A Disclosure Form for Work Submitted to Medical Journals– A Proposal From the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors

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Darren B. Taichman
Joyce Backus
Christopher Baethge
Howard Bauchner
Annette Flanagin
Fernando Florenzano
Frank A. Frizelle
Fiona Godlee
Laragh Gollogly
Abraham Haileamlak
Sung-Tae Hong
Richard Horton
Astrid James
Christine Laine
Pamela W. Miller, BA
Anja Pinborg, MD
Eric J. Rubin
Peush Sahni


Many factors, including professional andpersonal relationships and activities, caninfluence the design, conduct, and reportingof the clinical science that informs healthcare decision. The potential for conflict ofinterest exists when these relationships andactivities may bias judgement (1). Manystakeholders—editors, peer reviewers,clinicians,educators,policymakers,patients, and the public—rely on thedisclosure of authors’ relationships andactivities to inform their assessments. Trustin the transparency, consistency, andcompleteness of these disclosures isessential.Ten years ago, the InternationalCommittee of Medical Journal Editors(ICMJE) adopted the “ICMJE Form for theDisclosure of Potential Conflicts ofInterest” as a uniform mechanism forcollectingandreportingauthors’relationships and activities that readersmight consider relevant to a published work(2). The goal was to avoid the confusion(and often ensuing controversy) createdwhen journals vary in how they collect andreport this information. We believe auniform disclosure form has been helpful,but problems remain. First, the softwaresupporting the current form is increasinglyproblematic, making its use difficult orimpossible for an increasing number ofauthors. More important, however, is thatmany authors and readers misunderstand,misapply, or misinterpret the disclosures.Although some individuals violate thepublic trust by purposefully hiding relevantrelationships and activities, we believemost authors are committed to transparentreporting and consider it as vital to theadvancementofclinicalscience.Nonetheless, disagreement, confusion, andDOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/ejhs.v30i1.1January 2020controversy regarding authors’ disclosuresarise when opinions differ over whichrelationships and activities to report. Anauthor might not report an item that othersdeem important because of a difference inopinion regarding what is “relevant,”confusion over definitions, or a simpleoversight. Some authors may be concernedthat readers will interpret the listing of anyitem as a “potential conflict of interest” asindicative of problematic influence andwrongdoing, a concern often raisedregarding the requirement to report publiclyfunded grants. For their part, some readersfail to recognize that their own relationshipsand activities influence how they assess thework of others and what they deem to be a“conflict” for others or themselves.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Darren B. Taichman, ICMJE

Darren B. Taichman, MD, PhD

Secretary, ICMJE, Executive Editor, Annals of Internal Medicine

Joyce Backus, National Library of Medicine

Representative and Associate Director for Library Operations, National Library of

Christopher Baethge, Deutsches Ärzteblatt International

Chief Scientific Editor, Deutsches Ärzteblatt (German Medicical Journal) & Deutsches
Ärzteblatt International

Howard Bauchner, JAMA Network

Howard Bauchner, MD

Editor-in-Chief, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) and the JAMA

Annette Flanagin, JAMA Network

Annette Flanagin, RN, MA

Executive Managing Editor, Vice President, Editorial Operations, JAMA (Journal of the
American Medical Association) and the JAMA Network

Fernando Florenzano, (Medical Journal of Chile)

Florenzano, MD

Editor, Revista Medica de Chile (Medical Journal of Chile)

Frank A. Frizelle, New Zealand Medical Journal

Frank A. Frizelle, MBChB, FRACS

Editor-in-Chief, New Zealand Medical Journal

Fiona Godlee, (British Medical Journal)

Fiona Godlee,
MBBChir, BSc

Editor-in-Chief, The BMJ (British Medical Journal)

Laragh Gollogly, Editor, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Coordinator, WHO Press

Laragh Gollogly, MD, MPH

Editor, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Coordinator, WHO Press

Abraham Haileamlak, Jimma University

Abraham Haileamlak, MD

Editor-in-Chief, Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences

Sung-Tae Hong, Journal of Korean Medical Science

Sung-Tae Hong, MD, PhD

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Korean Medical Science

Richard Horton, The Lancet

Richard Horton, FMedSci

Editor, The Lancet

Astrid James, The Lancet

Deputy Editor, The Lancet

Christine Laine, Annals of Internal Medicine

Christine Laine, MD, MPH

Editor-in-Chief, Annals of Internal Medicine

Pamela W. Miller, BA, Assistant to the Editor, Special Projects, New England Journal of Medicine

Pamela W. Miller, BA

Assistant to the Editor, Special Projects, New England Journal of Medicine

Anja Pinborg, MD, Ugeskrift for Laeger (Danish Medical Journal)

Anja Pinborg, MD

Scientific Editor-in-Chief, Ugeskrift for Laeger (Danish Medical Journal)

Eric J. Rubin, New England Journal of Medicine

Eric J. Rubin, MD, PhD

Editor-in-Chief, New England Journal of Medicine

Peush Sahni, World Association of Medical Editors

Peush Sahni, MBBS, MS, PhD

Representative and Past President, World Association of Medical Editors

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