Professor Rob Howard of University College London is a leading academic involved in developing scientific understanding for UK doctors in relation to dementia and was given a life time achievement award on the 14th March 2019 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
In November of 2018 I asked Professor Howard if he supported Sunshine legislation? He replied:
“I have other windmills of my own to tilt at before I retire, I am afraid . . . I am not sure whether legislation is the way to do it and I don’t like the ‘sunshine’ label.”
Tilting at windmills is an idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies. The expression is derived from the 1605 novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and the word "tilt" in this context comes from jousting. I have never heard sunshine described as a "label".
In response to the following Editorial Prof Howard stated:“[there is] No good reason why there shouldn’t be full transparency of all financial relationships between doctors and Pharma. Aren’t most of us declaring such COIs anyway when we publish research?”
I was surprised that Prof Howard is of the view that declarations given with published research represents “full transparency”. This is simply not the case and is why USA and France and a number of other countries have introduced sunshine legislation.
University College London has confirmed to me that any declarations that staff make regarding competing financial issues are NOT available to the public. The following slideshow shares some of University College London’s ‘strategic business partnerships’‘
Professor Howard has also stated that in his “experience [the Science Media Centre] do a good job getting out a quick and balanced range of expert views”. The Science Media Centre has stated that they cannot support Sunshine legislation without direction from the scientific community and healthcare sector as a whole.
In my lifetime I have been interested in the ethics of science. I am not a jouster (I do not like battles, pretend or otherwise). I do not consider sunshine to be a label.