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The ICMJE announces a new author disclosure form: what has changed and why?

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Many of us will be very familiar with the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Form for the Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest, widely adopted by medical journals as the go-to tool for collecting and reporting such information. However, in a continued effort to increase transparency, consistency and completeness of disclosures, the document will soon be replaced, as reported by Dr Darren Taichman et al in a recent editorial in JAMA.

The ICMJE form was developed ten years ago to promote consistency in reporting disclosures across journals. However, Taichman et al note that the wording of the current form may be confusing and open to misinterpretation by authors and readers alike, which may lead to inconsistencies or omissions.

Several changes have been proposed to overcome these issues:

  • The title “ICMJE Form for the Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest” has been updated to “The ICMJE Disclosure Form”, aiming to avoid the misconception that all relationships listed are problematic (as opposed to relationships which could potentially be perceived as such).
  • Authors will be asked to disclose all relationships, rather than deciding which are relevant – readers will have to assess whether these relationships represent potential conflicts, and critically evaluate the research accordingly.
  • A checklist of relationships and activities will be included to ensure that none of the items are overlooked by authors.

The ICMJE also recognises that authors increasingly face problems with the current form’s software. In addition, the requirement to enter information repeatedly, in different formats, is frustrating and may lead to inconsistencies when authors are required to make disclosures to multiple entities. Consequently, the ICMJE will now accept disclosures created and maintained in certain web-based repositories, such as Convey, allowing authors to tailor information to meet different journal requirements, without re-entering their details.

Taichman et al acknowledge that there is no ideal approach to capturing and reporting disclosures but hope that the proposed changes “will help promote transparency and trust”.

The ICMJE is welcoming feedback on the proposed new form until 30 April 2020. Why not have your say on whether the new form is fit-for-purpose?


Summary by Debbie Sherwood BSc from Aspire Scientific


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