We live in an age of ever-accelerating innovation and disruptive technologies. From breakthroughs in information technology, science and medicine to novel social and educational enterprises, innovation is now a critical part of our society and economy. America’s universities are mirroring this evolution by instituting comprehensive programs to support innovation and entrepreneurship on campus as researchers seek solutions to grand societal challenges. Duke is proudly at the forefront of this movement, supporting and encouraging its researchers to innovate and interface with industry.
An academic researcher stepping into business waters inevitably encounters a variety of sharp rocks below the surface. In particular, there may be conflicts between the academic and business interests of the endeavor. Does the researcher have a personal financial interest in the applications of their research? Are university resources being used for commercial purposes? Are Duke students or other researchers being exploited for external projects?
The Duke Office of Scientific Integrity - Conflict of Interest (DOSI-COI), known as the “COI” office, ensures the quality review, management, and reporting of financial conflicts of interest related to research at Duke University. Angie Solomon, Associate Director of COI, leads the team that works with faculty, staff, and administration to provide comprehensive COI reviews to mitigate biases associated with outside relationships.
“We can easily see bias in someone else, but it's really hard to see it in ourselves. You have to step out and look from someone else's position,” explains Angie. “Pretend you are a journalist, and you find out that a patient died as a result of being given an experimental treatment. And then you find out that the researcher who is developing that device or drug has a financial interest that they never mentioned. Are you going to question their motives? Of course you are. Our main goal is to make sure that everything is transparent. We put procedures in place that help mitigate bias protecting the investigators and the university as well.”
She adds, “Having a conflict of interest sounds negative, but it is not, necessarily. We more often see it as a positive because it means you are advancing science, you are making discoveries, forming partnerships, engaging in entrepreneurial activities. We are here to help you navigate these waters to protect you and to protect the institution.”
The team reviews more than 8,400 COI forms and over 7000 award line items per year and oversees over 300 COI management plans. Angie has been at Duke for 23 years and with the COI office for 12 of those years. She notes, “The COI team is committed to partnering with individuals to develop strategies that are not just plans written on paper but demonstrate Duke’s and the conflicted individual’s commitment to research integrity.”
Angie lives in Roxboro with her husband and her mother. She loves visiting two of her grown children in Washington State and spending time with her three grandchildren and stepson and daughter-in-law on the coast of NC. She also successfully manages daily conflicts of interest between her three dogs, three cats, and three chickens.