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Submissions/The Sponsored Point of View: Financial Conflicts of Interest in Health Care and Science

From Wikimania 2012 • Washington, D.C., USA

This is a rejected submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no.
Title of the submission

The Sponsored Point of View: Financial Conflicts of Interest in Health Care and Science

Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)


Author of the submission

Charles Bell

E-mail address




Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)

Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

This panel will focus on recent developments regarding financial conflicts of interest in health care and science, including ways that corporate funding for physicians and scientists may influence articles published in research journals and the news media, development of public policy, and medical treatment and the prescribing of prescription drugs.

Hidden financial conflicts of interests create the possibility that scientific research, expert recommendations and journal articles are biased by secondary interests, including commercial pressures and personal financial gain. This is important to Wikipedia because of its Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy, which entails representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources. In addition, the No Original Research policy provides that every article on Wikipedia must be based upon verifiable statements from multiple third-party reliable sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Hidden financial sponsorship of research, journal articles and expert perspectives can undermine the integrity of third-party sources in ways that may be difficult for any outside party, including WIkipedians, to discern.

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, will convene the panel. We will share examples of industry conflicts of interest we encounter in our research and reporting. We will also invite 3 other panelists to share perspectives on this issue, including an independent journalist, an expert on medical and scientific ethics, and Sage Ross, an experienced Wikipedian with expertise in the history of science. The panelists will highlight and discuss additional examples of how hidden industry payments have influenced medical care, news and research journal articles, and other issues involving science and public policy, such as food safety and the environment.

Panelists will also highlight research methods, tools and databases that can be used to research medical and scientific conflicts of interest. For example, in 2010, Consumer Reports, along with NPR, PBS Nightly Business Report, Boston Globe, and the Chicago Tribune, joined with ProPublica to help inform the public about its report on these financial arrangements. ProPublica identified more than 17,000 health-care providers (mostly doctors) who have accepted payments from pharmaceutical companies dating back to 2009. Some doctors received consulting payments for writing or ghost-writing articles for medical journals. ProPublica created a comprehensive searchable database listing payments by seven major drug companies to physicians in all 50 states.

In response to public concerns about conflicts of interest, Congress enacted the Physician Payments Sunshine Act in 2010. This new federal law requires manufacturers of drug, device, biologics, and medical supplies to publicly report payments and gifts given to physicians and teaching hospitals to the Department of Health and Human Services, which will make the information available to the public through a public database.

The growing pressure to prohibit payments and requiring public disclosure of conflicts of interest in health care provides an important case study for understanding the quality and validity of research, data and information. Better transparency and enforcement of conflict of interest standards by medical and scientific journals could help improve the integrity, quality and reliability of information sources.

Consumer Reports (CR) is an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To maintain its independence and impartiality, CR accepts no outside advertising or corporate funding.

This panel will also provide an opportunity to report on the progress of a Wikipedian in Residence whose role at Consumer Reports will run from April to June 2012. This Wikipedian’s charge will be to build connections between medical experts and Wikipedians, permitting the exploration of the kind of issue addressed in this panel. Depending on interest, the Wikipedian in Residence may serve as one of the panelists, reporting on the knowledge developed through collaboration between medical experts and experienced Wikipedia contributors. (See here for Wikipedian in Residence job description.)


WikiCulture and Community

Length of presentation/talk
70 Minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
Special request as to time of presentations

Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with four tildes. (~~~~).

  1. COI editing is a growing and serious problem on Wikipedia, and an outside perpective like this could be a really valuable contribution to the debate. Note that there are related submission, e.g. Submissions/Maintaining a Neutral Encyclopedia when Users are Anything But. Tbayer (WMF) (talk) 19:05, 19 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Pete F. (talk) Disclosure: I am involved in this submission (working closely with Consumer Reports). In response to Tilman's point above, this presentation is quite different from the one linked: it's about the COIs inherent in the information world Wikipedia occupies and cites, as distinct from the activity on Wikipedia itself. The issues are not unrelated, but are quite distinct.
  3. Ldavis (WMF) (talk) 21:45, 20 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Shunlingchen (talk) 17:50, 22 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Pharos (talk) 19:19, 22 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  6. HstryQT (talk) 12:39, 24 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  1. Add your username here.