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New common policy for science journals

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has urged editors of journals of science and medicine to adopt a common standard for disclosing financial conflicts of interest among their authors, editors, and peer reviewers.

Scientists’ undisclosed financial ties to drug or medical-device companies have been a major embarrassment for medical journals in recent years. A 2004 CSPI investigation of leading medical and environmental journals found a consistent pattern of failures to disclose conflicts of interest.

The new model policy will require authors to disclose any financial relationship of any size from the previous three years. That would include any kind of employment, grant funding, consulting, travel, or paid testimony, as well as patents, stock ownership, or membership on private sector or other advisory boards. In addition to relationships with companies, authors should disclose ties to nonprofit organisations that receive 50 percent or more of their funding from corporate sources.

In the wake of these findings, several journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association and Environmental Health Perspectives, have acted to improve their conflict-of-interest disclosure policies.