Another topic to discuss in the bioethcis forum is Conflict of Interest...we could begin by discussing whether "scientists are corruptible" and what types of protections should be in place to address this issue.
Taking the old adage, invest in what you know; it would be logical to assume that those working in the life sciences would gravitate toward financial investments in the health care sector. This is not to say that insider knowledge is the motivating factor, but rather that if one is a scientist, one has a natural affinity for science and hence might favor science-related stocks.
However, when asked how much pharmaceutical and/or biotechnology stock NIH employees should be able to own, one-third of the respondents in a Science Advisory Board-sponsored Instant Poll cited that they should not own any. This assessment is even more conservative than the guidelines NIH has proposed, which limit such stock holdings to less than $15,000.
It appears that even the appearance of a conflict of interest is considered suspect in the research community. Do you think that because of this concern scientists would rather error on the side of caution than risk suspicion? I've found that since deciding such matters on a case-by-case basis is unrealistic, scientists, in general, favor broader and stricter regulations that would be applicable to all NIH employees.
Despite this stringent emphasis on ethics, nearly one-fifth of the 230+ polled believed the skys the limit and were not in favor of putting a monetary limit on NIH-employees health and tech stock holdings. These individuals expressed confidence in the integrity of the individual and believe that the government should not interfere with his or hers private financial decisions.
Tamara Zemlo, Ph.D., MPH