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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.
Taichman DB, Backus J, Baethge C, et al. A Disclosure Form for Work Submitted to Medical Journals: A Proposal From the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. JAMA. Published online January 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.22274
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