Should journals expand disclosure?

In the wake of the insider-trading probe involving Human Genome Sciences, should journals expand disclosure rules for researchers to include ties to the financial community? Due diligence or transparency overkill?

Leonard Wartofsky, MD
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism publishes clinical trials and is, therefore, concerned about potential conflicts of interest (COI). We definitely feel that researchers should disclose ties to the financial community, and we have a system in place to do so based on a formal Code of Ethics. Authors, both of submitted and invited articles, must disclose financial relationships with industry, including ownership interests, stocks, and income.  Key to assessing a potential COI is whether a relationship exists relevant to the manuscript's topic. A separate issue is the potential COI of reviewers involved in similar research funded by competing interests who might provide a biased review. We rely on declarations of potential dualities of interest and continuous surveillance to ensure objectivity.  

Jane Smith
Deputy editor,
British Medical Journal

I'm not sure that there is any need for an expansion of the rules. The unified disclosure form produced by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is the basis for many journals' competing interest policies. It asks for “disclosure of financial relationships with entities in the bio-medical arena that could be perceived to influence” and the reporting of “all monies from sources with relevance to the submitted work.” Relations with venture capitalists and other investors are as relevant here as patent applications, being an expert witness or relationships with biomedical companies through advisory fees or research funding. I'm not sure this helps much: a request for disclosure is unlikely to be much of a barrier to a criminally inclined researcher.

Anna Heinink
Head of journals publishing,
Informa Healthcare

This is clearly an issue that needs exploration in the context of current ICMJE and GPP2 guidance on declaration of interest. GPP2 recommends disclosure of any financial or non-financial relationships “that could inappropriately influence or seem to influence professional judgment,” while the ICMJE form includes a section asking for “other relationships or activities that readers could perceive to have influenced” the work. This should act as a capture all, but while understanding of the importance of transparency in research has improved significantly in the last few years, it continues to be complex and subjective, and specific questions may be needed to elicit declaration of a particular nature, including with the financial community if that relationship poses a risk to the impartiality of the research.

Rick Turner, PhD
DIA, Drug Information Journal

It is imperative for everyone involved in the biopharmaceutical industry to adhere to the highest ethical standards. The industry's ultimate goal is to develop medical products that will safely and effectively treat patients and enhance their overall health. Any activity on the part of stakeholders that undermines the integrity and validity of the medical product development process, or causes a perception of such undermining, is to be avoided. The DIA Drug Information Journal (DIJ) adheres to the guidance provided by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. I look forward to reading the results of the committee's discussions on this topic and fully expect that the DIJ will follow its lead.

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