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Accessibility and transparency of editor conflicts of interest policy instruments in medical journals
  1. Elise Smith,
  2. Marie-Josée Potvin,
  3. Bryn Williams-Jones
  1. Bioethics Programs, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Elise Smith, Bioethics Programs, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; elise.smith{at}


Background There has been significant discussion about the need to manage conflict of interest (COI) in medical journals. This has lead many journals to implement policies to manage COI for authors and reviewers; however, surprisingly little attention has been focused on the COI of journal editors.

Objective The goal of this exploratory study was to determine whether the policies were accessible to the public and to researchers, and to discuss the potential impact on public transparency.

Design The authors conducted an internet search of editor COI policy instruments that have been developed, implemented and communicated by the top 10 peer-reviewed medical journals (2010 ISI Web of Knowledge Impact Factor), and assessed their general accessibility by gauging the level of difficulty in navigating the journal's website (number of clicks to find the policy instruments).

Results Only four of the 10 medical journals (40%) in this study have accessible COI policy directives that include editors (JIM, PLoS Medicine, AIM, CMAJ). One journal (NEJM) had an editorial on the subject, and another (The Lancet) mentioned editor COI in their general guidelines. These documents are not readily accessible; starting from the journal's main website at least four clicks are needed to access these documents.

Conclusion These results suggest that there is a general lack of accessible editor COI policy instruments among leading medical journals, something that may consequently have a negative impact on the trust accorded to these journals.

  • Conflict of interest
  • editorial policies
  • publication
  • policy development
  • ethics committees/consultation
  • research ethics
  • professional misconduct
  • allocation of health care resources
  • applied and professional ethics
  • public health ethics

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  • Funding Quebec Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC) and the Ethics Office of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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