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The threat to scientific integrity in environmental and occupational medicine
  1. S Tong1,
  2. J Olsen2
  1. 1School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 Associate Professor S Tong
 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland 4059, Australia;


Over the last century, environmental and occupational medicine has played a significant role in the protection and improvement of public health. However, scientific integrity in this field has been increasingly threatened by pressure from some industries and governments. For example, it has been reported that the tobacco industry manipulated eminent scientists to legitimise their industrial positions, irresponsibly distorted risk and deliberately subverted scientific processes, and influenced many organisations in receipt of tobacco funding. Many environmental whistleblowers were sued and encountered numerous personal attacks. In some countries, scientific findings have been suppressed and distorted, and scientific advisory committees manipulated for political purposes by government agencies. How to respond to these threats is an important challenge for environmental and occupational medicine professionals and their societies. The authors recommend that professional organisations adopt a code of ethics that requires openness from public health professionals; that they not undertake research or use data where they do not have freedom to publish their results if these data have public health implications; that they disclose all possible conflicts; that the veracity of their research results should not be compromised; and that their research independence be protected through professional and legal support. The authors furthermore recommend that research funding for public health not be directly from the industry to the researcher. An independent, intermediate funding scheme should be established to ensure that there is no pressure to analyse data and publish results in bad faith. Such a funding system should also provide equal competition for funds and selection of the best proposals according to standard scientific criteria.

  • ICOH, International Commission on Occupational Health
  • ILZRO, International Lead Zinc Research Organisation
  • scientific integrity
  • threat
  • tobacco

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  • Competing interests: none