Conflict of interest at universities is one of those things. It’s what Samuel Beckett called a tragicomedy.

Universities make a big fuss about COIs paperworkwise, and hotairwise, but at any given time significant numbers of faculty members in med and business schools and economics departments are way out of compliance with COI and disclosure policies. They’re consulting here, they’re consulting there, they’re consulting everywhere.

Their model, their king, their god, their guru, their gold standard, is the last president of Harvard. As Frank Rich notes:

[Lawrence] Summers [did] consulting work for [a] hedge fund, Taconic Capital Advisors, from 2004 to 2006, while still president of Harvard.

That the highly paid leader of arguably America’s most esteemed educational institution … would simultaneously freelance as a hedge-fund guy might stand as a symbol for the values of our time. [Summers was] moonlighting in the money racket while running the entire university.

If it’s good enough for the president of Harvard, it’s good enough for me!

These guys are very competitive. As long as they’re not making the five million or so Summers made from his one-day-a-week consulting job, they’re going to keep at it.


Columbia University has its share of non-disclosing and possibly conflicted professors, but, as the title of this post indicates, it has lax COI policies.

Two of its COI-challenged professors have starring roles in the documentary film The Inside Job, however, and seeing as how the film won an Oscar and all, a lot of people have watched it, and Columbia, says one administrator, is embarrassed. So on Friday the faculty senate’s going to gather and watch the film (the filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, will be there to answer questions afterwards). And almost certainly Columbia will, shortly after that, alter its COI policies.


UD thanks Roy for the link.

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One Response to ““Columbia professors do not have to disclose outside compensation, including consulting arrangements, if it does not fund their University-sponsored research.””

  1. University Diaries » Can you keep it up for eight minutes? Says:

    […] this professor in with the Monitor Group, Lawrence Summers, Andrei Shleifer, and the rest of the Harvard crew, and you understand why Frank Rich and UD laugh […]

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