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About ASTRO

Policy on COI Issues in Research Funding

Many ASTRO volunteers obtain research funding from commercial, non-profit and governmental interests and ASTRO requests this information on the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement.1There are a variety of factors that impact the degree to which research funding could present a potential conflict of interest.

Research funding from nonprofit or governmental bodies

In general, research funding from nonprofit or governmental bodies does not present a potential conflict of interest. The disclosure form requests this information and it should be reported there, but it will not generally raise COI concerns.

Research funding from commercial interests

If the research funding is provided by a commercial interest,2 further analysis is required.

If the research funding is provided by a commercial interest and is paid to the volunteer, or to the institution in which the volunteer works and is used to support his/her salary or research, it should be considered a financial relationship for the volunteer and treated as a potential conflict of interest that requires appropriate management. Appropriate management may range from disclosure, to recusal, to potential non-participation in the volunteer role.

Research funding that is used to support the volunteer’s research, even if not paid directly to the volunteer, should be reported on the form as “supported by research funds paid to [insert name of institution receiving the funding] from [insert commercial entity],” and will be viewed as a financial interest that could pose a potential conflict of interest. Volunteers reporting research funding should provide a description of the research and indicate in what capacity they are involved in the research, such as whether they serve as Principal Investigator and/or receive salary support from the funding. The information regarding the research funding will then be reviewed to determine the degree to which it could pose a potential conflict of interest in the volunteer’s work on behalf of ASTRO.

ASTRO’s President-elect, President, Chair, Immediate Past Chair, CEO and the Editors-in-Chief of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology•Biology•Physics and Practical Radiation Oncology may not have research funding from commercial interests.

All other volunteers will disclose such funding, and it will be reviewed as follows.

Where a volunteer's work may impact commercial interest providing research funding

Where the commercial interest that is providing funding for the volunteer’s research could have a stake in or be impacted by the work the volunteer is undertaking for ASTRO, it will be viewed as a potentially conflicting interest to be addressed according to the position of the volunteer and the degree of potential conflict. This may be true even where the specific research being funded does not relate to the topic of the volunteer’s work.

These relationships should be disclosed to the other members of the committee on which they serve, disclosed in any product that is generated with the volunteer’s participation, and managed as a potential conflict. It may be necessary for the volunteer to recuse him or herself from voting on, or otherwise participating in, matters that relate to the commercial interest. However, in cases where the conflict is viewed as pervasive, it will be necessary to ask the volunteer to resign their specific position with ASTRO if they continue the research funding relationship.

Special rules regarding ASTRO papers

In addition, there are certain positions where ASTRO seeks volunteers who have no potentially conflicting interests, such as for those chairing or vice-chairing committees, task groups or panels charged with producing ASTRO papers that represent a formal position of ASTRO and are intended to be published in a public venue (e.g., guidelines, best practices papers). These chairs and vice-chairs may not have research funding from commercial interests that could be impacted by the content of the paper. For the remainder of the panel members, ideally there would be no research funding from commercial interests that could be impacted by the paper, but so long as the interests are disclosed, balanced and managed, and the member is important to the efforts of the group, it may be acceptable for a minority of panel members to have such research funding. In these cases, the interests must be disclosed to all others who work on the paper and must be included in a printed disclosure statement that is published with the paper, along with any other measures deemed appropriate to address concerns regarding potential conflict.

Where a volunteer's work does not impact commercial interest providing research funding

Where the commercial interest that is providing the funding for the volunteer’s research does not have a stake in or appear to be impacted by the work the volunteer is undertaking for ASTRO, there is significantly lower potential for conflict, and will not be viewed as a conflict. However, for purposes of transparency and to preserve the ability to monitor the potential for conflict over time, the relationship should be disclosed to other members of the committee, task group or panel, as well as in any product that is generated with the volunteer’s participation.

Under ASTRO’s COI Policy, the interests of the volunteer’s spouse, partner and any dependent family member(s) must be disclosed as well.

Under ASTRO’s COI Policy “commercial interest” is defined as “any proprietary entity developing, producing, marketing, re-selling or distributing healthcare goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients.” It exempts, “nonprofit or governmental organizations, or entities through which physicians provide clinical services directly to patients.”