Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
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Funding Guidelines

Background

The Rudd Center’s work is predicated on the belief that multi-sectoral change will be necessary to achieve sustainable and meaningful public health impact. Efforts to address obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases by academic institutions alone, governments, NGOs and for-profit organizations, however intensive, will not be sufficient unless they converge at certain points. Interaction between sectors such as the public health community and food and agriculture industries must be part of this picture.

Progress towards a synergistic approach will take time and is likely to be enhanced by trust among the diverse stakeholders who have had little history of sustained interaction. The Center is committed to creating an environment in which all who wish to contribute to public health goals can do so. Key center aims are to prevent obesity, reduce weight stigma, and promote positive change in the world’s diet. Food and agriculture industries can be central players in this context – either as forces for progress or obstacles to change. It is important, therefore, to seek ground where profitability and public health coincide and to challenge practices that place profits and public health in conflict. Market forces, if directed and applied appropriately, could be a powerful means of advancing health.

The Rudd Center is committed to transparent, ethical behavior with respect to funding sources and interactions with the private sector. Extensive alliances of scientists and academic institutions with the private sector have led to much criticism and concern about conflicts of interest. Many empirical studies have found a significant relationship between industry-funded research and findings that favor industry. More vocal critics of such alliances discourage any involvement of for-profit organizations in efforts to advance public health, assuming their motivation to be improved public relations, co-opting of opinion leaders in the scientific community, or leverage to forestall legislative or regulatory efforts perceived to be unfriendly to business. With companies driven by profit-making motives and the need to increase value, corporate objectives are seen by some as inherently incompatible with the public health.

A different view is taken by those who favor such alliances, namely that scientists will have a more positive impact by working from within the industry, that more public health research and programs are possible with industry funding (particularly in times of shrinking government support), that protections can be put in place to defend against bias and conflicts of interest, and that scientists funded by industry can remain objective.Some of these contradictory positions may be resolved with data. For instance, more research is taking place on the impact of industry funding on the conduct of science and on the way science is communicated to the world, particularly through the press. From this can emerge a picture of the extent to which bias is the product of industry involvement in science and policy.

There is risk whether scientists and policy makers embrace or resist interacting with industry. Having no interaction risks missed opportunities for harnessing the unique talent, wisdom, and resources of each party and to blend people in ways that create synergies. Yet interaction, particularly when money changes hands, risks undermining public confidence and public health and perverting what science holds most dear – objectivity.

Maximizing public health gain and minimizing risk are high priorities for the Rudd Center. Key values are the need for objectivity, trust, and creative relationships. Developing clear, reasonable, and ethical guidelines is essential.

Guiding Principles

  1. All stakeholders should commit themselves explicitly to improving public health.
  2. Interaction should not compromise scientific integrity: this includes but is not limited to selected protection of proprietary information and the freedom to publish.
  3. Agreed joint actions should be based on sound scientific evidence and principles.
  4. Stakeholders should publicly disclose their direct and indirect sources of funding and other financial interests.
  5. Partners should commit to transparency.
  6. Partners should be accountable both to their constituency and to the public.
  7. Interactions should not be exploited for public relations gains or for forwarding an agenda by any party that is inconsistent with improving public health.
  8. Partners should monitor research on conflicts of interest and respond in good faith if threats or perceptions of threats to these guiding principles are likely.

The specific issue of accepting financial support from industry requires clear guidelines. Much or all of the work at the Rudd Center is supported by a private gift from the Rudd Foundation. The Foundation is distinct from the business interests of its founder.

Funding decisions with no potential conflicts with our guiding principles will be made by the Rudd Center leadership. The Rudd Center will not solicit financial support by the private sector where clear conflicts of interest exist. In the case where questions of potential or perceived conflicts arise, the Center will seek input from an external Advisory Council. The Advisory Council will decide whether or not such cases involve conflict, and if engagement is possible, will define the needed rules of interaction. Each primary faculty member of the Rudd Center will submit an annual report of all potential Conflicts of Interest, in accordance with Yale University's policy http://www.yale.edu/provost/html/coi.html.

Full Disclosure

Rudd Center faculty and staff (defined below) will make full disclosure of the following potential conflicts of interest:

  1. Financial interests: holding of shares, stocks in an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the results or conclusions of a study or project conducted by the Center.
  2. Research that is prompted by a financial offer or remuneration or other economic advantage on the part of the organization that would benefit from its publication.
  3. Participation in industry sponsored conferences, including reimbursement for travel, lodging and honoraria.
  4. Participation in corporate advisory boards.
  5. Joint research and development activities in which a business entity is likely to benefit financially from the results.
  6. Development of policies, guidelines and standards that could financially impact a company involved in the work.
  7. Fee for organization of educational meetings sponsored by industry.
  8. Consulting fees paid by a company to a person or institution whose work could have a financial or reputation impact on the company.
  9. Previous employment in recent years in an organization that may gain financially from results of a study or conclusion of a manuscript or project.
  10. In-kind donations such as seconded personnel.

The guidelines described here will apply to all faculty and staff employed full time by the Center and those with leadership positions in the Center whose salaries are paid by non-Center funds from Yale University or elsewhere. It is taken as a given that those associated with the Rudd Center but on less than a full-time basis will abide by the ethical and funding guidelines of their primary institution.