Recent media coverage has highlighted the issue of nutrition and health professionals undertaking research funded by industry and/or specific-interest groups, or for having links to organisations which accept industry funding.
High quality research is essential for the generation of new evidence, and the public must be able to trust that this research has been undertaken in a transparent, ethical and robust manner.
To ensure research is not unduly influenced by the funding source, research contracts are typically in place prior to any research activity being undertaken and limit the potential for the funder to influence the study design, data collection, analysis or reporting. Indeed, many studies are pre-registered on trials or review registries and the results are published in high quality, peer-reviewed journals.
For the public to trust the information being shared with them in respect to research developments, it is important that those undertaking the research or reporting on this to the public are suitably skilled and competent to critically appraise the evidence base and the topic of research/discussion. All UKVRN Registrants are trained in research skills, critical appraisal and nutrition science, along with a commitment to adhere to the AfN Code of Ethics, Conduct & Performance.
The following statement explains the standards which all AfN registrants are required to uphold.
AfN Registered Nutritionists and Registered Associate Nutritionists are highly qualified and skilled professionals, whose expertise is valuable and perfectly placed to both undertake nutrition research and communicate nutrition science messages to the public. When undertaking research or working with industry or campaign groups, nutrition professionals must be mindful that they hold a position of responsibility and influence, and must therefore uphold ethical practice requirements at all time.
Care must be taken to ensure any messages/posts they share do not contravene either regulations or the standards expected for professional conduct.
Registered Nutritionists (RNutr) or Registered Associate Nutritionists (ANutr) commenting in the media, undertaking research and/or working with industry or campaign groups, must always:
- Be polite and respectful
- Reflect the balance of scientific evidence, critically appraising the source and quality of data used to support statements made
- Ensure any statements made or actions undertaken show objectivity in assessing evidence and do not mislead others as to the availability of evidence by omission, exaggeration or ignorance
- Be accurate and objective in all statements made
- Prioritise public benefit over any financial rewards or incentives
- Clearly declare any links to organisations/brands or products they are commenting on
- Not make claims which are false and for which there is no (or little) accurate, verifiable and good-quality evidence
- Ensure their scientific knowledge, professional skills and experience are used in an accurate and responsible manner and not influenced by direct or indirect financial reward
- Ensure any research or projects undertaken or supported avoids scientific misconduct, this includes ensuring there is no fraud, falsified data or plagiarism in the production of papers and evidence
- All data and reports produced must be trustworthy
- Be aware of the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) Code of Practice for Research (or future equivalent) for best practice guidance for those undertaking research
- Ensure projects and research is undertaken in a non-discriminatory manner, ensuring the principles of equality, diversity, equity and inclusion (EDEI) are fully considered, assessed and applied