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Conflict of interest policies and disclosure requirements among European cardiovascular journals

Conflict of interest policies and disclosure requirements among European cardiovascular journals

Prof. Fernando Alfonso, MD, PhD1, Prof. Izet Masic, MD, PhD2
European Society of Cardiology, London, UK1 and Faculty of Medicine, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina2

The scientific process relies on trust and credibility. The scientific community demands high ethical standards to conduct biomedical research and to publish scientific content. During the last decade, disclosure of conflict of interest (COI) (also called competing loyalties, competing interests or dual commitments) has been considered a key element to guarantee the credibility of the scientific process. Biases in design, analysis and interpretation of studies may arise when authors or sponsors have vested interests. Therefore, COI should be made clear to the readers to facilitate their own judgment and interpretation of their relevance and potential implications. Authors are responsible for full disclosure of potential COI. In October 2009 the ICMJE proposed an electronic “uniform” format for COI disclosure.  Four main areas were addressed: authors´ associations with entities that supported the submitted manuscript (indefinite time frame), associations with commercial entities with potential interest in the general area of the manuscript (time frame 36 months), financial association of their spouse and children and, finally, non-financial associations potentially relevant to the submitted manuscript. To determine the status of COI and disclosure requirements among European cardiology journals, the Editor's Network, a  task force representing  44 Cardiovascular Journals from 37 countries, including Medical Archives from Bosnia & Herzegovina, conducted a web-based survey.   A comprehensive, structured and standardized questionnaire was specifically devised.   The results of this survey will be presented.

Consumers of medical scholarship expect a reliable system of disclosure in which journals and authors make disclosures appropriately and consistently. There is a stigma surrounding the reporting of COI that should be progressively overcome. The European Society of Cardiology has recently defined a general policy regarding COI. This review provides another framework to better understand COI from an editorial perspective. The present survey on ESC NSCJ COI policies and disclosure requirements confirms that this topic is currently poorly—and not uniformly—addressed by journals. Further actions are required to increase awareness of the importance of COI disclosure and to promote policies aimed to enhance transparency in biomedical research.

Key words: ESC, ethics, authorship, acknowledgement, conflict of interest, copyright, plagiarism, duplicate publication