Egg Nutrition Center Blog

Integrity Guidelines are an Important Part of Research Grant Programs

Ethics

The Egg Nutrition Center’s research program applies integrity principles endorsed by experts and top journals.

The scientific method in general, and best practices in research more specifically, help guard against multiple sources of bias that can occur if appropriate checks and balances are missing in conducting and reporting research. Bias can occur when researchers believe so strongly in the original hypothesis that they knowingly or unknowingly adjust analyses until they achieve the outcome they believe makes sense. One of the least recognized biases occurs when null or negative findings are not published, either because the researcher does not spend the time preparing the manuscript or because quality journals deem the information to be either not new or unexciting. Many in the public media have expressed strong concerns that funding sources may influence research. Since the studies in question have already been funded, this concern carries the assumption that these researchers believe that future research funding is contingent on reporting a particular result or interpreting findings in a particular way. This latter would appear to be similar across the range of funding sources, including governments, non-profits, or for-profit organizations. Due to concerns related to all of these potential sources of biases in research, ENC abides by a set of guiding principles, as described here.

ENC follows the guiding principles from the North American International Life Sciences Institute working group on conflicts of interest and scientific integrity published in 2009. Principles are detailed in the article: Funding food science and nutrition research: financial conflicts and scientific integrity.” This paper was peer reviewed by a broad-based group of nearly 40 scientists from health-related fields, as well as by the editors and reviewers of these six top tier food and nutrition journals –Nutrition Reviews (NR), American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics formerly the American Dietetic Association (JADA), Journal of Food Science,Nutrition Today, and the Journal of Nutrition.

These principles provide guidance to researchers receiving funding from industry to help minimize the potential for bias due to funding source. The guidelines are also intended to stimulate ongoing discussion as it relates to the conflict-of-interest issue because of the common desire by food and nutrition scientists and practitioners, journal editors, academics, government representatives and members of the relevant industries to protect the integrity of the food and nutrition scientific literature. The full article is available in Nutrition Reviews and the American Journal of Clinical NutritionThe principles are summarized here in brief.

“In the conduct of public/private research relationships, all relevant parties shall:

1) conduct or sponsor research that is factual, transparent, and designed objectively, and, according to accepted principles of scientific inquiry, the research design will generate an appropriately phrased hypothesis and the re- search will answer the appropriate questions, rather than favor a particular outcome;

2) require control of both study design and research itself to remain with scientific investigators;

3) not offer or accept remuneration geared to the outcome of a research project;

4) ensure, before the commencement of studies, that there is a written agreement that the investigative team has the freedom and obligation to attempt to publish the findings within some specified time frame;

5) require, in publications and conference presentations, full signed disclosure of all financial interests;

6) not participate in undisclosed paid authorship arrangements in industry-sponsored publications or presentations;

7) guarantee accessibility to all data and control of statistical analysis by investigators and appropriate auditors/reviewers;

8) require that academic researchers, when they work in contract research organizations (CRO) or act as contract researchers, make clear statements of their affiliation; and require that such researchers publish only under the auspices of the CRO.”

The purpose of ENC is to improve the understanding of eggs in human health. These guiding principles help ENC ensure that the excellent researchers who conduct research funded through the ENC competitive grant program focus on the questions to be answered without regard to funding sources. Each scientist also has their own university or organization research guidelines and procedures as well as their own curiosity and credibility as a scientist to guide them in the pursuit of advancing understanding about the effects of nutrition on human health.

Additional information is available on the website and in summary articles on “The Role of Farmer Funded Applied Nutrition Research” and “Grant Program by ENC on Eggs and Human Health.”

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Author: Mitch Kanter, Ph.D.