Laboratory Informatics Conflicts of Interest and Ethics

Earlier this month, I made a blog posting to tell the world that I’m a Thermo Scientific Consulting Partner. Some might consider this to be a conflict of interest regarding some of the work that I do. By giving all the information about what the partnership program means and how it does or doesn’t affect my business, I share this potential conflict of interest with those who might be affected by it to allow them to make their own decision. I should add that I don’t depend on making a blog posting to get this information out, but I also tell every customer who I will work with to select laboratory informatics software.

Thus, we get to the issue of “ethics.” It’s considered ethical to tell potential customers whenever there’s a hint of anything that could potentially color one’s decisions. Whether or not it WOULD color your decisions is a different issue. It’s not up to you to decide that, since it won’t color your decisions, that no-one needs to know about this. This is labeled in the “unethical” category. But I will agree that it’s tricky to know if some situations could create a conflict of interest until you actually get into the situation. Thus, it is not always easy to know what to disclose — I just mean that some things are obvious and others aren’t.

Some will argue that, by providing potential customers with this information that it might scare them away. Well, yes, that’s possible. We all make our choices and to the person who decides that they prefer to be unethical out of fear of losing a project, that’s their choice.

Here’s a somewhat different situation: I know a company that provides PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) solutions. They’re not a VAR (Value Added Reseller) to any software vendor. However, they’ve selected one software product they have determined can do a good job for their niche of customers, have worked to be experts in delivering services on that product, and that’s all they provide to customers. They’re open about the fact that they’re not going to do a product selection process, but will take this single software product to deliver a working system. Since they are open about their strategy, this is not a conflict of interest. Customers select them and their strategy or not based on knowing how they approach the project, which is made clear to any customer to which they give their pitch.

Side Note:        To those of us who might sometimes complain that the unethical people get the bulk of the work, that society rewards them, well, I agree. It does hurt to lose a project to someone who lies to customers or who misleads them, or to know there are those out there who stretch work out to be able to charge customers more money for it. But my position is this: I can’t control that. I control what happens at my own company. I stand by the decisions at GeoMetrick Enterprises. And, with that said, I can’t sit around wishing for justice to those who operate differently. My feeling is that those companies who provide the incentive to behave in this manner do usually deserve whatever bad services they get as a result. As such, maybe this is a kind of justice. Even so, I’m not going to spend my time waiting for this – I’ve got a business to run and projects to service, and that’s what deserves my time and focus.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

One response on “Laboratory Informatics Conflicts of Interest and Ethics

  1. Gloria, i would not worry one bit about the so called “Conflict of Interest” (COI). Conflicts exist everywhere for everyone. Just because there is a COI does not mean that the person will act on it in an unethical way. It is best to judge based upon actions and not perception.

    Sure, you have a bunch of COI’s but who doesn’t. Just do what you say and your customers will love you and your competitors will keep brining up the non-issue of COI. This happens to me daily because of all the LIMS venues that I own and operate. Many competitors absolutely hate it and constantly go around sayin COI, COI but the customers and even some competitors (such as the ones who sponsor LIMSfinder) simply look at the actions and say they love it. So who am I going to listen to in the end, competitors or customers?

    Embrace your Thermo relationship to serve your customers…. this is what all good LIMS vendors do and I would say you will be a good LIMS vendor.

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