Policies on Conflict of Interest, Human and Animal rights, and Informed Consent
Conflicts of interest (sometimes referred to as ‘competing interests’)
occur when outside issues affect, or are perceived to affect, the neutrality or objectivity of research. This can happen at any stage in the research cycle, including during the experimentation phase, while a manuscript is being written, or during the process of turning a manuscript into a published article.
Conflicts of interest do not always stop work from being published or prevent someone from being involved in the review process. However, they must be declared. A clear declaration of all possible conflicts – whether they actually had an influence or not – allows others to make informed decisions about the work and its review process.
If conflicts of interest are found after publication, this may be embarrassing for the authors, the Editor and the journal. It may be necessary to publish a corrigendum or reassess the review process.
Some common conflicts include:
- Personal – a pre-existing relationship induces an individual to act inappropriately.
- Financial – an individual receives payment relating to the subject of the research, or from connected organizations.
- Intellectual property – an individual puts undue emphasis on patents or trademarks that they own, or are owned by their organization.
- Affiliations – an individual is employed by, or is a member of, an organization with an interest in the outcome of the research.
- Ideology – an individual is influenced by beliefs or associations relating to the subject of the research.
You should carefully consider how these and other similar topics may affect you, and how they could affect others involved in the handling of the manuscript.
Conflicts for authors are most often associated with the risk of bias in a manuscript. As an author, if you have any interest or association that could be seen to have influenced your decision-making process, you should ensure that it is declared at the time of submission.
You may be asked to make certain changes to your manuscript as a result of your declaration. These requests are not an accusation of impropriety. The Editor or reviewer is helping you to protect your work against potential criticisms.
If you are in any doubt about declaring a potential conflict, remember that if it is revealed later – especially after publication – it could cause more problems than simply declaring it at the time of submission. Undeclared conflicts of interest could lead to a corrigendum or, in the most serious cases, a retraction.
Whether or not you believe a conflict of interest exists, you will be asked to include a statement in your manuscript. If you believe no conflicts exist, you will be asked to confirm this in writing.
As a member of a journal’s Editorial Board, you need to be very aware of the risk of conflicts when handling a manuscript.
Firstly, you should assess your own potential conflicts. If you have recently coauthored with the author of the manuscript, you could be perceived to be influenced by your relationship. Similarly, if you have recently shared an affiliation or employment history with the author, it could also be seen to be inappropriate for you to handle their work. MedNEXT aims to avoid assigning papers to Editors who might have conflicts, but we also expect our Editors to declare any conflicts. If you believe a conflict exists, you should refuse to handle the manuscript.
As a subject expert, the journal relies on your knowledge of the discipline to assess any conflicts declared by a submitting author. You are also uniquely placed to be able to identify any undeclared conflicts that an author might have. You should think about these factors when making a recommendation on the manuscript.
You should also consider potential conflicts when assigning the manuscript to reviewers. MedNEXT performs conflict of interest checks on all reviewers before they receive the manuscript for review, but you should also rely on your knowledge of the sector to inform assignments you make. Typically, you should not select a referee who:
- works or has recently worked at the same institution as the author or authors; or
- has recently coauthored a paper with the author or authors; or
- has a recent or current collaboration with the author.
Discretion may be applied when publications are authored by a consortium.
If you have concerns about a potential reviewer, consider appointing someone else. If you believe a reviewer’s recommendation on a manuscript was made to further their own interests, you may tell the authors they do not need to address that point.
We are aware that certain specialist areas may involve a higher likelihood of association and overlap between researchers. In some instances, you may be the best-placed individual to act as Editor despite a connection with the author or authors. In this case, you should inform your MedNEXT editorial contact. They can then refer the case for review by our Research Integrity team.
By agreeing to peer review a manuscript you are providing essential neutral assessment. As such, you should ensure that you have no conflicts of interest that could be seen to prevent you from acting in an impartial manner.
You should ensure that you have no recent association with the author and that you have not previously coauthored with them. You should also not have a recent shared employment history.
MedNEXT operates a ‘double blind’ approach to peer review. Your name will not be made available to the authors. This allows you to provide honest, pertinent feedback.
Human and Animal Rights
All research must have been carried out within an appropriate ethical framework. If there is suspicion that work has not taken place within an appropriate ethical framework, Editors will follow may reject the manuscript, and/or contact the author(s)’ ethics committee. On rare occasions, if the Editor has serious concerns about the ethics of a study, the manuscript may be rejected on ethical grounds, even if approval from an ethics committee has been obtained.
Research involving human subjects, human material, or human data, must have been performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and must have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee.
The submitted study has to be supported by the ethics/bioethics committee approval.
Authors reporting the use of a new procedure or tool in a clinical setting, for example as a technical advance or case report, must give a clear justification in the manuscript for why the new procedure or tool was deemed more appropriate than usual clinical practice to meet the patient’s clinical need. Such justification is not required if the new procedure is already approved for clinical use at the authors’ institution. Authors will be expected to have obtained ethics committee approval and informed patient consent for any experimental use of a novel procedure or tool where a clear clinical advantage based on clinical need was not apparent before treatment.
Including of details, images related to individual participants are not allowed.
Experimental research on vertebrates or any regulated invertebrates must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines, and where available should have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee.
A statement detailing compliance with relevant guidelines (e.g. the revised Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in the UK and Directive 2010/63/EU in Europe) and/or ethical approval (including the name of the ethics committee and the reference number where appropriate) must be included in the manuscript. If a study has been granted an exemption from requiring ethics approval, this should also be detailed in the manuscript (including the name of the ethics committee that granted the exemption and the reasons for the exemption). The Editor will take into the account the animal welfare issues and reserves the right to reject a manuscript, especially if the research involves protocols that are inconsistent with commonly accepted norms of animal research. In rare cases, Editors may contact the ethics committee for further information.
Field studies and other non-experimental research on animals must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines, and where available should have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee. A statement detailing compliance with relevant guidelines and/or appropriate permissions or licences must be included in the manuscript. We recommend that authors comply with the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the IUCN Policy Statement on Research Involving Species at Risk of Extinction.
For studies reporting livestock trials with production, health and food-safety outcomes, authors are encouraged to adhere to State Consumer Protection Service of Ukraine or appropriate National/International Establishments.