Declarations, accusations and judgement

examining conflict of interest discourses as performative speech-acts

Christopher Mayes, Wendy Lipworth, Ian Kerridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


Concerns over conflicts of interest (COI) in academic research and medical practice continue to provoke a great deal of discussion. What is most obvious in this discourse is that when COIs are declared, or perceived to exist in others, there is a focus on both the descriptive question of whether there is a COI and, subsequently, the normative question of whether it is good, bad or neutral. We contend, however, that in addition to the descriptive and normative, COI declarations and accusations can be understood as performatives. In this article, we apply J.L. Austin's performative speech-act theory to COI discourses and illustrate how this works using a contemporary case study of COI in biomedical publishing. We argue that using Austin's theory of performative speech-acts serves to highlight the social arrangements and role of authorities in COI discourse and so provides a rich framework to examine declarations, accusations and judgements of COI that often arise in the context of biomedical research and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-462
Number of pages8
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • J.L. Austin
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Discourse analysis
  • Research ethics

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