One of the World's leading science journals this week bowed to mounting pressure and asked contributors to declare potential conflicts of interest, including disclosure of financial interests. Phillip Campbell, editor of
Campbell states there is evidence to suggest that publication practices in biomedical research have been influenced by the commercial interests of authors. He also voices a general concern in the scientific community of the possible undermining of the integrity of scientific research by increasing commercial links and consequent influences.
Concerns about conflicts of interest in science hit the headlines earlier this year following publication in the spring of a study by Tufts University in
Though the subject is now in the public eye, it is not new. As long ago as 1998, Richard Smith, editor of the
Smith cited two studies — one in the
Smith is the University of Nottingham professor who quit his chair in medical journalism earlier this summer when the university accepted funding from British American Tobacco. He has long been a voice in the debate on the influence of competing interests of scientists on research. He early on set a policy at the
There is also the concern that the investigation of competing interests will turn into a witch-hunt. "Everyone has competing interests and that is not necessarily a bad thing," says Jane Smith, deputy editor of the
Fiona Godlee, editorial director for medicine at BioMed Central, insists that medical authors are asked what potential conflicts of interest they have. The majority say none, and can be classed as 'none declared' alongside their articles. "I've conducted research into how many authors declare anything and the proportion is very small," says Godlee. "It's something like two per cent."