Advances in medical and surgical care are hard-won, requiring rigorous, carefully interpreted research and development. There is painstaking clinical work to translate basic discoveries into useful diagnostics, drugs, and devices. Despite the obastacles, the achievements made in the past half century are unmistakable: a 50 percent reduction in cardiovascular mortality despite an epidemic of obesity; a dramatically decreased cancer mortality rate; and the conversion of AIDS from a death sentence to survival with good life quality.

The keys to such success have not been regulatory agencies and government-funded academics, but rather industry.  Yet academics have been part of the front lines of a mania has taken hold, that discounts the social value of industry collaboration and has mounted an inquisition against it, encapsulated by the epithet “financial conflict of interest (fCOI).” Critics’ unwarranted allegations that such conflicts cause bias have limited the sources of intellect that can contribute to a given project.

Aside from the obvious questions, like why are academic interests reliant on political funding consider themselves exempt from bias while basic researchers that are a miniscule line item on a balance sheet are not, especially when academics have self-selected an overwhelming political skew, is why industry collaboration has gotten such a bad rap.

What’s Wrong with COI? by Thomas P. Stossel, The Scientist