References and Resources
(1) Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: Writing and Editing for Biomedical Publication, IID. Conflicts of Interest
(2) CSE's White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications, 2.1.3. Conflicts of Interest
(3) See WAME Policy Statements
A new Journal of Clinical Investigation conflict-of-interest policy
Ethics and scientific publication, Benos et al, Advances in Physiological Education, 2005. Discusses a range of issues in publication ethics including conflict of interest. Includes case studies and questions for discussion.
Blackwell Publishing Best Practice Guidelines on Publication Ethics: A Publisher's Perspective, Section 5.4. Conflicts of Interest
Editors should work towards consistent policies and procedures on financial disclosures. The publishing community (and all those responsible for the public dissemination of research results) should strive to develop more uniform conflict of interest policies and procedures. We appreciate that biomedical journals are diverse in format, scope, audience, and the types of research reported (both clinical and basic science), and thus may approach financial conflicts of interest differently. However, there is a clear need for more consistency in journal disclosure requirements.
Benefits: For scientists, consistency in publishing practices are even more important than for institutional policies because investigators may publish in numerous different publications. Published results of research can have impacts on public health, future research, and stock prices and jobs. Variable policies may result in confusion and noncompliance by investigators and may allow authors to "shop" or seek out journals that might have less stringent requirements.
Current efforts: Some organizations such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) (1), Council of Science Editors (2), and the World Association of Medical Editors (3) have developed guidelines and statements on research ethics, including conflicts of interest. The ICMJE guidelines have been adopted by hundreds of journals. However, there are important differences in guidance provided by these groups.
Editors should consider the following elements in their policies.
Covered individuals: Policies should cover authors, reviewers, and editors.
Disclosure: Disclosure requirements should avoid requiring investigators to judge whether there may or may not be a relationship that could create bias or present a conflict of interest and simply require disclosure of relevant financial interests.
A "relevant" financial interest means having financial interests or relationships with companies or investment firms related to the reported research.
Financial interests may include a research grant from a company for the reported research or consulting fees, royalties, equity, patents, or other remuneration from a company that could be directly affected by the reported research. Financial interests of a spouse or dependents should also be considered relevant because these are included in the Federal regulation.
Considering institutional requirements: Editors should understand that institutions vary regarding the nature and amount of financial interests investigators must disclose to the institution (and what the institution considers a "significant financial interest"). Be aware that a difference between the disclosure threshold between the home institution and a journal to which they are submitting a manuscript might be a source of confusion by authors.
Publishing disclosures: Relevant financial disclosures should be published with the paper. Editors and readers should have access to this background information.
Communicating to authors: Editors should provide clear guidelines, consistent instructions, and simple forms to authors including describing when, how, and to whom disclosure occurs. Key terms and definitions should be used consistently throughout (such as in the editorial policy and in disclosure instructions and forms).
Tool. Guidance for Journals Developing or Revising Policies on Conflict of Interest, Disclosure, or Competing Financial Interests, Council of Science Editors (PDF)