This is a question about work and publications that happen in public-private partnership. I am currently employed by a University, and seconded half of the time in a startup. I am working on a scientific project with outcome that are of interest for both the uni lab and the startup.
The paper is authored by me, colleagues from the lab and the startup. Its a method-oriented paper, explaining a new method of analysis that will be used by the startup for their customers and the lab for their projects. I think that we have competing interest to declare (based on what I saw in the Nature guideline):
- I work part time in the startup.
- Other authors work for the startup.
- I work under the assumption, as other postdocs funded in the same way, that there may be employment from the startup at the end of the postdoc
- The published work may financially impact the startup (as it adds a new method in their tools)
So I spoke with my lab leader, and they said that there is no competing interest and we should declare none. They argued that each author affiliation is clear, that the work was conducted objectively, without bias and that we paid attention to the startup influence so there is no problem. Situation escalated as they thought that I was implying that they were doing unethical work. They spoke with our lab scientific integrity officer (without me), and the officer aligned with the leader view rather than mine.
I am a bit lost with what to do, especially with the backup from the scientific integrity officer. It seems that my view on competing interest is too harsh, so any external feedback on this will be helpful.
Details on the founding:
This funding is from the French government and Europe, that allows to hire (at least) postdocs or engineer for projects with a private partner (company, startup, etc).
This measure is intended to preserve companies' R&D investment capacities, support the employment of young graduates and strengthen the links between public and private research. The aim is to preserve or create more than 2,000 R&D jobs by strengthening public-private collaborations.
The State covers part of the remuneration of R&D personnel assigned to this collaboration: company employees working part-time in a research laboratory; employees of a company undertaking part-time doctoral training in a research laboratory; young graduates at master's level or young doctors hired by a research laboratory and hosted part-time in a company.
Source (in french):