Building consensus on interactions between population health researchers and the food industry: Two-stage, online, international Delphi study and stakeholder survey

Cullerton K, Adams J, Francis O, Forouhi N, White M (2019) Building consensus on interactions between population health researchers and the food industry: Two-stage, online, international Delphi study and stakeholder survey. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0221250. https://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0221250

Abstract : Key to scientific integrity is ensuring that research findings are considered credible by scientific peers, practitioners, policymakers and the public. Industry sponsorship of nutritional research can result in bias and raises significant professional, public and media concern. Yet, there is no international consensus on how to prevent or manage conflicts of interest for researchers considering engaging with the food industry. This study aimed to determine internationally agreed principles to guide interactions between population health researchers and the food industry to prevent or manage conflicts of interest. We used a two-stage, online Delphi study for researchers (n = 100 in 28 countries), and an online survey for stakeholders (n = 84 in 26 countries). Levels of agreement were sought with 56 principles derived from a systematic review. Respondent comments were analysed using qualitative content analysis. High levels of agreement on principles were achieved for both groups (researchers 68%; stakeholders 65%). Highest levels of agreement were with principles concerning research methods and governance. More contentious were principles that required valuesbased decision-making, such as determining which elements of the commercial sector are acceptable to interact with. These results provide the basis for developing internationallyagreed guidelines for population health researchers governing interactions with the food industry.

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