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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  • 2
    While there may be strong local issues with respect to conflict of interest, I believe that there are enough "general" issues that this shouldn't be closed as "too localized." – aeismail Nov 13 '17 at 20:32
  • I agree, surprised this has attracted several close votes. It's certainly possible to give a general, useful answer here. – user24098 Nov 14 '17 at 5:22

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...

  • Any non disclosure clause needs to be checked, but this isn't usually what people have in mind by conflict of interest. – user24098 Nov 14 '17 at 9:26

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.

  • This is true, but if the OP worked for one of the big pharma companies, who sell a wide variety of drugs targeting various diseases, odds are quite high that a health research topic will be relevant to their previous employer in some way. – user24098 Nov 14 '17 at 9:25
  • don't big pharma companies pay for research... and the results... – Solar Mike Nov 14 '17 at 9:28

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