Conflicts of interest in scholarly communication: what is it and how to avoid it?
The journals often require disclosure of the conflicts of interest from all the stakeholders involved in the peer review and editorial process. The international committee of medical journal editors (ICMJE) defines conflicts of interest as "The potential for conflict of interest and bias exists when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients' welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain)" . Another definition states, "A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest" . It is a situation where the same individual is involved with two competing interests, one of which may involve unethical motivation or benefit or financial interest. Therefore, the COI involves a real, apparent, or potential violation of the trust that others have in the process being conducted or in the researchers participating in the research. Although conflicts of interest (COI) are not new in biomedical research, it was rarely reported until the late 90s, when serious reports of linkage between private companies and academic institutions . It gained more attention with the increasing number of sponsored research on commercial applications leading to doubt about how sponsorship or partial financial support affects the research outcome. The COI is a significant concern for biomedical and pharmaceutical journals. The organizations such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, the World Association of Medical Editors and the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) have launched initiatives to establish international standards for Conflict of Interest (COI) disclosure. COPE requires its member journals to comply with its Code of Conduct for Journal Editors. Although these initiatives helped a lot to improve the situation, there is still a lack of awareness and understanding of COI, especially among budding researchers.
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