This capstone provides insight into conflict of interest in public policy, and the growing challenges that exist in the space in terms of adequate and appropriate disclosure. It is becoming increasingly common for those engaged in public policy work to share their findings and opinions with the public through media activities, social media engagement, and publication with academic journals. Yet, the field currently has no clear disclosure framework for public policy academics, researchers, or experts to share their expertise with transparency and accountability. The lack of framework has led to issues with public policy experts sharing or selling their expertise, confidently working with the public, and ensuring that information shared is trustworthy and transparent. Some public policy commentators will provide a disclosure, but without a framework it has proven difficult to understand concepts like what is appropriate to include, and what is the sufficient window for past activities. This has led to a patchwork approach to conflict of interest disclosure, and growing issues within the field in terms of transparency and accountability with professionals and the public. Through a qualitative review of three different sectors: government, private sector, and academia, this capstone outlines a series of recommendations based on identified themes and approaches found in other conflict of interest disclosure policies. At the government level, the Canadian federal government, Alberta provincial government, and Calgary and Edmonton were considered at the municipal level. Within private sector, consideration was given to sectors that normally highly overlap with the work of public policy. These include law, medicine, research and science, and journalism. Within academic, academic publications, academic associations, and academic institutions including the University of Toronto, University of Calgary, and University of British Columbia were examined. For each sector, conflict of interest disclosure policies that were readily accessible online were identified for review. During the review process, highlighting any definitions, approaches to private interests, and an overview of disclosure methodology was included in this report. Through this review four main themes were identified to form the foundation of a framework in public policy. This includes a definitive approach to conflict of interest, emphasizing different types of conflict, outlining the interests that can cause conflicts in professional work, and timely and accessible disclosure policies. Additional recommendations such as ensuring clear understanding of any institutional guidelines that public policy academics and researchers must adhere too is also crucial to ensuring compliance. Also, education, training and informing students and those engaged in broader public policy work about the importance of ensuring transparent engagement with the public is very important. Professional norms can go a long way in creating a public policy community that collectively understands the value of conflict of interest disclosure. With the identified themes and deeper understanding of the current state of conflict of interest across multiple jurisdictions, two definitions are provided at the end of this capstone that capture what conflict of interest is in public policy, and what a comprehensive disclosure statement should include. These definitions attempt to provide an understanding for the sector and lay the groundwork to continue to build conflict of interest disclosure practices within the sector.
Doody, K. (2021). In the Interest of Disclosure: A Framework for Conflict of Interest in Public Policy (Unpublished master's project). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.