To describe the process of structuring a partnership between academic researchers and two personalized genetic testing companies that would manage conflicts of interest while allowing researchers to study the impact of this nascent industry.
We developed a transparent process of ongoing communication about the interests of all research partners to address challenges in establishing study goals, survey development, data collection, analysis, and manuscript preparation. Using the existing literature on conflicts of interest and our experience, we created a checklist for academic and industry researchers seeking to structure research partnerships.
Our checklist includes questions about the risk to research participants, sponsorship of the study, control of data analysis, freedom to publish results, the impact of the research on industry customers, openness to input from all partners, sharing results before publication, and publication of industry-specific data. Transparency is critical to building trust between partners. Involving all partners in the research development enhanced the quality of our research and provided an opportunity to manage conflicts early in the research process.
Navigating relationships between academia and industry is complex and requires strategies that are transparent and responsive to the concerns of all. Employing a checklist of questions prior to beginning a research partnership may help to manage conflicts of interest.