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Conflicts of interest
  1. Douglas L Weed
  1. Dr Douglas L Weed, DLW Consulting Services LLC, 3706 Farragut Ave, Kensington, MD 20895 USA; douglaslweed{at}aol.com

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How could disclosure of interests work better in medicine, epidemiology and public health?

Suspend for a moment the need to align “conflicts of interest” with matters financial. Resist the temptation to pigeonhole the paired concepts of conflicts and interests with ethically questionable actions or, for that matter, perceptions of wrongdoing. Instead, focus with me on the conflicts epidemiologists face as the discipline and its professional practitioners mature. Focus on the conflicts that are of interest to epidemiologists.

Three come to mind. The first is fading away, almost a memory, the conflict pitting the so-called “hard” sciences against the “soft” science of observational epidemiology. This is an old and tiresome contrast, no longer especially useful in resolving disputes about what causes diseases. Epidemiology is everywhere these days, its “observations” holding up very well alongside those of its toxicological and experimental brethren.

Like any science, epidemiology has its share of inferential problems. But it is also better than it once was. Smarter, more disciplined and always relevant when human disease causation is concerned. I am not convinced that everyone wants to be an epidemiologist (as one of our sage academicians opined) but I am confident that a new …

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