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Note from the editors: full disclosure policy.

EHP has a long-standing requirement for authors to disclose competing financial interests. Corresponding authors are required to submit a declaration of competing financial interests on behalf of all authors involved. However, until recently we did not publish this information with the article. In May 2003, we began publishing the authors' disclosure declarations. The statements provide either a disclosure of competing financial interests along with a brief description, a declaration of no competing interests, or a declination to provide such information.

Our full disclosure policy was established because we are mindful of our obligation to provide responsible and effective oversight to manuscripts published in the journal. We believe it is vital for EHP to ensure that information published in the journal is presented in an objective and balanced manner and that readers have the opportunity to judge for themselves whether bias has been introduced because of any competing interests of the authors. EHP's policy of disclosure applies to research articles, commentaries, reviews, and correspondence. Although full disclosure is important, we believe that a decision to publish an article should not be based on a declaration of a competing interest.

Our requirements for full disclosure also extend to reviewers and editors, who must disclose to the Editor-in-Chief any competing financial interests that could be construed as affecting their evaluation of a manuscript. Reviewers or editors might be asked to recuse themselves, when appropriate. However, reviewers and editors are not automatically disqualified because of a competing financial interest.

Competing financial interests may include, but are not limited to, grant support, employment (recent, present, or anticipated), and personal financial interests by the author(s), immediate family members, or institutional affiliations that may gain or lose financially through publication. Increasingly, researchers are compensated by a host of financial arrangements such as travel, consultancies, advisory board positions, patent and royalty arrangements, stock shares, bonds, and the like. Diversified mutual funds or investment trusts do not constitute a competing financial interest. Further, authors are required to certify that their freedom to design, conduct, interpret, and publish research is not compromised by any controlling sponsor as a condition of review and publication.

Since disclosure statements have been published with EHP articles, we have received comments from some readers questioning the accuracy of competing financial interest declarations made by a few authors. As is the case for most journals, EHP is not in the position to confirm the accuracy of disclosure statements made by our authors. We rely on the veracity of the authors. However, authors can expect scrutiny of their statements by EHP readers and the authors' own employers. We welcome this assistance as well as letters to the editor that address alleged inaccuracies of competing interest declarations.

Scientists are aware of the absolute necessity to maintain personal integrity, upon which science and our careers depend. It is this integrity that full disclosure of competing interests is intended to preserve. Therefore, it is imperative that authors and readers understand that a disclosure of a competing interest does not imply that the information in the article is questionable or the conclusions biased. Authors must also understand that the omission of a pertinent financial interest, that is later revealed could deal a severe blow to the authors' integrity and research.

We can expect that the beneficial mixing of academic, industrial, and government-funded research will grow because of the complexity of biomedical and environmental health research. With this growth will come an increase in the competing financial interests of researchers. Journal editors and authors must work together to ensure the continuation of open communication and scientific objectivity.

Thomas J. Goehl

Editor-in-Chief, EHP

Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

E-mail: goehl@niehs.nih.gov

James G. Burkhart

Science Editor, EHP

Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

E-mail: burkhart@niehs.nih.gov
COPYRIGHT 2003 National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Author:Burkhart, James G.
Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:627
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