Conflicts of interest (COIs, also known as ‘competing interests’) occur when issues outside research could be reasonably perceived to affect the neutrality or objectivity of the work or its assessment. 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. 

If unsure, declare a potential interest or discuss with the editorial office. Undeclared interests may incur sanctions. Submissions with undeclared conflicts that are later revealed may be rejected. Published articles may need to be re-assessed, have a corrigendum published, or in serious cases be retracted.

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.

Conflicts include the following:

  • Financial — funding and other payments, goods and services received or expected by the authors relating to the subject of the work or from an organization with an interest in the outcome of the work
  • Affiliations — being employed by, on the advisory board for, or a member of an organization with an interest in the outcome of the work
  • Intellectual property — patents or trademarks owned by someone or their organization
  • Personal — friends, family, relationships, and other close personal connections
  • Ideology — beliefs or activism, for example, political or religious, relevant to the work

Academic — competitors or someone whose work is critiqued