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Conflicts of interest statements on biomedical papers

Abstract

This paper examines the varying prevalence of conflict of interest (COI), and “no conflict”, statements on biomedical research papers, which are increasingly being required by journal editors. They are important as they may detract from the perceived objectivity of the results if the authors are in the pay of commercial companies. However, the frequency of these statements in the web of science (WoS) is only a few percent of the total number of biomedical papers. A survey of journal editors revealed that many COI statements are excluded from the WoS because they are printed separately from the acknowledgement section of the paper. One consequence of the appearance of COI statements on papers is that the WoS mistakenly includes companies who have given money to some of the researchers for unrelated work among the sponsors listed among the funding organizations, and this will distort the analysis of the funding of the research being reported in some of the papers and appears nearly to double companies’ apparent tally of papers.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Philip Roe of Evaluametrics Ltd who provided the macros that were used in several of the analyses, and to Mursheda Begum of King’s College who provided the data for Figure 3. The authors have no relevant competing interests to declare.

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Correspondence to Grant Lewison.

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Lewison, G., Sullivan, R. Conflicts of interest statements on biomedical papers. Scientometrics 102, 2151–2159 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-014-1507-0

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Keywords

  • Conflict of interest
  • Funding
  • No conflict
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Web of science