About ConflictMetrics

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.

ConflictMetrics is a clearing house for data visualization and analysis associated with S. Scott Graham’s research on industry funding and conflicts of interest in biomedical research. 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 and related policy. ConflictMetrics brings together research and resources from multiple related projects supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the NSF’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), and the National Institutes of Health. For more details on individual projects and support, see the projects 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 an assistant professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing at the University of Texas at Austin. He uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to study communication in bioscience and health-policy, with special attention to bioethics, conflicts of interest, and health AI. Dr. Graham is the the author of two books (The Politics of Pain Medicine and Where’s the Rhetoric?) and author or co-author of 35 articles, chapters, and essays published in Technical Communication Quarterly, Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, Plos-One, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and other journals.