Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts of interest (competing interest) include facts known to a participant in the publication process that if revealed later, would make a reasonable reader feel misled or deceived (or an author, reviewer, or editor feel defensive). Conflicts of interest may influence the judgment of authors, reviewers, and editors; these conflicts often are not immediately apparent to others or to the reviewer. They may be personal, commercial, political, academic, or financial. Financial interests may include employment, research funding (received or pending), stock or share ownership, patents, payment for lectures or travel, consultancies, non-financial support, or any fiduciary interest in the company.
The perception or appearance of a conflict of interest, without regard to substance, alone creates conflict, since trust is eroded among all participants.
All such interests (or their absence) must be declared in writing by authors upon submission of the manuscript. If any are declared, they should be published with the article. If there is doubt about whether a circumstance represents a conflict, it should be disclosed. Sources of full or partial funding or other support for the research must be declared and should be described in an acknowledgement if the manuscript is published; if anyone besides the authors is involved in analysis, interpretation, or control of the data, this must also be declared. The role of the funding organization or sponsor in the design and conduct of the study, in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data, and in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript should be specified.
Peer reviewers for the journal should annually declare to the editor-in-chief any similar competing interests, financial or non-financial, that might affect their work for the journal. Non-financial competing interests may include a similar manuscript under review in the same or another journal, a similar research project nearing completion, a close collaboration (or competition) with one of the authors of the manuscript, etc. Additionally, any reviewer who has reason to believe he or she may have a conflict of interest on a particular manuscript should be required to reveal that conflict to the editor, who will then determine their appropriate level of involvement.
Editors can also have conflicts of interest, and members of the editorial team (just like authors and reviewers) should be required to declare any possible conflicts of interest as and when they arise (these will differ according to the level of involvement of editorial team members, but should be addressed for all). Editors assigned the review of a manuscript in which they may have a conflict of interest should refuse themselves from that supervision, and it should be reassigned to an editor with no conflict. Manuscripts authored by members of the editorial team present a special instance of potential conflict of interest. The review of these manuscripts must always be supervised by the editor-in-chief, who will review the decision of the assigned decision editor for objectivity before the decision is final.