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Competing interests and research in medical education
  1. Kieran Walsh1,
  2. John Sandars2
  1. 1
    BMJ Learning, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, UK
  2. 2
    Medical Education Unit, School of Medicine, The University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  1. Kieran Walsh, BMJ Learning, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR, UK; kmwalsh{at}

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Since the mid 1980s most biomedical and clinical journals have instructed authors to state clearly if they have any potential competing interests or conflicts of interest.1 This is because of growing concern within the research community and the public at large that the views of researchers and authors may be influenced by financial interests that they may have within the pharmaceutical industry or other commercial organisations. Declaring such interests will not make them go away but will bring them out into the light of day and allow readers to make up their own minds about the influence if any on competing interests and medical research. Although exact definitions vary, it is generally accepted that competing interests “may exist when an author (or the author’s institution or employer) has financial or personal relationships or affiliations that could influence (or bias) the author’s decisions, work, or manuscript.”2 This need for transparency is essential in a medical research environment in which the conduct and reporting of studies may be significantly influenced by large pharmaceutical companies and government agencies.3 4 Research in medical education can also be potentially biased by competing interests and there is an urgent need to consider this aspect of medical education research.


So why are competing interests relevant to papers on medical education? Increasingly there is emphasis on implementing evidence …

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  • Funding: None

  • Competing interests: KW works for BMJ Learning—the online learning website of the BMJ. He is paid a fixed salary. JS is a member of the editorial board of Education for Primary Care.

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