Transparency of interests (or potential conflicting interests) by editors and authors allows readers to judge whether these are relevant for the interpretation of the article. Authors who fail to disclose conflicts of interest (COIs) may face consequences. For example, as of April 2020 conflict of interest was listed in the reasons for retraction for 165 articles in the Retraction Watch database and was the sole reason for the retraction of 19 (11%) articles. Failure to disclose COIs has led to job loss in some cases, and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) considers non-disclosure as research misconduct.
Journal editors, however, do not face such recriminations because readers do not know about their potential COIs as they are rarely available in the public domain. This lack of transparency jeopardises journals and professional organisations credibility and trust, especially as the publication business is highly profitable. We believe that journal editors, their professional organisations, and commercial publishers should not only have policies for the public disclosure of potential COIs of editorial team members but fully implement them. To be fully transparent, journals should also disclose their financial interests each year.
The ICMJE—whose current 12 member journals include influential general and internal medicine journals such as New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, JAMA, The BMJ, and Annals of Internal Medicine—produces guidance on the conduct, reporting, editing, and publication of scholarly work. Its recommendations on author declarations are followed by thousands of medical journals and those in other research fields. However, medical journals do not perform well in following the ICMJE standards for disclosing editors’ COIs.
In a cross-sectional analysis of a random sample of 350 …