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Editorial Snapshot: Avoiding potential delays in peer review and publication (Part 2)

– A.P., Editor

To ensure objectivity, integrity, and transparency in the scientific process, as well as published scientific articles, most journals have a policy that requires authors to include a conflict of interest statement in their manuscript or to submit a conflict of interest disclosure form along with their manuscript during the submission process. Declaring any financial and other conflicts of interest that might bias your work is actually a very important part of your responsibilities as an author, and neglecting to do so can delay your manuscript being sent to reviewers, even if there is nothing to declare, as many journals now require a declaration of conflicting interests for all authors to be submitted before an article can even be reviewed. The Editor is likely to return your manuscript without review if it lacks the necessary statement. Alternatively, if the journal requires a specific disclosure form, getting all the authors of your manuscript to sign the form can take time, which will delay your paper from being sent for review until the completed form is submitted.

So what exactly are conflicts of interest? According to the Guidelines on Good Publication Practice (2003) published by The Committee on Publication Ethics, conflicts of interest arise when authors have interests that, if revealed following publication of their article, could make a reader feel as if they have been deceived.

These can include financial or material support for your research, which could be in the form of salaries, equipment, or even research supplies. There are also possible conflicts of interest related to employment, which includes past, current, or possible employment of an author by an organization or company that could benefit from publication of the article. Ownership of stock or shares in a company that could in some way be affected by publication of the article and holding any patents or copyrights related to the work reported in the article could also be perceived as conflicts of interest. It is important to remember that having a conflict of interest does not mean the journal will reject your manuscript, but reporting it is part of your ethical responsibilities as an author.

If your target publication requires a Declaration of Conflicting Interests within your manuscript, be sure to include this statement in the appropriate location according to the journal guidelines. The following are some example declarations:

• Dr. A is a consultant for ABC Corporation, which provided financial support for this study.
• AB received an honorarium from ABC Drug Company for speaking at the X meeting and owns stock in the company.
• Dr. B is a co-owner of ABC Co. that provided the materials tested in this study.

Common declarations when there are no conflicts of interest include:

• The authors have no conflicts of interest directly relevant to the content of this article.
• The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

The journal may also require that a disclosure form be filled out by the corresponding author and signed by all authors. This can be time-consuming if there are several authors, so it is best to accomplish this when preparing your manuscript for submission to avoid any delays. The standardized form prepared by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is a good example of a disclosure form, and is actually a valuable resource if you are uncertain about what information to include regarding conflicts of interest.

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