Conflict of Interest Policy
Manuscripts submitted to journals are privileged communications that are authors’ private, confidential property, and authors may be harmed by premature disclosure of any or all of a manuscript’s details.
1. What is a conflict of interest?
Conflict of interest (COI) exists when there is a divergence between an individual’s private interests (competing interests) and his or her responsibilities to scientific and publishing activities such that a reasonable observer might wonder if the individual’s behavior or judgment was motivated by considerations of his or her competing interests. COI affects everyone with a stake in research integrity including journals, research/academic institutions, funding agencies, the popular media, and the public. EYRAS is interested in COI as it relates to a specific manuscript.
Having a competing interest does not, in itself, imply wrongdoing. However, it constitutes a problem when competing interests could unduly influence (or be reasonably seen to do so) one’s responsibilities in the publication process. If COI is not managed effectively, it can cause authors, reviewers, and editors to make decisions that, consciously or unconsciously, tend to serve their competing interests at the expense of their responsibilities in the publication process, thereby distorting the scientific enterprise. This consequence of COI is especially dangerous when it is not immediately apparent to others. In addition, the appearance of COI, even where none actually exists, can also erode trust in the journals by damaging its reputation and credibility.
2. Responsibilities of Participants
Authors. When a manuscript is submitted to JEYR, all authors is required to make full disclosure (financial and non-financial) and declaration on any COI. JEYR will publish all COI (or their absence) reported by authors that are relevant to the manuscript being considered. Authors are required to explicitly state funding sources and whether the organization that funded the research participated in the collection and analyses of data and interpretation and reporting of results.
Editors. Editors are required to recuse themselves and should not make any editorial decisions or be involved in the editorial process if they have or a close family member has a COI (financial or otherwise) in a particular manuscript submitted to JEYR. The editor will firstly use this information to inform their editorial decisions. Then they will publish such disclosures to assist readers in evaluating the article. For example, if editors have political/religious COI or personal COI with respect to the authors or their work, the editors should recuse themselves from the decision-making process. An editor may also be in a COI if a manuscript is submitted from their own academic department or from their institution (if it is small).
When editors submit their own work to JEYR, a colleague in the editorial office should manage the manuscript and the editor/author should recuse himself or herself from discussion and decisions about it.
Reviewers. Reviewers should not be involved in review process if they have a COI with the content or authors of a manuscript. Chief editor will not involve reviewers when the latter are from the same institution as the authors, unless the institution is so large that authors and reviewers are not working colleagues
3. Different Types of Conflict of Interests
COI can be financial or non-financial in nature. Many kinds of competing interests are possible. COI can be just as damaging, and just as hidden to most participants, and so must also be managed. The following are examples of COI; they do not include all possibilities and they may coexist.
Financial ties. This conflict is present when a participant in the publication process has received or expects to receive money (or other financial benefits such as patents or stocks), gifts, or services that may influence work related to a specific publication. Examples of financial ties to industry include payment for research, ownership of stock and stock options, as well as honoraria for advice or public speaking, consultation, service on advisory boards or medical education companies, and receipt of patents or patents pending. Also included are having a research or clinical position that is funded by companies that sell drugs or devices. COI can be associated with other sources of research funding including government agencies, charities (not-for-profit organizations), and professional and civic organizations, which also have agendas that may be congruent or at odds with research findings.
Authors have a financial COI if they are paid for clinical services related to their research —for example, if they write, review, or edit an article about the comparative advantage of a procedure that they themselves provide for income. Financial competing interests may exist not just on the basis of past activities but also on the expectation of future rewards, such as a pending grant or patent application. “Insider trading,” which is the use for one’s financial gain of information obtained through participation in research, review or editing before it is available to the general public, is a special kind of financial COI that has both legal and ethical implications.
Academic commitments. Participants in the publications process may have strong beliefs (“intellectual passion”) that commit them to a particular explanation, method, or idea. They may, as a result, be biased in conducting research that tests the commitment or in reviewing the work of others that is in favor or at odds with their beliefs. For example, if research challenging conventional wisdom is reviewed by someone who has made his or her reputation by establishing the existing paradigm, that person might judge the new research results harshly. Investigators in the same field might make extra-efforts to find fault with manuscripts from competing teams, to delay publication or relegate the work to a lesser journal. While such commitments are not generally part of author’s disclosures, editors should be aware of them and their potential influence on author(s), reviewer(s), and themselves.
Personal relationships. Personal relationships with family, friends, enemies, competitors, or colleagues can pose COIs. For example, a reviewer may have difficulty providing an unbiased review of articles by investigators who have been working colleagues. Similarly, he or she may find it difficult to be unbiased when reviewing the work of competitors. Bonds to family members may be strong enough that their competing interests should be treated as if they are also present for those directly involved with a manuscript.
Political or religious beliefs. Strong commitment to a particular political view (e.g., political position, agenda, or party) or having a strong religious conviction may pose a COI for a given publication if those political or religious issues are affirmed or challenged in the publication.
Institutional affiliations. A COI exists when a participant in the publication process is directly affiliated with an institution that on the face of it may have a position or an interest in a publication. An obvious concern is being affiliated with or employed by a company that manufactures the drug or device (or a competing one) described in the publication. However, apparently neutral institutions such as universities, hospitals, and research institutes (alone or in partnership with industry) may also have an interest (or the appearance of one) in the results of research. For example, investigators may have a COI when conducting research from a laboratory funded by private donors who could have (or appear to have) an interest in the results of the study, on a device for which the participant’s institution holds the patent, when the institution is the legal sponsor of the drug or device trial, or if the institution is in litigation in an area related to the study. Professional or civic organizations may also have competing interests because of their special interests or advocacy positions.
To maintain transparency, any associations which can be perceived by others as a conflict of interest must also be declared.
Examples of Financial Conflicts of Interests:
- Employment or voluntary involvement
- Collaborations with advocacy groups relating to the content of the article
- Grants from an entity, paid to the author or organization
- Personal fees received by the authors as honoraria, royalties, consulting fees, lecture fees, or testimonies
- Patents held or pending by the authors, their institutions, funding organizations, or licensed to an entity, whether earning royalties or not
- Royalties being received by the authors or their institutions
- Stock or share ownership
- Benefits related to the development of products as an outcome of the work
Examples of Non-Financial Conflicts of Interests:
- Receipt of specialist equipment, tools, computer programs, or digital applications
- Access to data repositories, archival resources, museum collections, by an entity that might benefit, or be at a disadvantage financially or reputationally from the published findings
- Holding a position on the boards of industry bodies or private companies that might benefit, or be at a disadvantage financially or reputationally from the published findings
- Writing assistance or administrative support from a person or organization that might benefit, or be at a disadvantage from the published findings
- Personal, political, religious, ideological, academic and intellectual competing interests which are perceived to be relevant to the published content
- Involvement in legal action related to the work