Conflict of interest
Policy on Conflict of interests, human and animal rights, and informed consent for publication
A conflict of interest exists when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients' welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Perceptions of conflict of interest are as important as actual conflicts of interest.
Financial relationships (such as employment, consultancies, stock ownership or options, honoraria, patents, and paid expert testimony) are the most easily identifiable conflicts of interest and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and of science itself. However, conflicts can occur for other reasons, such as personal relationships or rivalries, academic competition, and intellectual beliefs. Authors should avoid entering in to agreements with study sponsors, both for-profit and non-profit, that interfere with authors’ access to all of the study’s data or that interfere with their ability to analyze and interpret the data and to prepare and publish manuscripts independently when and where they choose.
All participants in the peer-review and publication process—not only authors but also peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members of journals—must consider their conflicts of interest when fulfilling their roles in the process of article review and publication and must disclose all relationships that could be viewed as potential conflicts of interest.
When authors submit a manuscript of any type or format they are responsible for disclosing all financial and personal relationships that might bias or be seen to bias their work. The ICMJE has developed a Form for Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest to facilitate and standardize authors’ disclosures. ICMJE member journals require that authors use this form, and ICMJE encourages other journals to adopt it.
Reviewers should be asked at the time they are asked to critique a manuscript if they have conflicts of interest that could complicate their review. Reviewers must disclose to editors any conflicts of interest that could bias their opinions of the manuscript, and should recuse themselves from reviewing specific manuscripts if the potential for bias exists. Reviewers must not use knowledge of the work they’re reviewing before its publication to further their own interests.
Editors who make final decisions about manuscripts should recuse themselves from editorial decisions if they have conflicts of interest or relationships that pose potential conflicts related to articles under consideration. Other editorial staff members who participate in editorial decisions must provide editors with a current description of their financial interests or other conflicts (as they might relate to editorial judgments) and recuse themselves from any decisions in which a conflict of interest exists. Editorial staff must not use information gained through working with manuscripts for private gain. Editors should publish regular disclosure statements about potential conflicts of interests related to the commitments of journal staff. Guest editors should follow these same procedures.
Articles should be published with statements or supporting documents, such as the ICMJE conflict of interest form, declaring:
- Authors’ conflicts of interest; and
- Sources of support for the work, including sponsor names along with explanations of the role of those sources if any in study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; writing of the report; the decision to submit the report for publication; or a statement declaring that the supporting source had no such involvement; and
- Whether the authors had access to the study data, with an explanation of the nature and extent of access, including whether access is on-going.
To support the above statements, editors may request that authors of a study sponsored by a funder with a proprietary or financial interest in the outcome sign a statement, such as “I had full access to all of the data in this study and I take complete responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.”
Please note that any submission that has data collected from human subjects requires ethics approval. In this case, a clear statement to this effect must be made in any submitted manuscript presenting such research, specifying that the free and informed consent of the subjects was obtained. If your manuscript does not include ethics approval, your article will not be sent out for review. For qualitative articles it is mandatory that the following general principles be considered when submitting your manuscript.
Details of formal ethical approval should be stated in the main body of the article. If authors were not required to obtain ethical approval (as is the case in some countries) or unable to obtain attain ethical approval (as sometimes occurs in resource-poor settings) they should explain this. Please anonymize this information as appropriate in the manuscript, and give the information when asked during submission.
According to ICMJE guidelines patients or, in general research, participants have a right to privacy that should not be infringed without informed consent. Identifying information, including patients' names, initials, or hospital numbers, should not be published in written descriptions, photographs, and pedigrees unless the information is essential for scientific purposes and the patient (or parent or guardian) gives written informed consent for publication. Informed consent for this purpose requires that a patient who is identifiable be shown the manuscript to be published. Authors should identify individuals who provide writing assistance and disclose the funding source for this assistance.