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I have recently started working on a Biotech startup in the biomedical field, and some of the academic collaborative work I did before being at the company now being published (several publications). This work is in basic research but sometimes it revolves around diseases and that is clearly stated in the papers. The usual "our work provides new treatment avenues for Disease X". The scope and therapeutic interests of the company are fairly narrow, however broad enough that I am concerned about the impact of not disclosing Competing Interest - I have stock options in the company.

Several hypothetical, but fairly realistic, scenarios:

  1. The company project on Cancer and the paper is in cancer, even though one is a drug and the other is a screening / test
  2. The paper is on immunology and there is no plan whatsoever for the company to be in that space (but who knows in 3 years time)
  3. The paper is about aging in worms.

The question is how to handle this? Disclose that I work for a Biotech company in all of them? In none? And to phrase How to phrase? Would it be enough something like:

Jane Doe is now an employee of Biotech X

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  • What is the purpose of this statement? To whom will it be given?
    – Buffy
    Apr 15, 2021 at 18:55
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    @Buffy part of standard procedure when submitting a paper for publication in a Biomedical journal. The purpose, as I understand it, is to inform the reader for a complete view of the work. For example, when the clinical results of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine were published several authors declared (an) obvious conflict of interest, as in, they profit from this product going to market. Apr 15, 2021 at 19:23
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    Having a conflict of interest does not invalidate the results or scientific claims, but in some controversial areas or papers a reader might want to take a more careful look at work. I am surprised you never heard of this. Apr 15, 2021 at 19:23
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    Can you scan the most recent few issues of the journal to see how others are phrasing? Surely you are not the only PhD student to move to industry. Probably I would say something like ... x,y,z parts of the paper were completed while author was a student at X. Author accepted a position at y during the review process.
    – Dawn
    Apr 15, 2021 at 19:57
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    Obviously, but in that case you would also put the conflict during time as a student. This question is about how to address post-research conflicts and I think adding something about the timing becomes relevant.
    – Dawn
    Apr 15, 2021 at 20:30

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This would seem to me to be somewhat in the same class of things as citation. If you fail to cite or fail to disclose when you should, then you have problems. In the current situation, possibly legal problems. If you over cite or over liberally interpret the requirement to disclose possible conflicts, then there is little chance of problems. Consumers of research, whether readers or patients, have a right to know that the best judgement was used in such areas. Failure to disclose is a problem as it calls the honesty and motives of the researcher into question.

As you note in a comment, a conflict in itself doesn't invalidate results, but simply warns others that they need to be certain of results, a bit more than if no conflict exists.

Quite a lot of "research" was published in the climate change (global warming) area where no disclosures were made and the "research" turned out to be propaganda. The tobacco industry was accused of the same thing. But, a lot, likely most, of sponsored research is completely valid. Someone has a "need" to know and is happy to pay for the knowledge.

So, the advice I have, though it isn't my field, is "when in doubt, disclose". I am, of course, someone who could benefit or suffer from research done well or badly, so I have a vested interest in things being done right. In the pandemic situation at the moment, we all seem to be experimental subjects of one sort or another.

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    I will go with this, the wife of Caesar and all that, and add to the phrasing something along the lines of what @Dwan suggested "the work performed was done prior to employment with company X". Apr 16, 2021 at 8:17

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