I am currently working in industry with a pharmaceutical company on a one year contract (front-line sales role). Following this contract, I was hoping to complete my masters of Science in population and public health. If I am no longer affiliated with the company by the time I begin courses, and will not finish a masters thesis for 2 years (where the research is not related to my previous employment), is this a conflict of interest, and how is this managed?
closed as off-topic by Enthusiastic Engineer, Bob Brown, Buzz, user3209815, Coder Nov 14 '17 at 11:48
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You should check your contract for any details in terms of disclosure of products / process etc.
It may be that it could be limited to 6 months, 1 year or perpetual : you need to know...
If necessary ask HR and find out : may be worth just having several questions of which conflict of interest is only one...
The conditions for front-line sales are probably different to a lab-tech with detailed tech knowledge...
Specific requirements for conflict of interest vary by publication. I think the situation you describe would be considered a conflict according to some but not all medical journal requirements, for those that give detailed requirements of what to report. Others give less guidance; in which case you should typically err on the side of caution and report it (all this assumes your employment was at least somewhat relevant to the area in which you are conducting research).
In any case, this is typically not a big deal. You won't have to do anything beyond reporting the conflict of interest, and it's unlikely to cause much concern. With pharma companies extensively involved in research, this sort of thing happens all the time.
If your previous employment is in no way related to your current research, and you are not in a position to favor your previous employer (through research purchases, etc.), then there is no conflict of interest.
The only potential pitfall could be if your tuition were paid for by your previous employer, but even then potential conflicts could be mitigated.