I understand that veterinary conferences need to be paid for. I really do. But every time I attend one, I am overwhelmed by the rank and unabashed commercialism of the events.
I'm in Orlando at the North American Veterinary Conference. Every presentation is sponsored in some way. Every inch of wall and window space, and even a fair amount of air space, is plastered with giant full-color ads for drugs, parasite preventives, equipment, and practice management tools.
One of my favorite things to do at vet conferences is track how many of the presenters formally disclose their conflicts of interest during their session. It's my belief that such disclosure should be required before anyone is allowed to present at any scientific conference, and many non-veterinary medical and scientific conferences do in fact have that requirement.
Many vets I ask about this, whether in the audience or presenting, seem honestly surprised at the question, and insist that regardless of conflicts, they would never taint or sway their data or opinion, nor believe any presenter would. This is hopelessly naive, and out of step with the entire body of scientific opinion outside of vet med.
When I have in the past asked speakers after their sessions for their conflicts of interest -- a standard question for anyone submitting to a journal or speaking at a human medicine conference -- I've often seen a startled response, followed by statements like, "Let me think... no, I don't think so."
Veterinary medicine needs to do better.
I'm off to my first session at this year's NAVC; maybe this year, the policy has changed. Maybe, even if it hasn't, this will be the year all the presenters disclose their conflicts voluntarily, because they know it's good science and good PR.
Hey. it could happen. And someday, it will.