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Handling Failure to Disclose Financial Interest 

Handling Failure to Disclose Financial Interest
Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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Handling Failure to Disclose Financial Interest

For Authors of Manuscripts Not Yet Published.

In the event that an undisclosed financial interest on the part of an author is brought to the editor’s attention (usually during the review process), the editor should remind the author of the journal’s policy and ask the author if he or she has anything to disclose. The author’s reply may affect the editorial decision on whether to publish the manuscript.

For Authors of Published Articles.

If an editor receives information (usually from a reader) alleging that an author has not disclosed a financial interest in the subject of an article that has been published, the editor should contact the author and ask for an explanation. If the author admits that he or she failed to disclose the existence of a financial interest in the subject of the article, and if that author had previously submitted a signed financial disclosure statement that did not disclose that financial interest, the editor should request a written explanation from the author and publish it as a notice of financial disclosure in the correspondence column or elsewhere in the journal, clearly labeled as a correction Box.

As in the case of other types of allegations of wrongdoing (eg, scientific misconduct), editors are not responsible for investigating unresolved allegations of financial interest in an article or manuscript. That responsibility lies with the author’s institution, the funding agency, or other appropriate authority. If the editor deems the author’s reply to the allegation inappropriate or incomplete, the editor may need to break confidentiality and inform the author’s supervisor (eg, dean, integrity officer, department chair, director) or representative of the funding agency. For example, JAMA’s editor contacted the deans of 2 medical schools in 2006 to request a full investigation of authors' failures to comply with JAMA’s conflict of interest disclosure requirements.11

Some journals have discussed banning authors who deliberately violate a journal’s stated policy on disclosure of conflicts of interest for a period of time (1-2 years).28 However, such policies are journal specific.

For Reviewers, Editors, and Editorial Board Members.

The discovery of an undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of peer reviewers may result in the journal not asking that reviewer to consult again. Failure to disclose relevant conflicts of interest on the part of editors or editorial board members is grounds for dismissal.

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