Harvard Reviews Conflict-of-Interest Policies

Researchers Defend Merits of Outside Grants

Over the course of the year, mounting criticism of Harvard's conflict-of-interest policies has prompted reviews of the guidelines governing research grants, financial investments and other commitments by Faculty members to outside companies.

Last semester, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) made several minor changes to its applicable policies, and the Harvard Medical School (HMS) is currently revising a policy that places limits on the financial involvement a professor can have with an outside firm.

The current HMS policy limits researchers to $10,000 per year in consultant fees and $20,000 worth of investment in companies that work in related fields.


The decision to review the policy for the first time in 10 years was motivated by increasing criticism that the HMS policy is too rigid in comparison to those of other universities.

In addition to regulating interactions between HMS researchers and businesses with which they are financially involved, the policy also seeks to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between the time and energy researchers devote to Harvard and other duties.

"The whole question of reviewing the policy is to determine whether or not it is more strict than the policies of other colleges," explains HMS Professor of Surgery David H. Sachs '63.

At FAS, professors are restricted from having a financial interest in companies that sponsor research within their laboratories, and are more broadly discouraged from outside activities that will take too much time away from their work at Harvard.

Unlike at the medical school, professors within FAS say that the policy rarely needs to be enforced, and has not come under much scrutiny since last semester's changes.

Recommended Articles