Conflict of interest disclosure policies and practices in peer-reviewed biomedical journals

From the December 2006 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine:

Cooper RJ, Gupta M, Wilkes MS, Hoffman JR. Conflict of interest disclosure policies and practices in peer-reviewed biomedical journals. J Gen Intern Med 2006; 21(12):1248-1252.

OBJECTIVE: We undertook this investigation to characterize conflict of interest (COI) policies of biomedical journals with respect to authors, peer-reviewers, and editors, and to ascertain what information about COI disclosures is publicly available.
METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of 135 editors of peer-reviewed biomedical journals that publish original research. We chose an international selection of general and specialty medical journals that publish in English. Selection was based on journal impact factor, and the recommendations of experts in the field. We developed and pilot tested a 3-part web-based survey. The survey included questions about the presence of specific policies for authors, peer-reviewers, and editors, specific restrictions on authors, peer-reviewers, and editors based on COI, and the public availability of these disclosures. Editors were contacted a minimum of 3 times.
RESULTS: The response rate for the survey was 91 (67%) of 135, and 85 (93%) of 91 journals reported having an author COI policy. Ten (11%) journals reported that they restrict author submissions based on COI (e.g., drug company authors’ papers on their products are not accepted). While 77% report collecting COI information on all author submissions, only 57% publish all author disclosures. A minority of journals report having a specific policy on peer-reviewer 46% (42/91) or editor COI 40% (36/91); among these, 25% and 31% of journals state that they require recusal of peer-reviewers and editors if they report a COI. Only 3% of respondents publish COI disclosures of peer-reviewers, and 12% publish editor COI disclosures, while 11% and 24%, respectively, reported that this information is available upon request.
CONCLUSION: Many more journals have a policy regarding COI for authors than they do for peer-reviewers or editors. Even author COI policies are variable, depending on the type of manuscript submitted. The COI information that is collected by journals is often not published; the extent to which such “secret disclosure” may impact the integrity of the journal or the published work is not known.
PubMed Record   

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