Nature journals tighten rules on non-financial conflicts

What is a conflict of interest in science? Definitions differ, but broadly agree on one thing: an effect that can affect the objectivity of a researcher. For some people this effect can be money. But there are other influences that can interfere, such as institutional loyalty, personal trust, and ambition.

Nature and other nature research journals (including Nature Research and Review journals, Nature Communications, Scientific Reports, Scientific Data, Nature Companion Journals and Communications Journals) are taking into account some of these non-financial sources of potential stress and conflict. . Starting February, authors of research articles, reviews, comments and research analyzes will be asked (and expected to) disclose them (see

For this purpose, competing interests (both financial and non-financial) are defined as a secondary interest that may directly undermine the fairness, integrity and value of the publication through potential influence on decisions and actions, or weaken.

Author with respect to objective data presentation, analysis and interpretation. Non-financial competing interests may include a range of personal and/or professional relationships with organizations and individuals, including membership in governmental, non-governmental, advocacy or lobbying organizations, or serving as an expert witness. is included.

We recognize that not everyone shares the same level of concern about non-financial conflicts. Some argue, for example, that because non-financial conflicts cannot be removed, whereas financial conflicts, focusing on the former may send the message that simply declaring rather than removing financial conflicts is sufficient.

And few would agree with a Scottish judge, who concluded in a 2005 case that non-paid expert witnesses were more likely to be biased (because they wanted to advance an agenda) than highly remunerated experts who Speaks on behalf of the Tobacco Company (L. Friedman and R. Denard Tob. Control 16, 293; 2007).

Several studies have shown that financially competing interests in industry-sponsored research have the potential to introduce bias into study design, analysis, and reporting; By comparison, the impact of non-financial competing interests has been little studied.

Nevertheless, it is reasonable to expect that these associations may color study design, interpretation and subsequent reception of published findings; To guard against this, disclosure of non-financial interests has been required for many years in many clinical and biomedical journals.

At a time when scrutiny of the scientific process is increasing, transparent disclosures that allow readers to draw their own conclusions about published work are the best way to maintain public trust.

Nature will make full disclosure statements available to peer reviewers as part of the journal review process and publish them online.

However, although we will facilitate disclosure during the peer review and publication process, the responsibility for appropriately disclosing, managing and eliminating competing interests rests with the authors and their institutions. If we become aware of unknown interests that may qualify as a competing interest, in most cases we will amend published work by issuing corrections.

However, in the rare cases where competing interest is significant enough to raise concerns about the reliability of the study, more serious action may be required. Nature research journals already invite peer reviewers to out themselves in cases in which there is a significant conflict of interest, financial or otherwise. And the journal’s editorial staff is required to declare any interests to their employer.

The Nature Journals’ Competitive Financial Interest Policy for Authors, first introduced in 2001, focused only on primary research articles. We expanded the dispatch in subsequent years to include review articles and other types of externally written content, including news and views, book reviews, and opinion articles. The current move is the latest in an evolving process, and we welcome feedback on the change.

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