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Panel: Conflicts of Interest in Science and Science Journalism

Thursday 23 June 2022 | 7.30pm-8.30pm AEST

In 1999, a high-school student in Arizona died while participating in a phase one clinical trial of a gene therapy that, it was hoped, might cure him of a rare inherited metabolic disorder.

The case sparked a storm of recriminations when it was discovered the lead investigator and his university had substantial – and undeclared – financial stakes in the company developing the treatment.

The tragedy shone a much-needed light on financial conflicts of interest in scientific and medical research. But despite organisations and institutions around the world developing policies and guidelines on the issue, the problem of conflicts of interest in science persists today.

These financial ties in science and scientists are a key issue for science journalists, but there is little guidance on how and when such conflicts of interest should be considered, disclosed or investigated.

But science journalists themselves are not exempt from conflicts of interest. Whether it’s a paid-for trip to visit a remote research facility, an institutional residency, or a freelance side hustle writing for a pharmaceutical company, journalists must also increasingly manage their own conflicts.

In this free online panel event, the Science Journalists Association of Australia is delighted to welcome four experts share their experiences, insights and wisdom on these important questions.

  • Investigative science journalist Hristio Boytchev, whose work uncovering medical researchers’ undisclosed financial ties with industry won him the European Science Journalist of the Year award in 2021.

  • Research scientist Associate Professor Barbara Mintzes from the University of Sydney, whose work focuses on pharmaceutical policy and the effects of pharmaceutical promotion on the prescribing and use of medicines.

  • Freelance science journalist, editor and film-maker Wilson da Silva, whose work has won numerous awards.

  • Nature Asia-Pacific bureau chief Nicky Phillips, also previously science editor at the Sydney Morning Herald.

The event was moderated by freelance science journalist and SJAA president Bianca Nogrady.


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