Conflict of interests
Clarity and objectivity are important both in research and in the process of expert evaluation.
When an investigator, author, editor or reviewer has financial, personal interests or beliefs that can affect his objectivity or improperly affect his actions, there is a potential conflict of interests.
The most obvious conflicts of interest are financial relations such as:
- Direct: official relations, shareholding, grants, patents;
- Indirect: fees, consultations for sponsoring organizations, mutual fund ownership, paid expert evidence.
Unannounced financial interests can seriously undermine the credibility of a journal, authors and science itself. An example is a researcher who is an employee of a company that puts into operation the conducted research.
Conflict of interests can also exist as a result of personal relationships, academic competition and intellectual ambitions. An example is a researcher who:
- is a relative of an employee of the company, whose product is evaluated in the review;
- has an interest in the results of research, for example, potential career development based on results;
- has personal beliefs that directly contradict the topic he is exploring.
Other considerations that should be considered are:
- whether the author's association with the organization is related to his ability to conduct research;
- whether their relationship, when they are later revealed, become the reason for a thoughtful reader to feel deceived or misled.
Full disclosure of the relationship that may constitute a conflict of interests, even if the person does not believe that it affects his judgment, should be reported to an editor of a journal to which the manuscript is submitted. Most publishers require disclosure in the form of a cover letter.
A journal can use this information as a basis for editorial decisions and will publish them, as they can be important for readers when evaluating an article. Similarly, the journal may decide not to publish the article on the basis of the alleged conflict.
Full clarity is always the best way to act and if there are doubts, they need to be disclosed.
Possible actions in case of a conflict of interests:
Undisclosed relationships that may constitute a conflict of interest
- when submitting an article, indicate directly whether there is a potential conflict of interests;
- specify this in the manuscript for the journal;
- authors should disclose a potential conflict of interests for reviewers and explicitly indicate in the manuscript whether they did so;
- reviewers should also disclose any conflict of interests that may make their opinion of the manuscript biased.
An undisclosed source of funding that may represent a conflict of interest
- when submitting a document, the declaration (with the heading "The role of the source of financing") should be made in a separate section of the text and posted before the links;
- describe the role of the research sponsor (s), if any: in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; when preparing the report;
- editors may require that authors of a study funded by an agency with a proprietary or financial interest in the results sign a statement: “I have full access to all data in this study and I take full responsibility for the integrity and accuracy of the data analysis”.