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Editors’ and authors’ individual conflicts of interest disclosure and journal transparency. A cross-sectional study of high-impact medical specialty journals
  1. Rafael Dal-Ré1,
  2. Arthur L Caplan2,
  3. Ana Marusic3
  1. 1 Epidemiology Unit, Health Research Institute-Fundación Jiménez Díaz University Hospital, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  2. 2 Division of Medical Ethics, School of Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City, New York, USA
  3. 3 Department of Research in Biomedicine and Health, University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rafael Dal-Ré; rafael.dalre{at}


Objective To assess the fulfilment of authors’ and editors’ individual disclosure of potential conflicts of interest in a group of highly influential medicine journals across a variety of specialties.

Design Cross-sectional analysis.

Setting and participants Top-ranked five journals as per 2017 Journal Citation Report impact factor of 26 medical, surgery and imaging specialties.

Interventions Observational analysis.

Primary and secondary outcome measures Percentage of journals requiring disclosure of authors’ and editors’ individual potential conflicts of interest (CoI). Journals that were listed as followers of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Recommendations, members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and linked to a third party (ie, college, professional association/society, public institution).

Results Although 99% (129/130) of journals required author’s CoI disclosure, only 12% (16/130) reported individual editors’ potential CoIs. Forty−five per cent (58/130) of journals were followers of the ICMJE Recommendations, and 73% (95/130) were COPE members. Most (69%; 90/130) were linked to a college, professional society/association or public institution. Only one journal did not have policies on individual authors’ and editors’ CoI disclosure.

Conclusion Very few high-impact medical journals disclosed their editorial teams’ individual potential CoIs—conversely, almost all required disclosure of authors’ individual CoIs. Journal followers of the ICMJE Recommendations should regularly disclose the editors’ individual CoIs, as this is the only legitimate way to ask the same transparency of authors.

  • conflicts of interest
  • editors
  • authors
  • medical journals
  • COPE

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  • Contributors RD-R conceived the idea and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. RD-R retrieved all the data. AM checked the consistency of all the information from a random sample of 25% of the 130 journals. ALC and AM provided comments and edits throughout the drafting process for important intellectual content. RD-R, ALC and AM approved the final version of the manuscript and are accountable for all aspects included in it. The authors assume full responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the data and ideas presented.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests All authors declare neither financial nor non-financial interests that may be relevant to the submitted work. AM declares that she participated in the creation of the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Not required

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to this study are inlcuded in the article.