ICE blogs

September 2, 2011

Declarations of interest: An ethical imperative

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 8:32 pm

A senior lecturer in social anthropology at Roehampton University has managed to influence the BBC to change the citation on the web article of a professor to reflect his commercial interests, Barry Turner reports. The professor, Richard Gray, was originally cited as having ‘given lectures on behalf of a number of pharmaceutical companies’.

Following protests from Dr. James Davies, the BBC changed the citation to reflect the detail of the commercial interests omitted from the original citation. The edited citation reads: ‘Professor Gray is a co-author of a book on CBT for psychosis from which he receives royalties. He has also received fees and honoraria for providing consultancy and giving lectures on behalf of Jannsen Cilag, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, BMS and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals.’

A campaign is now underway to oblige the BBC to ensure that it changes its editorial policy on citations. When any expert gives an opinion on products a declaration of interest should be included indicating any payment received or honororia from any companies involved in the production of such products, as is required in all respectable academic journals. This campaign is to be extended to all other media outlets broadcasting expert opinions to prevent surreptitious advertising.

It has for too long been the tradition in the media that when interviewing scientists, especially medical scientists, that the journalist will take at face value what they, as experts, say without looking into the often more down-to-earth reason for their endorsement of a particular product or treatment. All journalists when interviewing experts, particularly medical experts, have a duty to ask the interviewee of any financial or other interests they may have in endorsing a treatment or product.

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