March 24, 2014
Mollie Turner, mturner@Obesity.org
The Obesity Society Encourages Science-Industry Collaborations
to Support Obesity Science, Public Health
New Position Statement Condemns Ad Hominem Attacks on Researchers
SILVER SPRING, MD – Collaborations between scientists and industries, including food and pharmaceuticals, have a strong history of aiding in new scientific discoveries and supporting public health. For example, earlier this year, food industry corporations announced success in cutting 1.5 trillion calories from food products, which The Obesity Society referred to as an effort that could “make a significant difference in our nation’s weight and health, helping to reverse the obesity epidemic.”
“It’s clear, efforts to combat obesity cannot succeed without the engagement of the many industries that have the power to positively impact the health of billions of people,” said TOS President Steven Smith, MD.
However, in recent years, nutrition and obesity researchers have frequently endured ad hominem attacks, or inappropriate criticisms of character and ethics on the sole basis of collaborative relationships and/or funding from Industry. Today, The Obesity Society (TOS) issued a position statement supporting and encouraging collaborative relationships between scientists and Industry in the interest of scientific discovery and public health. The position goes further to condemn these character attacks against credible and ethical professionals providing transparency and full disclosure about these collaborations.
“Many of our members are the obesity and nutrition scientists that offer valuable insight and spark meaningful dialogue with Industry leaders, and they deserve to be treated and recognized as the credible and ethical professionals that they are,” said Dr. Smith. “Discrediting the scientific opinions of these professionals based on their working relationships has no place in the scientific process.”
The position statement, “Acceptance of Financial Support from Industry for Research, Education and Consulting,” authored by members of TOS leadership, including Advocacy Chair Emily Dhurandhar, PhD, President-elect Nikhil Dhurandhar, PhD, Secretary-Treasurer Martin Binks, PhD, and Advocacy Advisor Ted Kyle, RPh, discourages the practice of “dismissing the contributions of individual scientists and attempting to discredit individuals based on funding source.”
“We have seen too many scientists with long-standing records of scientific excellence and ethical conduct dragged into the spotlight of public criticism based solely on a funding source, and despite full disclosure and transparency,” said Dr. Dhurandhar, who led the development of the statement. “Scientists serve a clear role in these relationships and must operate with the ability to do their work to advance public health by engaging in free and open dialogue, offering expert opinion, and conducting meaningful research to support obesity treatment and prevention, and advance public health.”
In the new position statement, TOS recognizes that individual motivations can sometimes create a risk of bias, which can come in many forms outside of funding source. However, from advisory panels to scientific publications, policies are in place to ensure transparency and disclosure of all potential sources of bias, which is common practice.
“Scientists are very familiar with the importance of making relevant disclosures and ensuring funding sources do not influence the design, analysis, interpretation, and publication of the scientific process,” said Dr. Dhurandhar.
The Obesity Society has a long-standing commitment to ensuring ethical and transparent relationships between science and Industry, and the organization hopes to advance the science behind obesity research, treatment and prevention through ongoing dialogue on this issue.
Read the full position statement here.
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About The Obesity Society
The Obesity Society (TOS) is the leading professional society dedicated to better understanding, preventing and treating obesity. Through research, education and advocacy, TOS is committed to improving the lives of those affected by the disease. For more information about the Society visit: www.Obesity.org. For more information about our disclosures visit: http://www.obesity.org/about-us/financial-relationships.htm .