The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recently updated its Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly work in Medical Journals. The changes address a number of issues currently facing medical publishing.
Several amendments focus on increased transparency around conflicts of interest. Notably, the ICMJE now considers “purposeful failure to disclose conflicts of interest” by authors to be a form of scientific misconduct. Another change deals with potential conflicts of interest when authors submit to journals at which they are involved in editorial decisions. Journals are now recommended to have stated policies in place to address this, and are referred to relevant publications by the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME). The updated recommendations also retain their critical stance against restrictive agreements between authors and study sponsors that may impair authors’ access to data, emphasising that authors must be free to prepare manuscripts independently and submit to a journal of their choice. To assess compliance with this recommendation, journals may now require authors to provide any agreements in confidence.
Open science is another key theme of the recommendation updates. Guidance is provided on the use of preprint sites (such as Preprints, where authors can post a final draft of a manuscript online before it has undergone peer review) and authors’ responsibilities are highlighted. These include the responsibility to inform a journal if a manuscript has previously been posted as a preprint, as well as ensuring that preprints are amended to direct readers to subsequent versions. Journal requirements to provide a clear data sharing statement appear to be getting more stringent, with the ICMJE specifying that “’undecided’ is not an acceptable answer”. ICMJE also clarifies that the date of registration for clinical trials is taken “as the date that trial registration materials were first submitted to a registry”, and that the circumstances of substantial delays between submitting and posting at a trial registry may be looked into by journal editors.
Finally, a new section on journal metrics has been added, which advises that journals reduce the sole emphasis on impact factor and instead “provide a range of article and journal metrics relevant to their readers and authors”. An annotated PDF version of the recommendations is available which highlights all of the 2018 updates.