Public trust in the peer review process and the credibility of published articles depend in part on how well competing interests are handled during writing, peer review, and editorial decision making.
Competing interests exists when an author (or the author’s institution), reviewer, or editor has financial or personal relationships that inappropriately influence (bias) his or her actions. These relationships vary from those with negligible potential to those with great potential to influence judgment, and not all relationships represent true competing interests. The potential for competing interests can exist whether or not an individual believes that the relationship affects his or her scientific judgment.
Financial relationships (such as employment, consultancies, stock ownership, honoraria, paid expert testimony) are the most easily identifiable competing interests and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and of science itself. However, conflicts can occur for other reasons, such as personal relationships, academic competition, and intellectual passion.
All participants in the peer review and publication process must disclose all relationships that could be viewed as presenting a potential competing interest.
Editors may use information disclosed in competing interest statements as a basis for editorial decisions. Editors will publish this information if they believe it is important in judging the manuscript.
Potential competing interests related to individual authors’ commitments
When authors submit any manuscript they are responsible for disclosing all financial and personal relationships that might bias their work. To prevent ambiguity, authors must state explicitly whether potential conflicts do or do not exist. Authors should do so in the manuscript on a competing interest notification page that follows the title page, providing additional detail, if necessary, in a cover letter that accompanies the manuscript. Investigators must disclose potential competing interests to study participants and should state in the manuscript whether they have done so.
We believe that financial conflicts of interest can be sufficiently great to preclude the publication of certain types of articles due to the potential for bias. In particular we draw attention to reviews (especially narrative reviews), commentaries and guidelines. Based on the experiences and guidelines of other journals, narrative reviews or commentaries (or similar articles) will not be accepted for consideration of publication (for either commissioned or spontaneously submitted pieces), if the any author has financial investments (equity, shares, derivatives, bonds, but excluding public traded mutual funds), received royalties or similar payments that in total over the past year have exceeded US $10,000 per company; or holds a patent (or is likely to or has applied for one or more) in a company that markets a product (or a competitor product) mentioned in the article. We will also refuse to publish papers by authors who are employed by such companies, who have a contractual relationship of any type with such companies, or who are named officers or board members of such companies. Authors of guidelines also fall within this remit.
Potential competing interests related to project support
Increasingly, individual studies receive funding from commercial firms, private foundations, and government. The conditions of this funding have the potential to bias and otherwise discredit the research. Scientists have an ethical obligation to submit creditable research results for publication. Moreover, as the persons directly responsible for their work, researchers should not enter into agreements that interfere with their access to the data and their ability to analyze it independently, to prepare manuscripts, and to publish them.
Editors request that authors of a study funded by an agency with a proprietary or financial interest in the outcome sign a statement such as, “I had full access to all of the data in this study and I take complete responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.” Editors may also review copies of the protocol and/or contracts associated with project-specific studies before accepting such studies for publication.
Editors may choose not to consider an article if a sponsor has asserted control over the authors’ right to publish.
We do not accept guideline submissions that have been funded by a single-industry sponsor.
Potential competing interests related to commitments of editors, journal staff, or reviewers
Editors will avoid selecting external peer reviewers with obvious potential conflicts of interest, for example, those who work in the same department or institution as any of the authors.
Authors often provide editors with the names of persons they feel should not be asked to review a manuscript because of potential competing interests, usually professional. When possible, authors will be asked to explain or justify their concerns; that information is important to editors in deciding whether to honor such requests.
Reviewers must disclose to editors any competing interests that could bias their opinions of the manuscript, and they should disqualify themselves from reviewing specific manuscripts if they believe it to be appropriate. As in the case of authors, silence on the part of reviewers concerning potential conflicts may mean either that such conflicts exist that they have failed to disclose, or that conflicts do not exist. Reviewers must therefore also be asked to state explicitly whether conflicts do or do not exist. Reviewers must not use knowledge of the work, before its publication, to further their own interests.
Editors who make final decisions about manuscripts will have no personal, professional, or financial involvement in any of the issues they might judge. Other members of the editorial staff, if they participate in editorial decisions, will provide editors with a current description of their financial interests (as they might relate to editorial judgments) and disqualify themselves from any decisions where they have competing interests.
Editorial staff will not use the information gained through working with manuscripts for private gain. Editors publish regular disclosure statements about potential competing interests related to the commitments of journal staff.
Competing interest statements of JBE editor
The editor of JBE are required to complete the following statement regarding potential competing interests:
- Have you accepted monetary compensation for any of the following from an organization that might gain or lose financially or in any other way because of a relationship with JBE? Reimbursement for attending a symposium; Speaker Fees for educational event; Research funds; Funds for a member of your staff; Consulting fees
- Have you been employed by an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of papers in JBE?
- Do you hold stocks or shares in an organization that might benefit or lose from an existing relationship with JBE?
- Do you wish to disclose other competing interests, financial or otherwise?