Intangible and institutional conflicts of interest can particularly affect academia. Academic scientists have peculiar social responsibilities with respect to education and research. These responsibilities may conflict with the increased presence of industry in academia and commercialization of academic research through patents and royalties. Drug approval is almost entirely dependent worldwide on data produced in studies led by pharmaceutical industries. A reflection of the increasing role of the market in academic research is given by exaggerated claims in press releases by academic institutions. In consideration of the extensive presence of industry in academia, there is a need for a move from individual to institutional conflicts of interest disclosure, defining institutional policies for regulating conflicts of interest and developing an ‘ethically credible partnership’.