Why It’s Important to Disclose Conflicts of Interest

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed an increasing number of columnists/authors/reporters/personalities disclosing potential conflicts of interests. Firstly — THANK YOU! I very much appreciate it when I’m reading something to know that the information I’m reading may be coming from someone who has a bias. It’s okay to be writing about something/someone close to you, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I later find out that the person writing about topic X has a vested interest in how topic X does and the person didn’t have a note about it in the article.

Part of the problem with people not disclosing possible conflicts of interest is because they may not know or think that it’s a problem. I think that’s a problem, but it can be hard to change someone’s morals.

I wonder if there will be some sort of multiplier effect. That is, the more that people disclose the possible conflicts of interest, the more that other people begin to disclose conflicts of interest. There is the possibility that there aren’t actually more people disclosing conflicts of interest and I just have happened to catch a sample of article that had more disclosures than another sample might have. Regardless, my question about the multiplier effect still stands. If we start to be more open about our affiliations, will that then cause other people to be more open about their affiliations?

I don’t have an answer, but I’d like to think that the answer would be yes. What do you think?

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