Professional News
Medical Journal Editors Issue Uniform Disclosure Standard
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 22 page 2-2

Mainstream medical journals may be moving toward a common standard for authors to report their financial and other conflicts of interest following an October announcement by a group of prominent medical journal editors.

Most peer-reviewed biomedical journals have already imposed explicit requirements for authors of submitted manuscripts to report their financial interests, including funding and employment. These requirements are often similar but may differ in how the conflicts of interest are defined and should be reported.

Now, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has put forth a uniform standard for reporting authors' potential conflicts of interest for manuscript submissions. The standard was approved and adopted by all ICMJE members, consisting of the editors of 12 general medical journals in nine countries and two representatives from the World Association of Medical Editors and the National Library of Medicine.

In recent years, controversies over ethical research reporting and conflicts of interest have plagued the medical journal and research communities. The new disclosure standard requires each study author to report four types of financial or other ties: (1) commercial funding sources of the work described in the manuscripts, (2) commercial entities "that could be viewed as having an interest in the general area of the submitted manuscript" within 36 months before the submission, (3) financial ties involving the author's spouse or children under age 18, and (4) any nonfinancial associations that "may be relevant" to the manuscript.

To ensure consistency across journals, the ICMJE developed a standard Uniform Disclosure Form for Potential Conflicts of Interest, which authors can fill out online in a PDF file and submit to any of the ICMJE member journals. The form asks each author to identify the type of his or her financial relationships with commercial entities, such as consultancies, gifts, and grants.

Among the dozen members of the ICMJE are the New England Journal of Medicine, BMJ, Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Lancet. The organization is an extremely influential force in setting the standard for manuscript submissions to peer-reviewed biomedical journals. A large number of biomedical journals adapt or follow the ICMJE's guidelines and principles.

The American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) is among the journals that follow the ICMJE "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals" and had implemented similar or more stringent disclosure requirements even before this ICMJE announcement, Michael Roy, the editorial director of AJP, told Psychiatric News.

"We appreciate and applaud the ICMJE for its efforts in setting standards for disclosure of financial relationships," Roy said. "As this new form is being tested, we are currently working with the ICMJE on achieving agreement with our current guidelines, since in some areas we request more information than that set forth in the ICMJE form."

AJP's requirement for author disclosure of financial relationships states that "financial support for the study is always disclosed, whether from governmental, nonprofit, or commercial sources" and that authors must report all financial relationships, "whether or not directly related to the subject of their paper. Such reporting must include all equity ownership, profit-sharing agreements, royalties, patents, and research or other grants from private industry or closely affiliated nonprofit funds."

The AJP financial-disclosure requirement previously covered the 12-month period before the manuscript submission, but will be expanded to 36 months to be consistent with the new ICMJE standard, according to AJP Editor-in-Chief Robert Freedman, M.D.

The ICMJE editorial "Uniform Format for Disclosure of Competing Interests in ICMJE Journals" is posted at <www.icmje.org/format.pdf>. The online "ICMJE Uniform Disclosure Form for Potential Conflicts of Interest" is posted at <www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf>.blacksquare

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