Oxford University Press

Guidelines Governing Conflict of Interest

In science, a conflict of interest may occur in situations where financial or other personal considerations may bias the professional judgement of an investigator in conducting or reporting research. Conflicts may be real or perceived, harmful or insignificant. Whereas such conflicts may represent the potential for compromised judgement, they do not necessarily indicate the likelihood that such bias will occur (Cohen, 2001; Flanagin, 2000; Friedman, 1992).

In an ideal world, we would not need to concern ourselves with this issue. However, there is increasing sensitivity to the subject of conflict of interest disclosures relative to the publication of peer-reviewed manuscripts, and over the past several years, many biomedical journals have adopted policies governing the need for full disclosure, particularly of financial interests. After considerable discussion and review, Toxicological Sciences is adopting a policy for disclosing conflict of interest. The need for the policy is not driven by the sense that the integrity of toxicological research has been compromised. Rather it is based on the recognition that such disclosures serve to inform readers about any special interests, enabling them to make informed judgements about the potential significance or lack of significance of a disclosure. In a similar manner, reviewers will be asked to exclude themselves in cases where there is a conflict of interest, financial or otherwise. In the end, the policy is intended to collectively benefit the authors and readers of the journal.

The guidelines were developed by the Board of Publications and reviewed and approved by the Council of the Society of Toxicology. The Society of Toxicology does not assume responsibility for an individual’s failure to comply with the conflict of interest guidelines. The policy will appear in the Instructions for Authors and will be implemented commensurate with publication of this article as of April 15, 2003. At that time, authors will be asked to disclose any potential conflicts of interest when the manuscript is submitted via the on-line system. Similarly, reviewers will be queried regarding potential conflicts as part of the agreement to review a manuscript. As noted, all disclosures will be held in strict confidence by the Editorial Office. Any comments or suggestions regarding this policy are welcome.


Toxicological Sciences ascribes in principle to the Conflict of Interest policy recommended by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). The complete document appears at http://www.icmje.org/index.html#conflict.

The Toxicological Sciences guidelines are as follows:

When articles are submitted for consideration for publication in Toxicological Sciences, authors must indicate all sources of funding for the submitted work along with any potential financial or other interests that may be perceived to bias the research. This includes departmental, governmental, public interest, or institutional funds. All sponsors must be identified, even if their support is indirect. Authors are not required to state the monetary value of their financial interests.

In addition to financial relationships that may constitute a conflict of interest, factors such as professional collaboration or competition may constitute conflicts of interest that can affect the credibility of both the submitted article and the peer review process. All disclosures will be held in strict confidence during the review process. If a conflict of interest is noted by the corresponding author, this information will appear as a brief acknowledgement in the final printed article. Participants in the peer review process must also disclose any conflicting interest to the Editor, and such can serve as the basis for a selected reviewer to decline to participate in the review process.

Following are examples of conflicts of interest to be disclosed by authors and reviewers:

  • The author/reviewer acknowledges that he/she (or family member) is employed by company X who owns the patent on the compound that appears in the manuscript.
  • The author/reviewer acknowledges that he/she (or a family member) do(es) consulting work for an organization that competes with the organization that holds the patent on the referenced compound.
  • The author acknowledges that he/she has a grant from Company X to do research in this area; the funding organization does not have control over the resulting publication.
  • The author/reviewer acknowledges that he/she has an affiliation with a related industry or special interest group.


Cohen, J. J. (2001). Trust us to make a difference: Ensuring public confidence in the integrity of clinical research. Acad. Med. 76, 209–214.

Flanagin, A. (2000). Conflict of interest. In Ethical issues in Biomedical Publication (A. H. Jones and F. McClellan, Eds.), pp 137–165. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Friedman, P. J. (1992). The troublesome semantics of conflict of interest. Ethics Behav. 2, 245–251.

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