In the wake of, among other things, the discussions regarding the advisory reports on H1N1 influenza at the WHO or the "Mediator-drug" in France, the public as well as the media have focussed on the conflicts of interest of scientific experts.
The SHC is the first Belgian scientific advisory body to have developed its own philosophy and implemented a comprehensive approach in which a Committee on Professional Conduct manages the experts' declarations of interests and potential conflicts. This approach goes far beyond the mere submitting of a sworn statement and is grounded on 7 principles:
- One cannot be an expert without having any interests.
- There is a difference between an interest and a conflict of interest.
- The experts must disclose their interests in a transparent manner.
- It is not up to the expert to determine whether or not a given interest leads to a potential conflict.
- Identifying potential conflicts does not suffice, they also need to be managed.
- Issuing and communicating advisory reports requires transparency as regards any interests and potential conflicts.
Other institutions too need to implement a system that will allow them to manage potential conflicts of interests. This can be achieved by working together.