British Association for Pyschopharmacology. To advance education and research in the science of psychopharmacology
The BAP is a society that brings together groups from pre-clinical neuroscience, clinical psychiatry and industry. Our common interests lie in the improved understanding of how treatments work, how they should be used and how new understanding can generate innovation in the commercial sphere. We therefore represent the key players in the mixed economy that supports the development of new medicines for psychiatry. However, BAP Council and its Officers are elected and are drawn primarily from academic settings and Council regards itself as an independent body, answerable to the membership of BAP. Since we increasingly live in an era when simple understandings can break down and an unwritten code of practice may invite unwanted speculation, it may be useful to codify the basis on which the BAP accepts money from industry. In addition we believe that some simple guidelines on potential conflicts of interest may be helpful for members of the BAP who serve on Council.
The BAP accepts money directly and indirectly from industry. This funding allows the cost of attending meetings for individual participants to be kept substantially lower than it could otherwise be. The scientific content of meetings has always remained the exclusive responsibility of BAP Council. The positive consequences have been an internationally competitive programme, a high attendance and a high membership of young-career scientists and doctors in training. Direct contributions are made by companies in the form of single donations. These may be offered simply as a gift or in appreciation for their presence at the summer meeting or other meetings held under the aegis of the BAP.
However, an inevitable corollary of this support, especially at the summer meeting, is a substantial representation from the interested companies, who also have exhibits. Where possible, exhibits are integrated into the common space in which refreshments etc are provided because otherwise the desired contact with participants cannot be guaranteed for the companies.
The other sensitive issue is the addition to the summer meeting programme of industry sponsored satellite symposia. The content of these satellites is not controlled by BAP. However, they are always scheduled outside the normal time table of the summer meeting, to ensure that they do not encroach on its main business, and they are normally of a high scientific quality. Indeed, they are expected to enhance the profile of the meeting, for example by bringing international speakers. However, such supplementary events are inevitably intended, at some level or other, to be promotional. It will be obvious that the desirable balance between the activities provided by industrial symposia and the substance of the meeting is a dynamic one. This balance is kept under critical review by Council and by all members of the BAP. The objective is to ensure an ethos for the summer meeting, which is driven by the identity of the BAP and not by that of the satellites.
Some companies donate money for fellowships or prizes, which Council allocates independently. These donations are very welcome.
Our meetings are also supported indirectly by the funding of either the registration and/or accommodation expenses of participants by industry. While this may appear to be largely a matter for the individuals who are sponsored, there would be concern for the health and reputation of the BAP if attendance came to be dominated by such participants. It is inevitable that the first allegiance of those who attend under those circumstances could be to the industrial sponsor, rather than the meeting itself or the BAP. To the extent that the effect is to bring to the summer meeting more people who participate fully in it, this indirect subsidy is welcome. Were the balance to shift, it would clearly have to be reviewed. As with the direct subsidies it is a matter that requires the constant vigilance of Council and BAP members.
Mature reflection will indicate that most, if not all responsible adults in professional positions have potential conflicts of interest. By conflicts of interest we mean allegiances or hostilities to particular groups, organisations or interests, which may influence excessively one's judgements or actions. The issue is particularly sensitive when such interests are private and/or may result in personal gain.
Our expectation is that Council Members and Officers will always endeavour to recognise such interests and to act independently and in the greater interest of the BAP when giving their best judgements on matters of policy and procedure. It is also essential that Council Members and Officers are seen to exercise such independence, should their judgements be subject to public scrutiny.
To this end, it is wise for Council Members and Officers to disclose what potential conflicts of interest they have. These should be declared before election and are then updated annually (retrospectively for the preceding year), and held as a document in the office, open to scrutiny by BAP members.
As guidance, the risks that should be addressed lie in particular areas:
Related concerns are appropriate if the relationships implied under any of items 3-9 also exist in respect of a relationship to a voluntary organisation, a charity, a law firm, a department of government, an investment company or any other formally constituted body with interests in the field of psychopharmacology.
Members and Officers of Council are expected to declare their primary employment(s).
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