Scientific Integrity: A forever journey
Scientific integrity is a core value of ILSI North America and is paramount to the vitality of the tripartite model under which we operate. For the past 10 years, ILSI North America has been a recognized leader in addressing issues of conflict of interest and public-private partnerships through our work with federal agencies and scientific professional societies. Now the focus is on scientific integrity through scientific excellence.
Areas of Work
In October 2016, ILSI North America published a “Scientific integrity resource guide: Efforts by federal agencies, foundations, nonprofit organizations, professional societies, and academia in the United States” in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. This resource guide lays out the work being done in 5 different sectors on scientific integrity. The manuscript will be a living document and will be updated twice a year on the ILSI North America website.
The Assembly on Scientific Integrity deemed it critically important to pursue a public private partnership initiative that establishes a set of harmonized principles for public private partnerships in scientific research to ensure a strong ethical foundation to avoid potential and perceived conflicts of interest. Such partnerships are imperative in leveraging diverse expertise to solve our complex problems in public health and questions concerned with nutrition, health, and food safety. ILSI North America published this set of 12 principles for successful research public-private partnerships in October 2013 in Nutrition Reviews. These principles were then used as the base for a set of principles for research public-private partnerships that were agreed upon and endorsed by 4 federal agencies and 5 nutrition, food science, and food safety professional societies. This new set of principles was publicly unveiled at the National Academy of Sciences in June 2015 and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2015. Excerpts of the publication also appeared in:
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Journal of Food Science
- Nutrition Reviews
- Nutrition Today.
As a proof of concept for the original 12 principles, ILSI North America has joined USDA ARS, GS1 US, and other partners in a “A Partnership for Public Health: USDA Branded Food Products Database.” This public-private partnership’s goal is to enhance public health and the sharing of open data by enhancing the USDA National Nutrient Database with nutrient composition of branded food and private label data provided by the food industry. The submission of data to the USDA Branded Food Products Database is voluntary, however, if a manufacturer participates, a set of mandatory attributes agreed upon by the Partners must be submitted. As part of the USDA National Nutrient Database, the USDA Branded Food Products Database will ensure that these data are publicly available to those who will utilize them. This includes, but is not limited to, federal agencies, the research community, international databases, proprietary databases and end users, and the food industry. In addition, these data can be used to support the development of consumer facing applications (i.e., “Apps”).
Visit the ILSI North America webpage on the USDA Branded Food Products Database.
Ethical questions have been raised regarding conflict of interest, making it more challenging for the formation of expert advisory committees that advise government agencies and public health officials in formulating nutrition and food safety policy. Due to the growing complexity of the interactions among government, industry, and academic research institutions, ever-more stringent conflict of interest policies may have the effect of barring the most experienced and knowledgeable nutrition and food scientists from contributing their expertise on expert panels.
The Assembly explored this issue in-depth through a review of the practices of professional societies, voluntary health organizations, foundations, government, the National Academies, and international bodies. A scholarly paper, “How Professionals Are Chosen for Expert Panels: Can the Process Be Improved?”, proposes a set of principles determining considerations for service on expert advisory committees and calls for a boarder discussion in all sectors of the research community on whether the process might be improved. The paper has been published in Health Policy and is available online.
Research was undertaken to explore the question of whether funding source influences the quality of published food nutrition research through a partnership with the ADA and using the ADA’s Evidence Analysis Library. Over 2,800 articles were examined. The manuscript has been completed and can be found here.
Public debate has increasingly centered on the opinion by some that privately funded research, whether conducted at contract research organizations or universities should be denied consideration in the formulation of public policy. The Assembly on Scientific Integrity maintains that the scientific process requires open, transparent examination and honest interpretation of data, regardless of a researcher’s affiliation or source of funding.
This led to the development of a manuscript, “Funding Food Science and Nutrition Research: Financial Conflicts and Scientific Integrity.” In 2009 this paper was simultaneously published in six scientific journals: Nutrition Reviews, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Journal of Food Science, Nutrition Today, and the Journal of Nutrition. In 2012, IUFoST requested a scientific information bulletin be prepared on the Guiding Principles with an international perspective. Read the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest Policy
An internal conflict of interest policy has been developed to reinforce and strengthen ILSI North America’s existing code of ethics and was adopted by the ILSI North America Board of Trustees. The policy has been disseminated broadly so that all those working with ILSI North America have a clear understanding of our standards. Read the Conflict of Interest Policy here. Read the Conflict of Interest Policy here.
Who is Involved?
The Assembly on Scientific Integrity includes: members of the ILSI North America Board of Trustees, all member companies of ILSI North America, and the ILSI North America Canadian Advisory Committee.
This paper provides an overview of key existing efforts on scientific integrity by federal agencies, foundations, nonprofit organizations, professional societies, and academia from 1989 to April 2016.
This article expands upon the summary, “In Brief: Achieving a Transparent, Actionable Framework for Public–Private Partnerships for Food and Nutrition Research,” published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This publication is a summary of a working meeting held on 8 December 2014 to discuss and reach a consensus on guiding principles for public-private partnerships related to food and nutrition research.
Alternative models for funding nutrition and health research are necessary to make considerable and timely progress to improve public health.
This article, published in Health Policy, explores the effects of conflict of interest policies on the process for chosing experts to form advisory panels for the formulation of nutrition and science policy.
The Future of Food and Nutrient Databases: Invention, Innovation, and Inspiration
ILSI North America work was presented in multiple EB2016 sessions.
A public unveiling was held at the National Academy of Sciences on 16 June 2015 of the set of principles for research public-private partnerships that were agreed upon and endorsed by 4 federal agencies and 5 nutrition, food science, and food safety professional societies.
ILSI North America’s recent work on partially hydrogenated oils, public-private partnerships, and food-relevant chemicals in ToxCast will be presented.
Augmentation of the USDA National Nutrient Database: A Public-Private Partnership on “Branded Food Products Database for Public Health.