Our scientific/medical Society added a Special Symposium to its Annual Meeting Program. The symposium organiser, who is an academic member of the Society, invited seven speakers, all from academic institutions, in addition to himself to speak at the symposium. Support for the symposium as a whole was solicited independently by the Development Committee of the Society and had no influence on the composition and subject matter of the symposium, except that the sponsors wanted to have an Enduring Material (ie, publication) resulting from the symposium. The support included honoraria for the seven speakers, which were higher than those for other speakers at the meeting, in part because these speakers were requested to produce articles.
We wish to publish the papers (we expect them to be review articles) in our journal. To minimise printing costs we prefer that they be included in a regular issue of the journal, rather than in a special supplement. The articles will be subjected to the regular peer review process that we use for review articles. Our plans are for the symposium organiser to write a prologue disclosing the nature and sources of commercial support for the symposium. The papers will be grouped, immediately following this prologue at the end of a journal issue, and will be marked “Special Symposium Presentation—Review”.
Is this sufficient disclosure to satisfy questions of conflict of interest? Alternatively, would it be necessary to state within each article that the author received an honorarium (or support) for the preparation of the article? Also, would it be necessary to print a disclosure statement of financial interest and/or other relationship with commercial entities (including some symposium sponsors) for the authors of each article within their manuscript, although this is not the general current practice in our journal?
The Forum noted that for industry sponsored supplements, conflicts of interest (CoIs) would not appear on PubMed if the CoIs only appeared in the prologue. Hence the advice was to publish full disclosure for all authors in each of the articles individually. It is necessary to consider each paper as a separate entity, as in this age of internet use, papers in a supplement can be viewed individually. Therefore, it is essential to state within each article that the author received an honorarium for the preparation of the article and also to print a disclosure statement for the authors of each article within their manuscript of the financial interest and/or other relationship with commercial entities. The symposium sponsors should also be listed on each article. Those indexing and abstracting the articles should also be made aware of this so that each article is cited correctly on PubMed. The Forum noted that the journal may wish to have a written policy on supplements and was told that the Council of Science Editors (CSE) provides information on policies for supplements in its white paper on publication ethics (www.councilscienceeditors.org), which the editor may find useful. Above all, the process should be seen to be open and transparent.
Following the advice from the Forum, the editor has instigated a process whereby there will be footnotes on presentations and special symposium to be published together in an upcoming issue of the journal, which will take the form of: “This paper is based on a presentation at a Special Symposium on (date), (title), for which the presenting author received an honorarium. (Name of Author 1) has consulting and/or financial relationships with (List of Companies whether or not related to study). (Name of Author 2) etc. (Name of Author 3) and (Name of Author 4) have nothing to declare.”
After further inquiry with the Development Committee that the raised money, it was ascertained that the money was raised for the Annual Meeting and not specifically for the symposium. Therefore, it will not be possible to identify specific sponsors for the symposium.