Public trust in the scientific process and the credibility of published articles are dependent partially on the fair and transparent handling of conflicts of interest while processes like planning, implementation, writing, peer review, editing, and publication of scientific work are going on. A conflict of interest arises when professional judgment about a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) might get affected by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Discernments of conflict of interest hold the same importance as the actual conflicts of interest. Financial relationships (such as employment, consultancies, stock ownership or options, honoraria, patents, and paid expert testimony) are the types of conflicts of interest that can be spotted easily and directly weaken the credibility of the journal, the authors, and the entire discipline. However, conflicts can arise due to other causes as well, such as personal relationships or enmities, academic competition, and intellectual dogmas. Authors need to be wary while signing any agreement with the study sponsors, whether for-profit or nonprofit, as such agreements can limit author’s access to the complete study’s data or their freedom to analyze and interpret the data and present the manuscripts independently according to their own will.

1. Participants

All people playing a part in the peer-review and publication process i.e., authors, peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members of journals, should always keep their individual conflicts of interest in mind while they perform their roles during the article review and publication and are liable to openly state the relationships that can be a cause of conflicts of interest.
a. Authors
Authors, while submitting their manuscripts of any given type or format, should ensure that they disclose all the financial and personal relationships that can lead to conflict or bias later on. The ICMJE has formulated a Form for Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest for offering standard Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals. The ICMJE member journals facilitate authors with this form while disclosing conflict of interest, and the ICMJE also promotes the practice for the other journals to follow.
b. Peer Reviewers
Reviewers, when checking a manuscript critically, should be interviewed whether they have any conflicts of interest that can make the review process difficult. Reviewers should openly discuss with the editors all the possible means of conflicts of interest leading to biased judgement for the manuscript, and should avoid taking the responsibility of reviewing those manuscripts that exhibit higher risk of biased judgment. Reviewers should not violate the author’s rights over the manuscripts and avoid using the manuscript’s content for their own interest.
c. Editors and Journal Staff
Editors who give the final verdict for the manuscripts should refrain from continuing the process if conflicts of interest exist or relationships leading to potential conflicts regarding the articles under consideration have been disclosed. Other editorial staff members who play a part in the editorial decisions must let the editors know their present financial interests or other conflicts (that might affect the editorial judgments) and should avoid participating in the decision that has a visible conflict of interest. Editorial staff must never exploit the content of manuscripts for their personal interest. Editors should release regular disclosure statements about possible conflicts of interests concerning the obligations of journal staff. Same procedures apply to the guest editors.

2. Reporting Conflicts of Interest

Articles should have, at the time of publishing, statements or supporting documents, such as the conflict of interest form, proclaiming: – Authors’ conflicts of interest; and – Sources of support for the work, including sponsor names with descriptions of the role of those sources if any in study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; report compilation; the decision of report submission for publication; or a statement affirming no association of the supporting source; and – evidence of authors’ access to the study data, while highlighting the nature and extent of access, particularly its on-going nature. For bolstering the above statements or documents, editors may require the authors of a study having a funding sponsor with a proprietary or financial interest to get a statement formally signed, such as “I had full access to all of the data in this study and I take complete responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.”

Author Agreement Form