American Sociological Association

Case 22. Disclosure of Sources of Grant Funds

Situation

Corine Donnelly wants to submit for journal publication a paper on predictors of successful job placement based on her three-month contract with Backtowork, Inc. She asks representatives of Backtowork, Inc., for permission to publish the paper. They agree but ask her not to identify the organization as the source of her support.

Questions

  1.     Should Donnelly submit the paper without revealing her source of financial support?
  2.     If there are exceptions to revealing the source of financial support of one's work, what principles guide this decision?

Discussion

Sociologists customarily disclose sources of financial support of their work in presentations and publications. The purposes of such disclosure are to acknowledge the generosity of agencies that support research and to assure that any conflicts of interest, or the appearance of conflicts of interest, have been considered and have not compromised professional judgment or created biases in research decisions. Donnelly should have clarified publication rights and the disclosure of support with Backtowork, Inc., at the outset in her contract with the company. If she had known that the company did not want its sponsorship to be revealed, she could have created checks to reduce the possibility of bias. Donnelly should inform the journal editor that her work was funded by a company that prefers to remain anonymous, leaving it to the journal editor to decide what action is necessary.

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