|Scientists Letter to Editors Regarding Journal Disclosure Policies|
February 4, 2002
Increasing concern about conflicts of interest in the scientific community, especially in the biomedical area, has prompted government and other institutional inquiries, discussions at scientific conferences (including the AAAS), and litigation. As a consequence of those activities, major scientific and clinical journals have strengthened their conflicts of interest policies and procedures.
Most journals have long disclosed the funders of studies. Now, the British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Nature, and others have begun to disclose information about contributors stockholdings, consultancies, and other relationships that authors have with corporations or other entities. (1)Declaration of that information in the publication is becoming the norm.
To allow scientists, the public, and policy makers to make more informed judgments about research reports, letters, commentaries, editorials, book and literature reviews, and news articles, and to further enhance the integrity of science, we respectfully urge your journal to adopt a more complete disclosure policy. Such a policy should require contributors to disclose to journal editors at least the following information:
We urge your journal to adopt a policy whose presumption is that all relevant financial and authorial information will appear in the publication alongside the study, review, editorial, or letter.
Financial and other relationships with businesses may introduce biases in the conduct or reporting of research or in letters or statements made in news articles. Disclosure, of course, does not nullify any biases, but it recognizes that relationships with third parties may influence the conduct, reporting, and oversight of research. Disclosure also reflects the need for transparency as a way of maintaining the publics trust. Finally, disclosure of conflicts of interest enables readers to consider conclusions or contentions of the researchers statements in the light of that additional information.
That said, a strong disclosure policy should be understood to be just one part of broader editorial oversight of conflicts of interest. Journal editors have an obligation to reject submissions where authors conflicts are incompatible with integrity in science and cannot be resolved by disclosure.
We appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you. Please respond via Virginia A. Sharpe, Ph.D., at (202)332-9110, ext. 331.
1. See, among others, Davidoff, Frank et al, Sponsorship, Authorship, and Accountability, Journal of the American Medical Association 2001;286:1232-4; Campbell, Philip, Declaration of Financial Interests, Nature 2001;412:751; and Smith, Richard, Beyond Conflict of Interest, British Medical Journal 1998;317:291-2.
2. See Information for Authors, Annals of Internal Medicine 2001;135:I6-9.
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