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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e26900. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026900. Epub 2011 Nov 2.

Perceptions of conflict of interest disclosures among peer reviewers.

Author information

  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Alameda County Medical Center, Oakland, California, United States of America. slippert@stanford.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Disclosure of financial conflicts of interest (COI) is intended to help reviewers assess the impact of potential bias on the validity of research results; however, there have been no empiric assessments of how reviewers understand and use disclosures in article evaluation. We investigate reviewers' perceptions of potential bias introduced by particular author disclosures, and whether reviewer characteristics are associated with a greater likelihood of perceiving bias.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Of the 911 active reviewers from the Annals of Emergency Medicine, 410 were randomly selected and invited to complete our web-based, 3-part survey. We completed descriptive analysis of all survey responses and compared those responses across reviewer characteristics using 2 Ɨ 2 analyses and the Fisher exact test. We had a response rate of 54%. The majority of reviewers surveyed reported a high level of skepticism regarding financial relationships between authors and industry without a clear or consistent translation of that skepticism into the self-reported actions that characterize manuscript assessment. Only 13% of respondents believed physician consultants authoring articles based on company data are likely to have unlimited data access. 54% believed that bias most likely exists with any honorarium, regardless of monetary amount. Between 46% and 64%, depending on the type of financial relationship disclosed, reported that their recommendation for publication remains unchanged. Respondents reporting personal financial ties to industry were less likely to perceive bias in industry relationships and less likely to believe that bias exists with any monetary amount of honoraria.

CONCLUSIONS:

We recommend that the monetary amount of all financial relationships be reported with manuscript submissions, lead authors certify that they have unrestricted access to data, and reviewers disclose any financial ties to industry whether or not they are related to the manuscript under review. Further research is required to better understand reviewers' perceptions of financial relationships between authors and industry in order to develop clear and consistent guidelines for incorporating the perception of potential bias into manuscript assessments.

PMID:
22073216
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3206871
Free PMC Article
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