Researchers are also expected to avoid bias in proposing, conducting,
reporting, and reviewing research. They therefore should be careful
to avoid making judgments or presenting conclusions based solely on
personal opinion or affiliations rather than on scientific evidence.
Personal conflicts are usually the easiest to identify and resolve.
Researchers generally should not serve as reviewers for grants and publications
submitted by close colleagues and students. Their presumed interest
in seeing their colleagues and students succeed could conflict with
their obligation to makes judgments based solely on the evidence at
hand. Most granting agencies require reviewers to disclose conflicts
of interest, including personal conflicts, as a condition of service.
Intellectual conflicts are more difficult to identify, but are nonetheless
important. If a researcher holds strong personal views on the importance
of a particular area of research or set of research findings, those
views should be disclosed so that others can take them into consideration
when judging the researcher’s statements. The same is true of
strong moral convictions that could influence a researcher’s scientific
opinions. This is particularly true when researchers serve as expert
witnesses or advisors. It is for precisely this reason that the National
Academy of Sciences, which has provided essential science advice to
the Federal Government since the Civil War, carefully considers all
conflicts of interest when it sets up advisory panels (see box, below).