The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is a nonprofit, worldwide organization whose mission is to provide science that improves human and environmental health. For 40 years, ILSI has addressed problems in food, nutrition and environmental sciences by engaging experts in academia, government and industry. Since 2007 ILSI’s largest branch, ILSI North America has worked extensively with federal agencies and scientific professional societies to develop a framework—the Guiding Principles for Private Funding of Food Science and Nutrition Research (the Guiding Principles)—to ensure scientific integrity within multi-sector food and nutrition research partnerships. These Guiding Principles were simultaneously published in six high-impact peer-reviewed journals with the expectation that all of ILSI North America’s research activities are conducted in this manner.
ILSI North America engaged the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to conduct an in-depth analysis of its projects from 2013 to 2017 in comparison to the Guiding Principles. The purpose of the review was to provide objective, external verification that all research activities conducted at ILSI North America adhered to the Guiding Principles.
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In order to conduct this study, the Academy formed an Expert Advisory Group (EAG) consisting of three distinguished Academy Fellows with a broad range of relevant skills to guide this study. The EAG provided guidance to a four-member professional Academy study team. The study team performed both primary and secondary research to develop findings and recommendations. The study team conducted a thorough and rigorous review of ILSI North America’s contracts/grant agreements and policy manual to determine their adherence to the Guiding Principles. Additionally, the study team interviewed several principal investigators and ILSI North America officials to gain their insights into the thoroughness with which ILSI North America upholds its Guiding Principles. Moreover, the study team also researched best practices in the areas of scientific integrity, ethics, and transparency to glean lessons learned and practices that might be instructive to ILSI North America.
In the final report, the Academy presents detailed analysis of ILSI North America’s contracts, publications, and policy guidance and provides recommendations to further improve the clarity and consistency of the organization’s contractual and policy requirements, enhance internal control, and strengthen its reputation for scientific integrity. In addition, the Academy identifies a number of structural and process issues that have the potential to significantly enhance the organization’s ability to protect the credibility of its research activities.