As outlined in the Good Publication Practice 3 (GPP3) guidelines, it is the responsibility of manuscript authors to “disclose financial and non-financial relationships that could be perceived to bias their work or influence professional judgement” in their publications. Remuneration relating to aspects of submitted works are often disclosed, but less well reported are non-financial influences, such as ideology and personal relationships, which could also cloud a researcher’s objectivity.
Nature recently announced that, from this month, authors of research articles, reviews, commentaries and research analyses will be asked (and expected) to disclose non-financial as well as financial competing interests. As outlined in Nature’s new competing interests policy, these include (but are not limited to):
- unpaid membership of a government or non-governmental organisation
- unpaid membership of an advocacy or lobbying organisation
- an unpaid advisory position in a commercial organisation
- writing or consulting for an educational company
- acting as an expert witness.
The impacts of non-financial competing interests are not well known but, as argued in Nature’s recent editorial, “transparent disclosures that allow readers to form their own conclusions about the published work are the best way to maintain public trust”. This sentiment is reflected in the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommendations for authors. The ICMJE’s conflict of interest form, used by many journals, already asks authors to report ‘other relationships or activities’ that could be perceived to have influenced a submitted work. Others have suggested moving towards a publicly accessible registry for conflicts of interest, to further increase disclosure reporting transparency.