Check out this bioethics blog from Maurice Bernstein. He brings up a very interesting point concerning conflict of interest in research that I never considered as a conflict of interest. Should a researcher with a disease be able to do research on said disease? Many times scientists study diseases that affect family members, i.e. if your nephew is autistic or your grandmother has Alzheimers. But what if the researcher has the disease. My initial reaction is this does not represent a conflict of interest, but a commentary on the blog raises some interesting points:
"#2 - the researcher will be overly optimistic when reviewing data because they will "see what they want to see"
#3 - the researcher will overlook positive results that are not up to the level of cure that the researcher wants to cure their own disease state
#4 - the researcher could be overly invested in the research and miss a crucial step of discovery (versus #3 where they see a positive result but it isn't "good enough")
#5 - the researcher could actually distance themselves from the research when it isn't very promising so they don't have to deal with personal feelings of failing themselves
#6 – the researcher could be so personally invested in the study that they reject others ideas for improving the study (i.e. tunnel vision)."
What do you think? Are these valid conflicts of interest? I think these may color a researchers view of the data, but I don't see them as actual conflicts. These points are more about scientific integrity.