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Title: Conflicts of interest in the reporting of biomedical research in mainstream newspapers in Canada
Authors: Buist, Steven Douglas 
Issue Date: 17-Oct-2013
Ethical behaviour by investigators is the cornerstone of scientific research.
Recognizing, declaring and avoiding a conflict of interest are key
responsibilities for biomedical researchers, particularly since commercial
enterprises, such as pharmaceutical companies, have become major funding
sources of research.
Proactive disclosure of researchers' financial
relationships is now a requirement for publication in most scientific journals.
The question that arises is whether this same increased scrutiny of financial
disclosure and potential for conflict of interest has extended to the
mainstream press in Canada.
A content analysis of biomedical research articles that appeared in Canadian
daily newspapers from 2001 to 2008 showed that 82 per cent of the articles
failed to identify the financial connection that existed between the
researcher(s) and the commercial funder, and nearly half of the articles did
not even identify the commercial funding source of the research. A text
analysis showed that 94 per cent of the articles were positive about the
drug/device cited by the research, and positive, optimistic words such as
“breakthrough”, “significant”, “hope” and “promising” were often used in the
news articles. Reporters frequently frame biomedical research articles using
a battle-like template that describes a fight between good and evil. Another
common approach was to frame the article as a message of hope for the
future. A genre analysis showed that the genre of medical research news
articles published in newspapers is highly dissimilar to the genre of medical
research articles published in scientific journals. It is likely these two genres
have been constructed to appeal to very different target audiences.
The study results show overwhelmingly that readers are not provided with
key information about potential financial conflicts of interest involving the
researchers and the commercial sources of funding for the research. Such
lack of transparency thwarts the reader’s ability to reach informed
conclusions about whether or not the research has been either explicitly or
implicitly influenced by the researcher’s potential conflict.
Dissertation in compliance with the requirements for the Master's Degree in Technology: Journalism, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2013.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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