Date Submitted: 9/05/2019
Conflict of interest?
Taking money from an industry you study is always a dicey decision. On the other hand, you may learn a lot about the company at the meeting that could make your research more effective. If you choose to go, you might go with a strategy of radical transparency - making your statement and the reneumeration you receive public. If you have other funds you could also accept the offer to join but cover your own costs (and potentially ask that any honoraria be donated support human rights).
I very much appreciate the instinct to ask about ethical issues here, such as conflict of interest, but in this particular case I do not perceive any real concerns. The key piece of information, from my perspective, is that the company contact has not asked to see, let alone vet or influence, the content of the researcher's remarks. This opportunity offers a chance for the researcher to offer a substantive, empirically informed presentation on their area of expertise to a stakeholder with a direct interest in that expertise. I don't think the researcher should be held responsible for anything the company might do on the basis of their presentation. In that regard, it is also helpful that the panel discussion is essentially a public one. The researcher deserves to be compensated for their time and expertise -- and I do not believe that the fact of compensation compromises their ability to assess the company's human rights record. The researcher might think about being prepared for an argumentative, possibly even hostile, response from other members of the panel or the audience. If they think that might affect their ability to engage in the conversation freely and directly, they might wish to decline the invitation. I do not, however, see that as a conflict of interest.