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How do potential conflicts of interest confuse medicine and public health?
  1. Harvey Marcovitch
  1. Dr Harvey Marcovitch, Honeysuckle House, Balscote OX15 6JW, UK; h.marcovitch{at}btinternet.com

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

The next time you see on the television news that there has been an important breakthrough in medical research, ask yourself some questions. Given that research projects have no precise end, apart from the results appearing in print, why was this news reported today? It is highly unlikely that a journalist stumbled upon a story. More likely it was because a journal or the university or the funder concerned issued a press release, or the researchers themselves did so. In each case there may be conflicts of interest. Journals send press releases as self-promotion, approved by publishers or owners who are always looking for increased circulation; and knowledgeable editors know that stories in the national press lead to increased citations to the original journal article, hence, increasing the impact factor, that Holy Grail of editorial boards.1 2 Meanwhile, journalists may enhance their own careers by making a story seem more important than should be the case.3

Universities and individual research teams may be justly proud of their achievements but are also alert to attracting further funding. One way of doing so is …

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