Conflict of interest (author)


Sanitising a misleading statement


Author A published a paper in Journal X, which presented evidence of failure by another research group to declare a serious conflict of interest in a paper that had been published some years before in Journal Y. This conflict of interest centred around the undeclared involvement of a third party with a vested interest. Evidence for this was presented in the form of correspondence from the third party stating explicitly that they had developed the work and written a draft of the paper.


Ethical approval and fabrication of results


A group of authors, based in private practice, submitted three manuscripts to Journal A and one to Journal B. All the manuscripts described the application and effectiveness of a spinal manipulation technique.


Competing interest


An editorial board member of a journal submitted an unsolicited review article on a drug. The editor said the journal would consider the article, but suspected that the article had been commissioned or even written by a drugs company. S/he stipulated that the author must provide a financial disclosure statement before the article could be accepted. The journal published the review article, which had been refereed by two independent reviewers.


Undeclared competing interests


A journal published an animal study on the use of drug X for the treatment of clinical condition A. The authors did not declare any competing interests. A few months after publication, a journalist contacted the editors to say that the corresponding author had several patents on drug X, was listed as an inventor of the drug, and that the public charity of which he is the director recently announced that they were seeking approval for clinical trials of drug X in condition B.


Undeclared conflict of interest


Several years after a case series was published, a journalist with serious allegations of research misconduct contacted the editor. These allegations were that: - Ethics approval had not been obtained, contrary to a statement in the paper; and that the reported study was completed under the cover of ethics approval granted to a different study - Contrary to a statement in the paper that the participants had been consecutively referred, they were, in fact, invited to participate.


The disappearing authors


Some time after a single authored research article was published a journal received a letter pointing out that the same article had been rejected by another journal because of unresolved authorship and acknowledgement issues. At that time the paper had 12 authors. The correspondent said that the single author had a patent application related to the topic of the paper. This was declared as a competing interest in the published paper.


Authorship dispute


A paper submitted to an international medical journal was reviewed externally and the authors were subsequently invited to submit a revised version. The initial submission included authors from two different research institutions and one author from a corporate sponsor. The initial submission was accompanied by an appropriate description of the individual authors’ contributions, a negative conflict of interest statement, and an appropriate acknowledgement section.


Undeclared conflict of interest


A published study reviewed the use of particular devices for performing a clinical manoeuvre. One of the authors worked for a consultancy, but declared that he had no conflict of interest. Subsequently, the journal received a letter pointing out that the consultancy had been set up explicitly to persuade governments and their regulatory organisations of the virtues of new drugs and technologies.


An author thinks that a journal’s decision not to publish is ethically incorrect


A submitted paper reported on the investigation and management of an outbreak of a disease in a work environment (Company A). The authors acknowledged the referring physician from the workplace—who had declined on legal advice to be listed as an author—and also declared that the lead author had provided medical advice for remuneration to Company A during legal proceedings related to the outbreak discussed in the article.


Undeclared conflicts of interest and potential author dispute over signed letter for publication


A letter was published that provides guidance on prescribing a particular drug in children. There are anxieties about the use of this drug in children, and sometime back a letter from essentially the same group on the same subject was published in the same journal. The electronic version of this original letter included a conflict of interest statement, but the paper edition did not. This was a mistake.