Conflicts of interest
As a journal editor you most likely will have come across this term more than once, either in your own journals or in academia as a whole, usually with some fairly negative connotations (despite the fact that a declaration of a conflict of interest in actuality ensures transparency). What are the true implications when an author declares a conflict of interest? And how do these affect the paper, and your journal? Read on to find out.
What is a conflict of interest?
A conflict of interest describes a situation in which an author or author group have potential competing interests, be it professional or financial, in the submission and publication of their paper and its research. This is to the extent that it might skew or corrupt their manuscript, or the results of their research.
Transparency is key
During a manuscript submission the author has the opportunity to declare any interests affecting their paper, either in their cover letter, or by answering a conflict of interest question on the peer review systems submission form. By voluntarily providing this information and ensuring complete and unambiguous transparency, the author significantly contributes to diffusing any potential concerns regarding competing interests, thus maintaining the integrity of their research.
The author has declared a conflict of interest, how do I proceed?
A declared conflict of interest does not necessarily imply that the research is problematic, but it allows you to evaluate the information provided by the author, and to assess the manuscript fairly and check for any undue bias in the research.
If you conclude that the results are based on sound research, and the conclusions were reached independently of any conflicting interests, the manuscript should be allowed to progress and potentially be published following peer review. To ensure full disclosure, any conflict of interest will then be published alongside the article, ensuring the integrity of both the research and the journal is maintained.
However, if the declared conflict of interest significantly affects the interpretation of the results, a rejection should be considered. If you are concerned that the information provided by the author indicates the integrity of the research may be compromised, please contact your Taylor & Francis Managing Editor.
After the fact: the author has declared a conflict of interest post-publication
If the author does not divulge any conflicts of interest until a manuscript is accepted, or following publication this could be considered misconduct on their part and should be followed up with your Taylor & Francis Managing Editor.
More information on conflicts of interest can be found here.