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Conflicts of interest matter and awareness is needed


A conflict of interest arises by having two conflicting goals in one's research. The primary goal of research relevant to public health is to produce impartial evidence on health hazards for humans. Several entities – including industry - may have public health as a goal among others, but this is not their primary goal. Primary goals are in those cases profit or career, that conflict with the goal of health. It is a role of the State to foster research whose primary goal is impartial evidence on factors affecting population health. Disclosure of conflicts of interest is not enough: the view that disclosure solves all problems amounts to say that a declaration of having produced unbiased evidence is a self-fulfilling guarantee that the evidence will not be affected by conflicts of interest. This concept is seriously misleading. A conflict of interest arises from the circumstances in which research occurs and does not exist only in the opinion of some people or groups (or the authors of a paper).

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