This item from the New York Times online raises some tricky questions about conflicts of interests regarding funding. It describes a situation whereby a student at Harvard Medical School felt some of the information presented in the “protected space” of the learning environment “wasn’t as pure as…it should be” for reasons connected to professors being paid as consultants to drug companies. Reading some letters to the editor connected to this article further complications were raised– for example it was highlighted that often professors receive no income from the University directly, so these contributions maintain their employment.
What is the relevance of this to our CGIAR context? Well, as Public-Private-Partnerships are becoming more common it highlights that one cannot afford be naïve about what this might mean. Working with the private sector may bring up new and unfamiliar issues for centres. It takes time to negotiate and there needs to be a willingness to really go into the details of an agreement. This may well be at odds with a general pressure to reduce transaction time, but one should be realistic about what may be required in order to ensure the right results when entering into an agreement.