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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 20, 2009 / 26 Nissan 5769

Subliminal endorsements

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. I'm attending a scientific conference to report on my research showing that a certain common compound has a new use in industry. One particular manufacturer of the compound offered to pay me to display samples of his product at the conference. Is this proper?


A. There are two possible ethical pitfalls in the practice you describe: conflict of interest, and misleading practices.


The potential for conflict of interest arises whenever scientists have a commercial interest. There is much evidence that some scientists have tried to slant their research in order to show results favorable to the product of a company that sponsored their research, or that may do so in the future. Even if you are able to remain unbiased, representing a manufacturer may give the appearance of bias.


In Jewish law, the general approach to dealing with conflicts of interest is disclosure. Conflicts of interest can never be totally eliminated; if research is financed through government agencies or other sources, these bodies have their own agenda which can create other biases. (That's why it is important that research be funded by a variety of different sources.)


The Torah commands: "Don't place an obstacle before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14). In Jewish tradition, this means creating any obstacle to a person's pursuit of his/her own self-interest. Rashi's commentary explains that "blind" means "someone who is blind to the affair" at hand. He gives the following example: "Don't advise your friend, 'Sell your field and buy a donkey', when your hidden intention is to buy it from him."


The problem is not the conflict of interest per se; a person is allowed to give a recommendation or a testimonial in return for payment and this is a common selling practice. The problem is the hidden conflict; the person is representing himself as an objective advisor — in your case, a scientific researcher — when in fact he has a hidden intention to encourage a sale that enriches him.


The way to deal with this issue is transparency. When you present your paper, you should add a disclosure of industry funds received. These disclosures have become commonplace and almost ubiquitous in scientific publications.


The second issue is giving a misleading impression. Since you are an expert in the industrial benefits of this particular plant, people are likely to interpret your display as a testimonial, which is not what you intend.


A student whose rabbi tells him, "You well know that if someone gives me money I would never deny it. So-and-so owes me money, but I don't have any witnesses." Where do we learn that he shouldn't accompany him? As it is written, "Distance yourself from every false matter." …For example, if he says to him, "I have one witness, come and stand there and don't say anything, so you won't be say any falsehood." Even so it is forbidden, as it is written, "Distance yourself from every false matter." (1)


Even though the student does not actually testify on behalf of his teacher, his presence there gives the impression that he will do so and may pressure the supposed borrower to admit to the loan. Similarly, in some contexts, your very presence may suggest to people that you are giving a testimonial, even if you state that you are merely presenting a sample on behalf of the manufacturer.


You should make sure that the way you display the sample doesn't give the impression that you are recommending it based on your research; if you can't, then you must refuse the support.


The final issue, of giving the appearance of bias, is not only an ethical one but also a practical one. Consider if possible damage to your reputation may outweigh any benefit you obtain from the funding.


Scientific researchers are not automatically disqualified from involvement with or even promotion of commercial products. Their expertise may be a substantive benefit to industry. However, it is necessary to thoroughly partition scientific and commercial activities. You need to make sure that your presentation is in no way affected by commercial backing, and simultaneously to make a customary disclosure. You also need to scrupulously avoid giving the impression that your scientific research somehow favors the product of any particular manufacturer if this is not the case.


Beyond the ethical issues, it is worthwhile for you to consider any possible impact on your scientific reputation.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Shevuos 31a

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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