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PubMed Calls Out Researcher Conflicts of Interest


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#1 LFC

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 04:44 PM

PubMed is a search engine for medical research that is taxpayer funded. It clear discloses any conflict of interest in funding or sponsorship so people know right up front. I wonder how long before the Republicans cut its funding. Can't have that kind of information being disseminated to the public, now can we. The article leads off with a classic example of corporate sponsored research fraud.

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I once got a press release about a "landmark” study showing cranberry juice could cut the risk of urinary tract infections.

This study piqued my interest. All the credible research I’d seen on cranberry juice and UTIs suggested the sweet stuff had little or no effect. So was this new study really a game-changer?

When I looked at the paper a little more closely, I found out it wasn’t just funded by Ocean Spray, one of the world’s leading makers of cranberry juice; it was also co-authored by Ocean Spray staff scientists. The food company was involved in nearly every step of the scientific process, even helping to write the paper. Upon closer scrutiny, it became clear that the study authors made a bunch of small decisions that helped ensure the “amazing” results that conveniently favored guzzling more of the red elixir.


Here's where PubMed comes in.

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There’s another big problem: It can be really hard to figure out if a study has been influenced by industry. Conflict of interest information is often buried deep at the end of an article, just before the list of citations.

Now, that’s about to change: PubMed — a powerful taxpayer-funded search engine for medical study abstracts that doctors, patients, and the media rely on — just started displaying conflict of interest data up front. New information about funding sources and potential conflicts will now appear right below study abstracts, which means readers don’t have to even open a journal article to be made aware of any possible industry influence over studies.

Here’s how the new, more transparent abstracts look (the red arrow points to the change):

Posted Image


" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"Didn't vote for Hillary Clinton? Then you own [insert horrible act here]."

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#2 baw1064

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 05:01 PM

That's not completely accurate. PUBMED is just a bibliography of scientific papers in medicine and biology. It's actually the journals in which the papers are published which require disclosure of conflicts of interest. Is NIH mandating that a conflict of interest statement be done in a certain way for a journal to be abstracted in PUBMED? I don't really see how they could, since many journals are published outside the US.


The NIH does require that the full text of papers describing work funded by them be made publicly available to anyone (without a journal subscription) after one year. But not everything in PUBMED is published in a US journal, done in the US, or funded by the NIH.

That said, I like the policy of putting the declarations with the abstract.
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#3 Bact PhD

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 06:46 PM

View Postbaw1064, on 19 April 2017 - 05:01 PM, said:

That's not completely accurate. PUBMED is just a bibliography of scientific papers in medicine and biology. It's actually the journals in which the papers are published which require disclosure of conflicts of interest.

True, and the policies for reporting COIs and their display in the article vary widely among journals, even in the US. Moreover, it's also been de rigeur to acknowledge funding sources (NIH grants, contracts with industry, eg). I pulled out my most recent pub, in a 2013 issue of PLoS One, and the funding /Conflicts are line-items right beneath the abstract:

Funding: This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants R01 XXXXX and T90 XXXXX. The sponsors had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


However, from a publication of Chem PhD's in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry from 2012, mention of the funding sources is in the Acknowledgements section at the end of the article.

From my experience in journal submissions, I'd say the closer the scope of the journal is to clinical trials & analyses, the more particular that journal is going to be about requiring COI disclosures up front and displaying them prominently.

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Is NIH mandating that a conflict of interest statement be done in a certain way for a journal to be abstracted in PUBMED? I don't really see how they could, since many journals are published outside the US.

The NIH does require that the full text of papers describing work funded by them be made publicly available to anyone (without a journal subscription) after one year. But not everything in PUBMED is published in a US journal, done in the US, or funded by the NIH.

See above -- that sort of a mandate would be difficult to enforce, at best. Even US journals that are indexed in the PubMed database vary widely in their scope. The journals vary from highly clinically-oriented volumes (New England Journal of Medicine, eg) to seriously basic-science tomes where the chemical entities described might, possibly, maybe, someday find their way to a clinical trial (Synthesis, Tetrahedron, eg). The foreign pubs (with requirements from their respective sponsoring societies) add a whole degree of difficulty.

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That said, I like the policy of putting the declarations with the abstract.

Agreed. I'd like to see funding sources, both government and industrial (grants & contracts included) displayed up-front as well.
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#4 Traveler

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 09:29 AM

I have no problem with scientists affiliated with their employers writing papers about their research and/or lit reviews, so long as it is clearly stated where their interests lie. Everyone can contribute knowledge, and so long as motivations are transparent, the scientific community will review the papers accordingly.

What I find astounding is how funding of climate research is dominated by denialists. The ws a thread here on that. Yet the vast majority of papers contradict the funders belief.

BTW, for you shade tree scientists here without university access like me, use Sci-Hub. What a font of information !
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#5 LFC

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:25 AM

View Postbaw1064, on 19 April 2017 - 05:01 PM, said:

That's not completely accurate. PUBMED is just a bibliography of scientific papers in medicine and biology. It's actually the journals in which the papers are published which require disclosure of conflicts of interest. Is NIH mandating that a conflict of interest statement be done in a certain way for a journal to be abstracted in PUBMED? I don't really see how they could, since many journals are published outside the US.

The problem this addresses is finding (and making searchable) any conflict of interest.

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There’s another big problem: It can be really hard to figure out if a study has been influenced by industry. Conflict of interest information is often buried deep at the end of an article, just before the list of citations.

How the data gets into PubMed is addressed in the article.

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The change comes a year after 62 scientists and physicians from around the world (including the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest) lobbied for the update, part of a broader transparency movement in science. In a March 2016 letter, the experts wrote:

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We strongly urge ... all journals listed in PubMed to provide information about funding sources and other possible competing interests in all abstracts. To facilitate research, the "competing interest" section should be fully searchable. Thus, PubMed would advise users about the entity or entities that funded the study and whether (a) the authors reported no competing interests; (b) the authors reported the competing interests; c) the article did not include a competing-interests disclosure statement; or (d) the journal did not provide disclosure of funding sources or the authors’ other competing interests.

One of the authors of that letter was New York University nutrition researcher Marion Nestle. She’s been tracking industry-funded studies on her blog and found 156 of 168 reported results that favored the funders’ interests. That’s more than 92 percent.

So it's quite possible for a journal to not provide the information but then you'll know that. There's a big difference between "no conflict" and "no data of potential conflict supplied".
" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"Didn't vote for Hillary Clinton? Then you own [insert horrible act here]."

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

#6 LFC

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:29 AM

View PostTraveler, on 20 April 2017 - 09:29 AM, said:

BTW, for you shade tree scientists here without university access like me, use Sci-Hub. What a font of information !

I just tried that and it popped up a plain page with sections in English and something that looks like cyrilic telling me searching wasn't available and I should download a Chrome extension. Maybe it's legit but that's setting off every alarm bell I've got when it comes to the web.
" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"Didn't vote for Hillary Clinton? Then you own [insert horrible act here]."

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

#7 Traveler

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 11:48 AM

So far so good for me. It is Russian, and you have to guess what the buttons say. But Malwarebytes and webroot both have no problems. Link goes right to the site. Just paste your title, and it asks for a captcha, and then download.
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."-- Winston Churchill
"We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation." Russian spokesman

#8 AnBr

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 06:41 PM

View PostLFC, on 20 April 2017 - 10:29 AM, said:

I just tried that and it popped up a plain page with sections in English and something that looks like cyrilic telling me searching wasn't available and I should download a Chrome extension. Maybe it's legit but that's setting off every alarm bell I've got when it comes to the web.

Especially since there is no need for it. You can do a site search using Google.
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#9 Traveler

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:08 AM

Uh you completely missed my point. I use Google Scholar to run searches and track citations, although it is far less organized than say Scopus or PubMed. Still gets pretty much all the useful citations, so you right insofar as that goes.

But what I was talking about was getting the journals. While some are available as pdfs from Academia.edu or ResearchGate, most are not. So you go to Sci-Hub, and now you have almost as much access as being affiliated with the University. HUGE difference, as the best stuff isn't available for free.
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."-- Winston Churchill
"We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation." Russian spokesman

#10 AnBr

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:07 PM

If you are talking about a browser approved search engine that is another thing altogether.
"What the Nazis were doing was not describing what was true, but what would have to be true to justify what they planned to do next." — Hannah Arendt in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism

"No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity." Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1821

“Nixon and his successors hid behind ideology and obscured the contradictions by pursuing a strategy I would call 'no-fault bigotry.'” — William Greider

“It’s not ‘Nation Building’, We are Assisting them in Building their Nation” — Marco Rubio on Iraq

“I should apologize for all of my stories that you wished were true and turned out not to be.” — Andy Borowitz

“Republicans want smaller government for the same reason that crooks want fewer cops: it's easier to get away with murder.” — James Carville

"It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics." — Robert A. Heinlein, Postscript, Revolt in 2100

"As long you have racism, as long as you have Islamophobia, as long as you have rampant misogyny, you're going to have the wellsprings of fascist sensibility." Chris Vials

#11 Traveler

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 11:39 AM

I don't use it for search. I use it to get the articles. Not always successfully, but most of the time. It is a pirate site based in Russia, which is why all of the red flags.
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."-- Winston Churchill
"We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation." Russian spokesman





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