Researchers, publishers, and funders have created a delicate harmony amongst themselves. These three groups work together to fund, create, and produce significant contributions for academia. This is all under the agreement that research is for the greater good and should remain uncorrupted by any bias from the three parties. But people are not perfect, and when a researcher has a connection to an outside source, they must disclaim this relationship as a conflict of interest. What is the definition of a conflict of interest, when should an author reveal one, and why are these disclaimers such an essential part of academic publishing? Here, eContent Pro breaks it down.
What is a Conflict of Interest?
A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when you have a connection to an organization or an individual that may have influenced your research. Any relationship that may affect the way you inform your decisions is considered a conflict of interest, and can be financial, commercial, legal, or professional in nature. When submitting to publications, possible sources of COIs include personal relationships with members of the peer review board or journal staff, any outside funding or commitments, consultancies with other researchers or authors, or employment.
When to Address a Conflict of Interest
Where does a conflict of interest begin and end, and is there such a thing as revealing too much? When you’re involved in Academia, always err on the side of caution. It is important to remain as open as possible, and if you have any reason to believe something may be considered a COI, cover your bases and disclose that information. Most journals and publications require you to reveal any COI as part of the application process in the form of a cover letter, giving you the opportunity to be forthright from the beginning. Keep in mind the language that publications are looking for in COI disclosures, which can normally be found in the publication guidelines. If approved for submission, these COIs can then be published to ensure that readers are kept fully informed and authors are reliable. Grant proposals and research groups should also be made aware of a COI as early as possible, and some organizations and institutions require an updated disclosure statement annually.
The Importance of Disclosing
Transparency is key when you’re part of the Academic community. The integrity of a researcher is an indicator of how their work will be perceived, and the more thorough a COI disclaimer is, the more the public and peer review boards will trust you and your data. Research is expected to be impartial, open, and thoroughly vetted, and if a researcher holds something back, the quality of the work quickly comes into question. Though funders and organizations are expected to reduce their impact on a researcher as much as possible, outside influence can filter through easily, and revealing any COIs keeps both you and your affiliated parties open. Just as researchers are expected to provide a complete record of COIs, publishers also have a responsibility to make the most ethical decision in whether to accept the submission or not. Yes, it is up to the researcher to keep their bias checked, but like screening manuscripts for plagiarism, it is just as important for publishers to recognize corrupted research.
Keeping your research honest and open is an essential practice, and a large part of that is ensuring that you disclose any conflicts of interest to your potential publisher. Are you struggling to find a journal for your manuscript? Let eContent Pro’s Journal Recommendation service help by finding journals best suited for your hard work!