Conflict of Interest Disclosure                                                                                                                                                                               

Conflicts of Interest

Public trust in the scientific process and the credibility of published articles depend in part on how transparently conflicts of interest are handled during the planning, implementation, writing, peer review, editing, and publication of scientific work.

A conflict of interest exists when author (or author’s affiliation), reviewer or editor has financial or personal relationships, which have a negative influence (bias) on his or her actions (such relationships are known as dual obligations, conflicts of interest or conflicts of loyalty). These relationships can range from minor to strong and influence decisions. Not all relationships represent a true conflict of interest. On the other hand, the potential for conflict of interest can exist even if the person himself/herself does not believe that these relationships affect his/her scientific judgment. 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 science itself. However, conflicts can occur for other reasons, such as personal relationships or rivalries, academic competition, and intellectual beliefs. All participants in peer review and publication should disclose all relationships that can be viewed as potential conflicts of interest. The definition of such relationships is also important in connection with editorial and review articles, since it is more difficult to trace the bias in these types of publications than in original research articles. Editors may use the information disclosed in the conflict of interest and in the statement of financial interest as the basis for making editorial decisions. Editors should publish this information if they believe that it is important to assess the manuscript.


Potential conflicts of interest related to individual obligations of authors

When authors submit a manuscript, article or letter, they are responsible for disclosing all financial and personal relationships that could affect their work. To prevent ambiguity, the authors must clearly state whether there are potential conflicts or not. Authors should do this in the manuscript on the Conflict of Interest notification page that follows the title page and describe, if necessary, additional details in the cover letter. Authors should name people who have provided assistance in writing the article or provided other support, and indicate the source of funding for this assistance. To examine the participants in the trial, researchers should disclose potential conflicts, which should be indicated in the manuscript additionally. Editors should also decide whether to publish information about potential conflicts disclosed by the authors. If there is any doubt, it is better to do it next to the publication.


Potential conflicts of interest related to project support

More and more private research receives funding from commercial firms, private foundations and the government. The availability of such funding creates the potential for bias or mistrust of research. Scientists from ethical considerations should submit valid research results for publication. In addition, researchers, being directly responsible for their work, should not enter into agreements that interfere with access to data, their ability to analyze this data independently, prepare and publish a manuscript. The authors should describe the role of the sponsor, if present, in the study: in the formation of the idea of the project; collection, analysis and interpretation of data; writing an article; decision to submit a communication for publication. If the funding source did not take any part, the authors should state this. Bias potentially occurs when the sponsors are directly involved in the study, which is analogous to methodological prejudices. Some journals, however, include this information in the paragraph on sponsor involvement. Editors may ask that authors of a study sponsored by an enterprise with a private or financial interest in the result sign, for example, the following statement: ‘I had full access to all the data in this study and I take full responsibility for the integrity and accuracy of the data analysis’. It is envisaged that editors should consider copies of a protocol and / or a contract related to research of a particular nature before accepting such studies for publication. Editors may decide not to review the article if the sponsor has obtained control over the copyrights to the publication.


Potential conflicts of interest related to the obligations of editors, journal staff or critics

Editors should avoid selecting reviewers with obvious potential conflicts of interest - for example, those who work in the same department or institution as any of the authors. Authors usually provide editors with a list of names of those who, in their opinion, do not need to be asked to view the manuscript because of a potential, usually professional, conflict of interest. In such cases, authors should be asked to confirm or clarify their opinion; on the basis of this information, the editor should decide whether to take into account these wishes or not. 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. As with the authors, the absence of disclosed potential conflicts of reviewers may mean that conflicts exist and the reviewer cannot disclose them, or that there are no conflicts. Therefore, reviewers should also be asked to state clearly whether there are conflicts or not. 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 have no personal, professional or financial participation in any issues they have to solve. 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 their own commitments and those of their journal staff.