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GSL Competing Interests: Factsheet

Full transparency is always the best course of action, if in doubt, disclose.

A competing interest, also known as a ‘conflict of interest’, can occur when an author, editor or reviewer has a financial, commercial, legal, personal or professional relationship with other organizations, or with the people working with them, that could influence their actions.

The most obvious competing interests are financial relationships such as:

  • Direct: employment, stock ownership, grants, patents.
  • Indirect: honoraria, consultancies to sponsoring organizations, mutual fund ownership, paid expert testimony.

Undeclared financial interests may seriously undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and the science itself.

Examples of financial competing interests include (but are not limited to):

  • Employment or voluntary involvement
  • Collaborations with advocacy groups with relevance to the content of the article
  • Grants from an institution paid to the author or organization
  • Fees received by the author/s as personal honoraria, royalties, consulting fees, lecture fees, testimonies, etc
  • Patents held or pending by the authors, their institutions or funding organizations, or licensed to an institution (whether earning royalties or not)
  • Received royalties by the authors or their institutions
  • Stock or share ownership
  • Benefits related to the development of products as an outcome of the work

Competing interests can also exist as a result of personal relationships, academic competition, and intellectual passion.

Examples of non-financial competing interests include (but are not limited to):

  • Receipt of specialist equipment, tools, computer programs, digital applications, etc or access to data repositories, archival resources, museum collections, etc by an institution that might benefit or be at a disadvantage reputationally or financially from the published results.
  • Holding a position on the boards of industry bodies or private companies that might benefit or be at a disadvantage reputationally or financially from the published results.
  • Administrative, writing or editing assistance from a person or organization that might benefit or be at a disadvantage from the published results.
  • Personal, political, religious, ideological, academic and intellectual competing interests which could be perceived to be relevant to the published content.
  • Involvement in legal action related to the work.

Other considerations that should be taken into account include: whether the person’s association with the organization interferes with their ability to carry out the research or paper without bias; and whether the relationship, when later revealed, may make a reader feel deceived or misled.

Authors are required to disclose full details of any competing interests upon submission in the submission system. Such disclosures may be published alongside the article to assist the readers in evaluating the paper. If no competing interests exist, then a statement to that effect can be chosen instead. If in doubt, always consult with your professor, advisor or someone in a position of authority who can advise you.

Declaration of Competing Interests: a guide

Should I disclose?
Competing interest?  Ethics issue?  Action to be taken 
A relationship that may constitute a competing interest.
Is the relationship with a person or
organization that could bias objectivity, or inappropriately
Some relationships do not necessarily present a conflict.
Those involved in the peer-review and publication process must disclose relationships that could be viewed as potential competing
On submission, fill in the competing interests’ section and state explicitly whether potential competing interests do or do not exist.
Include a section for this in the manuscript itself
Reviewers must also disclose any competing interests that could affect their opinions of the manuscript.
A funding source that may constitute a competing interest.
Did the research funder(s) play any collaborative role in the research, data gathering, writing, or decision to submit the paper.
Undeclared financial conflicts can seriously undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and the science itself.
On submission, all funding sources must be declared in the submission system and within a section in the manuscript itself.
Outline the role the funder(s) had in the design of the study; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.