number of bodies to produce general guidelines to better practice for industry and universities — Partnerships for Research and Innovation.1 In this paper we argue that academic institutions, in consultation with their staff, should develop guidance and ground rules for staff contemplating engagement with the private sector in order to make explicit the principles on which such relationships should be based, avoid potential conflicts of interest, protect academic reputation, and maintain the quality and integrity of the scientific outputs.

Summary points

  • Links between the private and public sectors have expanded over the past decade

  • Such links are broadly welcomed, but the potential for conflicts …

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