Conflicts of interest in research are not uncommon. A conflict exists where an individual may preference, or be seen to preference, her or his own interests or obligations over their duties and responsibilities as a researcher. Conflicts of interest may be actual, potential or perceived and involve financial and non-financial benefits. There are a broad range of research-related activities that may give rise to a conflict of interest, including acting as a peer-reviewer, being a member of a board or selection panel, or holding an interest in a company that may benefit from research outcomes.

All researchers should expect to have a conflict of interest from time to time. For example, researchers may be asked to peer-review a colleagues work or provide consultancy for a company that also funds their research. The mere existence of a conflict does not imply wrongdoing and in some cases is unavoidable. However researchers have an obligation to acknowledge, declare and manage conflicts of interest in a transparent manner. This is because conflicts of interest may affect, or have the appearance of affecting, a researcher’s impartiality and judgement. Without proper declaration a conflict of interest may lead others to feel misled or deceived, which erodes confidence and trust in research.

The responsibility for managing and declaring conflicts of interest rests, in the first instance, with the individual. The University’s policies related to the responsible conduct of research and conflicts of interest require researchers to acknowledge, declare and monitor conflicts of interest. Relevant forms must be lodged with the University. Researchers must also fully declare relevant conflicts of interest wherever required by outside organisations, such as in applications for funding, in publications and presentations and in submissions to research ethics committees.   

Key resources

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018)

4.20.02 Responsible Conduct of Research (includes Conflict of interest (research) disclosure form

1.50.11 Conflict of Interest

1.50.02 Outside Work and Business Interests for University Staff

UQ Research Partnerships Managers

Additional resources

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007)

Conflicts of Interest and Commitment (US Office of Research Integrity)

Financial Conflict of Interest (Mandatory tutorial for researchers applying for NIH funding)