About Conflict Metrics

Note: The information presented on this site is for academic research and educational purposes only. It should not be used to inform healthcare decision making.


Conflict Metrics is the public-facing portal for data associated with S. Scott Graham's research on conflicts of interest in health and medicine. This site is devoted to providing public access to biomedical research sponsorship and funding data. The focus on data visualization is part of this project's broader aims of helping researchers, policy-makers, providers, and patients rethink conflicts of interest. The data presented here is distilled from several different databases. For a complete account of the data and analytic methods used, please see the documentation page.


Industry Funding and Conflicts of Interest

Concerns over industry funding of clinical research and researcher conflicts of interest are not new. It has been well-established for some time now that industry-sponsored clinical trials are more likely to return positive results than research funded by other means. A 2003 study published in JAMA found that industry-funded clinical trials were 5.3 times more likely to return results favorable to the funder. Even more concerning a, 2005 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry discovered that conflicts of interest, beyond industry sponsorship (e.g. speaking and consulting fees), increase the likelihood that a study will return positive results by a factor of 8.4. Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that industry-funded trials may downplay the severity of drug side effects.

Knowing these kinds of issues are a problem is all well and good, but it doesn't tell us much about the state of clinical science for a specific drug. One industry-funded clinical trial with biased results, while not ideal, may not be that much of a concern if the overall research landscape for a given drug has been sponsored by a diverse range of industry and public funding entities. Likewise, a single researcher-industry financial relationship probably won't profoundly compromise our knowledge of a particular drug. My research is devoted to exploring what happens when industry-funded trials and conflicts of interest accumulate and aggregate. Unfortunately, when I started this work there were no readily available databases on aggregate funding profiles and/or conflicts of interests for particular drugs, drug classes, or areas of medicine. Conflict Metrics was created specifically to address this problem.


About the Author

S. Scott Graham is the director of the Public Engagement and Science Communication (PESC) Laboratory and an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He researches how experts and public stakeholders communicate about risk and uncertainty as part of science- and health-policy decision making. He is the author of The Politics of Pain Medicine (University of Chicago Press) and numerous scholarly articles published in variety of academic journals including the Annals of Internal Medicine, Qualitative Health Research, the Journal of Medical Humanities, and Technical Communication Quarterly.