A paper on a controversial topic from three authors was published. All three authors completed forms to say that they did not have competing interests. This was stated at the end of the paper. A reader subsequently contacted the journal to say that she had clear evidence that one of the authors did have competing interests. He had, she said, been involved in legal cases and received substantial payments for his work. The article related to these legal cases. The author intends to write to the complainant and ask her permission to send her letter to the author. If he accepts that he did have a competing interest, then the journal will publish a statement saying so. Does COPE agree with this? Should anything more be done?
_ The public has the right to know if there were conflicting interests and that if there was any doubt, it is better to disclose. _ Just because the material is in the public domain does not exonerate an author from declaring such interests.
The editor sent the complainant’s letter to the author in question after which a statement of competing interest was published in the journal.