ILSI North America Scientific Integrity Review
Over the last decade, ILSI North America has become a leader in scientific integrity and public-private research partnerships for the food and nutrition community. Our work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, endorsed by Federal agencies and professional nutrition and food science societies, and cited broadly throughout the scientific community. In the spirit of striving for continuous improvement of our research programs and exemplifying best in class research practices, we have commissioned an independent, third-party audit to assess and make recommendations for how we can improve our adherence to the 8 Guiding Principles for Funding Food Science and Nutrition Research (Guiding Principles).
In August 2018, ILSI North America invited the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to conduct the review. From this exercise, we have obtained valuable insight into the areas in which we excel and those that could be further strengthened to enhance our efforts to advance food safety and nutrition science for the benefit of public health.
Did you Know?
In 2019, the American Society for Nutrition’s Blue Ribbon Panel recommended independent audits of adherence to adopted policies and practices as a best practice for maintaining transparency and scientific rigor in nutrition science. The Blue Ribbon Panel is an independent group composed of 11 members from a variety of disciplines, commissioned to provide recommendations regarding how to work collaboratively with various stakeholders across sectors (Garza et al. 2019). Learn more about ASN’s Blue Ribbon Panel Recommendations.
About the Academy
The National Academy of Public Administration is a non-profit organization chartered by Congress in 1984 to provide objective, non-partisan expert advice and practical solutions that help build and manage more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. Learn more about the National Academy of Public Administration.
About the Review
What: A scientific integrity review of ILSI North America’s research activities.
When: The review took place between August 2018 – December 2018.
Who: The National Academy of Public Administration conducted the review.
How: Research activities completed within 2013-2017 were audited against the 8 Guiding Principles for Funding Food Safety and Nutrition Research.
Why: To gain an objective assessment of our adherence to adopted principles for scientific integrity and obtain recommendations for further enhancing our research programs. Our learnings from this exercise will be shared with the entire federation of ILSI entities.
Recommendations from the Academy
The Academy found that ILSI North America is following promising practices in many areas related to scientific integrity.
“Based on the study team’s research, it is clear that ILSI North America is committed to achieving and maintaining high standards of scientific integrity in their research activities. Industry funding plays a vital role in supporting food science and nutrition research, due to limited research funding from other sources [Mozaffarian 2017] . . . ILSI North America has made significant efforts to reduce funding-based bias or perceived bias in research activities”
Following their review, the Academy made three recommendations for how we can further improve our research practices:
1. “ILSI North America [should] consider further revising its contract/grant agreement provisions and policy guidance to more explicitly reflect the requirements of the 8 Guiding Principles and avoid confusion.”
The Academy has identified instances within our contract provisions where more explicit language would better reflect some of the requirements of the Guiding Principles for Funding Food Safety and Nutrition Research. We thank the Academy for these recommendations, and we have updated our contract and policy provisions accordingly.
2. “To bolster internal controls for contract management and strengthen the implementation of its policy guidance, ILSI North America should build effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.”
The Academy has made suggestions for how ILSI North America can better monitor how research investigators are adhering to the Guiding Principles. We appreciate these suggestions and have developed a standardized process to ensure compliance with both the Guiding Principles and the Center for Open Science's TOP Guidelines, which we adopted in July 2018.
3. “To further streamline its work processes and strengthen its internal control system, ILSI North America should document its operational processes at both the organization level and the committee level.”
The Academy has made suggestions for how we can streamline aspects of our internal systems and operational processes, and we have used these suggestions to develop formal documentation of our key operational procedures. This documentation will help us to be more efficient in our day-to-day operations, allowing us to spend more time focusing on our mission of advancing food safety and nutrition science for the benefit of public health.
ILSI North America commissioned this review to gain insight into how we can enhance our ability to advance food safety and nutrition science for the benefit of public health. Now that we’ve addressed the Academy’s recommendations within our own research practices, the next step in this process is to share what we’ve learned with the entire federation of global ILSI entities.
We have shared the Academy’s analysis with ILSI Global Coordination, who will incorporate these recommendations into a set of scientific integrity training materials to be used by all ILSI entities. These training materials will be based on ILSI North America’s 8 Guiding Principles for Funding Food Safety and Nutrition Research, which are binding on all of ILSI’s 17 affiliated entities [see ILSI's Mandatory Policies].