What is Conflict of Interest? How to Declare it and Why?

Conflicts of Interest

What is Conflict of Interest?

A conflict of interest is a situation when there are commercial, legal, financial, or any other opposing interests that may affect your study.

This may include:

  • Having financial conflicts of interest (study sponsors, funds, grants, or any financial support);
  • Using a company’s resources, time, or equipment for personal gain;
  • Working for a competing business;
  • Using intellectual property (patents, copyrights, royalties);
  • Holding shares in a company which might be influenced by your paper.

A conflict of interest is not an indicator that there is a biased or incorrect editorial decision; however, it significantly reduces the risk that secondary interests have influenced the primary aims of the study.

Why Declare It?

Declaring conflicts of interest is critical for maintaining the integrity of unbiased professional editorial assessment of the publications. When discovering potential conflicts of interest that have not been declared by the authors, this highlights a hidden manipulation or misconduct exist in the study. Even if your article has been published; this may lead the publisher to retract the article or to publish a corrigendum due to unrevealed potential conflicts of interest.

How to Declare It?

If you are submitting your manuscript to a journal that requires a Conflicts of Interests Declaration, you can include a section titled Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest prior to the References section. If no conflict exists, you can state that “The Author(s) declare(s) that there is no conflict of interest.”

If there are potential conflicts of interest, we highly encourage each author to identify and declare clearly to avoid any future investigations by the publisher. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has created an interesting form that can help in generating the disclosure automatically (Conflicts of Interest Form).

Examples of the Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest:

Example 1:

JOG was executive director of the HRDP and received a part time salary for this work. JR was co-chair of the Joint Programme Committee of the HRDP. DOA was co-chair of the Joint Programme Committee of the HRDP. IW was a member of the Joint Programme Committee of the HRDP. The remaining authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. [PMC]

Example 2:

JM works for the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The views expressed are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect DFID or UK Government policy. [PMC

Example 3:

Data collection for this study was undertaken while RKDM, IDG and JMT were affiliated to CIHR. All opinions presented in this manuscript belong to the authors alone, and not any institution to which they are or were affiliated. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. [PMC

Example 4:

Professor JP was a member of the MRC Methodology Research Programme at the time this grant was awarded, although had no involvement in the funding decision. [PMC]

Example 5:

All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interests form at http://www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work. RV and KL has conducted consultancy projects for the WHO on the topic of clinical trial registration; have no other financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous 3 years; have no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work. [PMC

Now, let us know how do you understand Conflict of Interest and other related aspects from your point of view in the comments.

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Further Readings and Resources:

  1. https://publicationethics.org/case/undisclosed-conflict-interest
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22937/
  3. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/genes/instructions
  4. http://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/declaration-of-conflicting-interests-policy
  5. Guidelines published on good publication and the Code of Conduct by the Committee of Publication Ethics
  6. Guidelines published by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors
  7. Common Standard for Conflict of Interest Disclosure
  8. http://www.icmje.org/conflicts-of-interest/
  9. https://cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/20080711_a_common_standard_for_conflict_of_interest_disclosure__final_for_conference.pdf

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