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ISMPP poll: non-disclosure of possible COI by author ‒ what would you do?

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The Good Publication Practice Guidelines (GPP3) provide recommendations for best practice regarding scientific publications, but situations may arise where more than one approach seems appropriate or reasonable. In these cases, where should medical publication professionals turn for advice? A good source is the GPP3 ‘frequently asked questions’ webpage, which provides additional guidance on a wide range of topics (including authorship criteria, rejection by multiple journals and the role of the medical writer). Additionally, such situations are being explored in a series of ‘What would you do?’ polls, conducted by the International Society of Medical Publications Professionals (ISMPP), the results of which are published in the MAP newsletter.

The results of a recent ISMPP poll regarding the possible non-disclosure of an author’s conflict of interest (COI) were discussed in an article by Eric Y. Wong (Janssen). The poll asked: You are a publication professional. A non-industry author states on his/her conflict of interest (COI) form that he/she has “no COI” despite your knowledge that he/she is engaged by several companies for consultancy and speaker engagements. What would you do? The results of the poll, which was answered by 109 respondents, were:

  • Disclose the COI even if the author neglects to state them: 0% of responses
  • Do nothing; you are not responsible for the accuracy of author COI: 5%
  • Point out the specific overlooked COI to the author as a courtesy, update the COI accordingly, and ask for him/her to confirm the updated COI: 46%
  • Explain to the author the importance of accurate disclosure of COI, asking him/her to think about any potentially overlooked COI without pointing it out specifically, with the author ultimately deciding what to disclose: 49.5%

Providing his thoughts on the poll results, Wong comments that medical publication professionals must ensure that all content associated with a publication is reported accurately, including possible COIs. However, it is important to note that COIs should only be disclosed with the knowledge and approval of the author. As such, any queries regarding potential COIs should be clarified with the author and, if needed, the importance of accurately reporting COI should be clearly explained. This is particularly important as authors may have different interpretations regarding what should be reported as a COI.

As the key takeaway from the poll, Wong notes that publication professionals should act whenever they discover an inaccuracy related to a publication, including in the reporting of COIs.

What are your thoughts? Add your comments below.


Summary by Emma Evans PhD, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd

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