Conflicts of interest (competing interest) include facts known to a participant in the publication process that, if revealed after publishing, 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 a company in some manner associated with the publication. The perception or appearance of a conflict of interest, without regard to substance, creates conflict, since trust is eroded among all participants.
All such interests (or their absence) must be declared in writing by all corresponding and co-authors upon submission of the manuscript. If any are declared, they must be published with the article in question. 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 must 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 any 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 must be specified.
Editors & Reviewers
Peer reviewers for the journal must 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 is required to reveal that conflict to the editor, who will then determine their appropriate level of involvement.
Editors may also have conflicts of interest, and members of the editorial team (like authors and reviewers) are be required to declare any possible conflicts of interest if and when they arise (these will differ according to the level of involvement of editorial team members, but must always be addressed). Editors assigned the review of a manuscript in which they may have a conflict of interest will recuse themselves from that supervision, and the manuscript will be reassigned to an editor with no conflict. To increase transparency and trust, the policies that govern the management of such potential conflicts should be available to readers in the print journal or on the Web.
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 editor for objectivity before the decision to publish such a manuscript is final.
AJPH Policy on Ethical Principles (based on WAME, Publication Ethics Policies for Medical Journals), adopted November 3, 2007.
This page has been adapted with permission from that of the American Journal of Public Health and/or the American Public Health Association. The Delaware Academy of Medicine / Delaware Public Health Association is Delaware’s affiliate to the American Public Health Association.