Last week, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors issued a new policy for the transparent disclosure of conflicts of interest for the authors of papers published by journals in the consortium. A coalition of advocates have been pushing for the adoption of a uniform COI policy for medical journals since 2007, according to Merrill Goozner, a leader of the effort. Advocates also included Science Progress Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Moreno and Advisory Board member Arthur Caplan. The ICMJE includes major journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Lancet.
Significantly, the policy includes a uniform disclosure form that authors submitting manuscripts to all of the journals represented by the committee’s editors will use. The form covers everything from grants to consulting fees, gifts, and stock options that researchers might receive as support from outside groups for their scientific work; it also requests information on other significant relationships outside institutions might have with an author’s family members.
As Vivian Cheng explains in her SP feature on “Financial Conflicts of Interest 101,” disclosing potential conflicts is particularly important in biomedical research because they can influence study results or clinical trials. “In some cases, such conflicts may result in experimental data that favors a particular commercial product,” she writes, “in others, they may shape unnecessary or dangerous risks for trial participants.”
Moreover, as Patti Tereskerz of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Virginia School of Medicine explains, protecting research integrity by mitigating the influence of conflicts supports the basic principle of trust, what she called “the crown jewel of the research enterprise.”
This new policy is of course not the final word on conflicts of interest in the medical research world—the committee editors explain as much by calling the first five months of the policy a “period of beta testing.” But streamlining the process of disclosure across many influential outlets will light the way for future policies to maintain objectivity in health science.
Comments on this article