, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 395-410

Financial interests of authors in scientific journals: A pilot study of 14 publications

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Disclosure of financial interests in scientific research is the centerpiece of the new conflict of interest regulations issued by the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Science Foundation that became effective October 1, 1995. Several scientific journals have also established financial disclosure requirements for contributors.

This paper measures the frequency of selected financial interests held among authors of certain types of scientific publications and assesses disclosure practices of authors. We examined 1105 university authors (first and last cited) from Massachusetts institutions whose 789 articles, published in 1992, appeared in 14 scientific and medical journals.

Authors are said to “possess a financial interest” if they are listed as inventors in a patent or patent application closely related to their published work; serve on a scientific advisory board of a biotechnology company; or are officers, directors, or major shareholders (beneficial owner of 10% or more of stock issued) in a firm that has commercial interests related to their research. Applying the criteria to the reference population of journals and Massachusetts academic authors, we measured the following frequencies for lead authors: .20 for serving on a scientific advisory board; .07 for being an officer, director, or major shareholder in a biotechnology firm; and .22 for being listed as an inventor in a related patent or patent application. The joint frequency of articles in the journals reviewed with a lead author that meets one of the three conditions is .34. Implications of these results for the new conflict of interest guidelines and disclosure policies are discussed.