Issue 4, 2018

Collaboration and competition: ethics in toxicology


From animal research through adverse events in clinical trials to health scares around food contamination, toxicology has frequently been a focus of scientific and societal concern. As these concerns shift with each new drug, new technology or public health scare, how can toxicology stay current, relevant and ethical? Two of the biggest ethical challenges in pharmaceutical toxicology are the use of animals in testing and the high safety-related attrition rates in new drug development. Both of these require progress in the discipline that will only be driven by research funding. Yet, very little is invested in these two fields compared with investment in new efficacy models, new disease targets and new technologies. How can this be addressed? Here, we explore current paradigms in toxicology that may have the potential for perceived or actual unethical ramifications. We discuss the underpinnings of such practices and make recommendations for change around peer review, resourcing, transparency and data sharing. These ideas build on the analysis presented in the 2004 Paton Prize lecture (Purchase, 2004) where issues around conflict of interest (COI), collaboration and competition in the context of ethical behaviours were highlighted. These areas are clearly relevant to many aspects of scientific research but here we focus on toxicology and specifically toxicology in the pharmaceutical industry.

Graphical abstract: Collaboration and competition: ethics in toxicology

Article information

Article type
Review Article
14 Nov 2017
31 Jan 2018
First published
01 Feb 2018

Toxicol. Res., 2018,7, 576-585