Principles for Public-Private Research Partnerships

Public-private research partnerships leverage diverse expertise to solve complex problems in nutrition and food safety and improve public health. To ensure a strong ethical foundation and manage potential and perceived conflicts of interest, IAFNS's Assembly on Scientific Integrity established a set of twelve harmonized principles for successful public-private partnerships in scientific research.

Benefit the Public

Have a clearly defined and achievable goal to benefit the public.

Trust, Transparency and Mutual Respect

Articulate a clear governance structure to build in trust, transparency, and mutual respect as core operating principles.

Meet Public and Private Needs

Ensure that objectives will meet stakeholder partners’ public and private needs, with a clearly defined baseline to monitor progress and measure success.

Balance Bargaining Power

Considering the importance of balance, ensure that all members possess appropriate levels of bargaining power.

Mitigate Influence by Any Single Member

Recruit a sufficient number of partners to mitigate influence by any single member and to broaden private-sector perspectives and expertise.

Identify Specific Research Questions

Engage partners who agree on specific and fundable research questions to be addressed by the partnership.

Share Funding and Research Data

Enlist partners who are committed to the long term as well as to the sharing of funding and research data.

Include Civil Society

Along with government and the private sector, include academics and other members of civil society (e.g., foundations, NGOs, consumers) as partners.

Find Common Ground

Select objective measurements capable of providing common ground for both public and private-sector research goals.

Transparent Competitive Interests

Adopt research questions and methodologies established by partners with transparency on all competitive interests, ideally in the precompetitive space.

Be Flexible

Be flexible in implementing the PPP process.

Communicate Transparently

Ensure ongoing transparent communications both among partners and between the PPP and the public.

These principles were first published in 2013 in Nutrition Reviews, and subsequently were used as the basis for a set of principles that were agreed upon and endorsed by 4 federal agencies and 5 nutrition and food safety professional societies. The final set of principles was published in 2015 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and excerpts appeared in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsJournal of Food Science and Nutrition Today.

Principles in Action:

As a proof-of-concept for these 12 principles, IAFNS has joined USDA, GS1 US, 1WorldSync, NielsenIQ Label Insight and the University of Maryland in a public-private partnership. The goal of this partnership is to improve public health and the sharing of open data by enhancing the USDA National Nutrient Database with nutrient composition of branded food and private label data provided by the food industry. The submission of data to the USDA Branded Food Products Database is voluntary; however, if a manufacturer participates, a set of mandatory attributes agreed upon by the Partners must be submitted. All data submitted to this database are publicly available. Learn more.