Conflict of Interest:

Author of this manuscript is the CEO of Kowsarmedical publishing company and the head of the ethics committee in the same company.


Abstract

Recently, we have faced to a suspected case of Conflict of Interest (CoI) in some of the journals by a unique group of authors. These authors are the shareholders of a pharmaceutical company. In the meantime, they designed a RCT and published at least 4 articles in 4 different journals. In the first and second published articles, they did not mention any CoI while in the third and fourth article, they mentioned a part of their financial involvement in the CoI. In this manuscript, we are trying the review some of important opinions and advises regarding this malpractice. We believe that it is the EIC role to make the best and final decision.

 

Recently, we have faced to a suspected case of Conflict of Interest (CoI) in some of the journals by a unique group of authors. These authors are the shareholders of a pharmaceutical company. In the meantime, they designed a RCT and published at least 4 articles in 4 different journals. In the first and second published articles, they did not mention any CoI while in the third and fourth article, they mentioned a part of their financial involvement in the CoI. 

What is CoI?

COPE defines this term as below (link)

  • Conflicts of interest comprise those which may not be fully apparent and which may influence the judgment of author, reviewers, and editors. They have been described as those which, when revealed later, would make a reasonable reader feel misled or deceived. They may be personal, commercial, political, academic or financial. 
  • “Financial” interests may include employment, research funding, stock or share ownership, payment for lectures or travel, consultancies and company support for staff.

 

Respecting to this case we have made the literature review in this matter. Based on the time of detecting this malpractice, there are two types of undisclosed CoI: A) Before publishing and B) After publishing.

 

 


Type I) Approach to undisclosed CoI before Publishing

  • COPE flowchart (during review):
    • Based on this COPE flowchart: If authors accepted their faults, the EIC must amend competing interest statement as required.
  • Many EICs believe that this kind of undisclosed CoI must "not accept or publish".

 

  • COPE Guideline:
    • Based on this COPE guideline, EIC action is:
      • 1) Such interests, where relevant, must be declared to editors by researchers, authors, and reviewers.
      • 2) Editors should also disclose relevant conflicts of interest to their readers. If in doubt, disclose. Sometimes editors may need to withdraw from the review and selection process for the relevant submission.

Type II) Approach to undisclosed CoI after Publishing

  • COPE flowchart (after publish):
    • Based on this COPE flowchart:
      • If authors supplied the relevant details: Publish a correction to competing interest statement by EIC as required
      • If authors denied any CoI: Inform readers by Retraction of the article.
  • In a case of undisclosed CoI, the COPE advised to:
    • Retraction of a paper for an undeclared conflict of interest would only be considered in very serious cases where this seemed to undermine the validity of the data.
    • The publication of a correction (by editors) about the undeclared conflict of interest is usually the most appropriate course of action.
  • The "retraction guideline" by COPE, it is emphasized that:
    • Retractions are also used to alert readers to cases of redundant publication (i.e. when authors present the same data in several publications), plagiarism, and failure to disclose a major competing interest likely to influence interpretations or recommendations.
  • Retraction Watch described a case of retraction: 
    • An impaired publication of conflict of interest by wrong disclosure and incorrect notification of funding sponsor is the reason of a retraction.
  • Based on a vote in the Retraction Watch, 60% of readers believe that "retraction" of an undisclosed CoI is the best approach.

 

References
  • 1. https://publicationethics.org/files/COI%20submitted.pdf
  • 2. https://publicationethics.org/files/u7141/1999pdf13.pdf
  • 3. https://publicationethics.org/files/COI%20published.pdf
  • 4. https://publicationethics.org/case/undeclared-competing-interests
  • 5. https://publicationethics.org/files/retraction%20guidelines.pdf
  • 6. https://retractionwatch.com/2016/07/11/should-a-paper-be-retracted-if-an-author-omits-a-conflict-of-interest/
  • 7. http://retractionwatch.com/2016/07/07/crows-feet-filler-study-omitted-pharma-funding/
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