A fundamental requisite of a publication in any reputed journal is the need to provide readers with unbiased and unambiguous research. Toward this objective, a published article should disclose whether the author or authors had any competing interest or conflict of interest while preparing the article. Consequently, the onus is on the journal to publish such disclosures in the paper so that readers, who include researchers, professionals, practitioners and scholars, are aware of them while evaluating the paper.
According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), there is a case of “competing interest” or “conflict of interest” when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Such conflict is likely to affect the credibility of the journal as well as that of the author(s).
Conflict of interest may arise from potential relationships or allegiances, or from hostilities against particular groups or organizations. It may occur when a specific factor influences one’s judgments or actions significantly. In such situations, personal gain has an ascendancy over scholarly output.
Today, most journals publish papers that are not only based on the output of the authors, but also largely impacted by the inputs of peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members of the journals. All such participants, who play a critical role in the process of finalizing a paper for publication, also need to seek any disclosure from the authors that could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.
The general format of the conflict of interest form includes:
- Author and co-authors’ conflict of interest.
- Statements declaring whether the supporting sources are involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data.
- Explanation regarding the authors’ access to the study data, including the nature and extent of the authors’ access and validity.
Declaration of any conflict of interest is an ethical requirement for researchers at the time of submitting their manuscripts for publication. Being upfront about any potential conflict of interest is likely to increase the trust of the readers in the publication and places them in a position to make an honest evaluation of any likely bias in the research findings.