Since December 2012 I have sought potential conflict of interest disclosures for academics associated with the Australian Academy of Science publication “The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers”.
On 12 November 2013, I forwarded another email on this matter to Professor Suzanne Cory, President of the Australian Academy of Science, saying:
Re my previous questions about possible conflicts of interest of members of the Academy’s Science of Immunisation Working Group and Oversight Committee, and my request for disclosure statements. (Refer to email thread below.)
It is now nearly a year since I forwarded my first enquiry to you in December 2012.
In the interests of transparency and accountability, I suggest any potential conflicts of interest of members of the Working Group and Oversight Committee should be disclosed on the Academy’s Immunisation webpage: http://www.science.org.au/policy/immunisation.html I believe this would be in accordance with The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, in particular sections 4.9 “Disclose research support accurately” and 7.2 “Conflicts of interest”: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/r39.pdf
I have also copied the incoming President of the Academy, Professor Andrew Holmes, in this email.
Professor Cory, given the inordinate delay, I request your urgent email response on this matter.
On 14 November 2013, I received the following response from Dr Martin Callinan, Director Science Policy Section of the Australian Academy of Science:
Thanks for your email. As discussed, including when we most recently spoke, the Academy is in the process of establishing Register of Interests to cover all our activities. Involving database, website and management system upgrades, this process has been underway for more than a year. We anticipate it being operational in March 2014. As with almost all non-government, not-for-profit organisations, our infrastructure is modest, dated and resources are increasingly scarce. We do our best.
In response to your first email, I quite agreed with you about transparency and current standards. At any one time, we have many projects and activities underway that involve 100+ Fellows and experts, all of whom contribute their time on a pro bono basis. I can assure you we are addressing our organisational need for due disclosure. It is a large systematic process being undertaken with available resources. As promised, as soon as I have a publication date I’ll give you a call to let you know in advance.
The lack of transparency to date on potential conflicts of interest of academics involved in Australian Academy of Science projects and activities is a serious omission.
As we are now approaching the end of January 2014, it will be interesting to see if the Australian Academy of Science’s ‘register of interests’ will finally be operational in March 2014.