Conflicts of Interest

Editors, authors, and peer reviewers should disclose interests that might appear to affect their ability to present or review work objectively. These might include relevant financial interests (for example, patent ownership, stock ownership, consultancies, or speaker's fees), or personal, political, or religious interests.

"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."

Strict policies preventing people with conflicts of interest from publishing might encourage authors to conceal relevant interests, and might therefore be counterproductive.

  • Journal editors, board members, and staff who are involved with decisions about publication should declare their interests. Journals should consider publishing these on their website and updating them as required, as well as disclosing how conflicts of interest were managed for specific papers.
  • Editors should clearly explain what should be disclosed, including the period that these statements should cover (for example, 3 years). Editors should ask authors to describe relevant funding, including the purpose of the funding (for example, travel grant and speaker's fees), and to describe relevant patents, stocks, and shares that they own.
  • Editors should publish authors' conflicts of interest whenever they are relevant, or a statement of their absence. If there is doubt, editors should opt in favor of greater disclosure.
  • If authors state that there are no conflicts of interest, editors should publish a confirmation to this effect.
  • Editors should manage peer reviewers' conflicts of interest. An invitation to review a manuscript should be accompanied by a request for the reviewer to reveal any potential conflicts of interest and a request for the peer reviewer to disqualify or recuse themselves when these are relevant.
  • When editors, members of editorial boards, and other editorial staff are presented with papers where their own interests may be perceived to impair their ability to make an unbiased editorial decision, they should withdraw from discussions, deputize decisions, or suggest that authors seek publication in a different journal.