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January 27, 2020

A Disclosure Form for Work Submitted to Medical Journals: A Proposal From the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors

Author Affiliations
  • 1Secretary, ICMJE; Executive Editor, Annals of Internal Medicine
  • 2Representative and Associate Director for Library Operations, National Library of Medicine
  • 3Chief Scientific Editor, Deutsches Ärzteblatt (German Medical Journal) & Deutsches Ärzteblatt International
  • 4Editor in Chief, JAMA and the JAMA Network
  • 5Executive Managing Editor, JAMA and the JAMA Network
  • 6Editor, Revista Medica de Chile (Medical Journal of Chile)
  • 7Editor in Chief, New Zealand Medical Journal
  • 8Editor in Chief, The BMJ (British Medical Journal)
  • 9Editor, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Coordinator, WHO Press
  • 10Editor in Chief, Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences
  • 11Editor in Chief, Journal of Korean Medical Science
  • 12Editor, The Lancet
  • 13Deputy Editor, The Lancet
  • 14Editor in Chief, Annals of Internal Medicine
  • 15Assistant to the Editor, Special Projects, New England Journal of Medicine
  • 16Scientific Editor in Chief, Ugeskrift for Laeger (Danish Medical Journal)
  • 17Editor in Chief, New England Journal of Medicine
  • 18Representative and Past President, World Association of Medical Editors
JAMA. Published online January 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.22274

Many factors, including professional and personal relationships and activities, can influence the design, conduct, and reporting of the clinical science that informs health care decisions. The potential for conflict of interest exists when these relationships and activities may bias judgment.1 Many stakeholders—editors, peer reviewers, clinicians, educators, policy makers, patients, and the public—rely on the disclosure of authors’ relationships and activities to inform their assessments. Trust in the transparency, consistency, and completeness of these disclosures is essential.

Ten years ago, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) adopted the “ICMJE Form for the Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest” as a uniform mechanism for collecting and reporting authors’ relationships and activities that readers might consider relevant to a published work.2 The goal was to avoid the confusion (and often ensuing controversy) created when journals vary in how they collect and report this information. We believe a uniform disclosure form has been helpful, but problems remain. First, the software supporting the current form is increasingly problematic, making its use difficult or impossible for an increasing number of authors. More important, however, is that many authors and readers misunderstand, misapply, or misinterpret the disclosures.