Scientific endeavors are, by definition, expected to be characterized by objectivity. It is therefore essential to steer clear of obvious or potential conflict of interest issues. To achieve this goal, it is important to recognize the sources of such conflict and then actively work towards avoiding them. Research and writing that is free from bias or prejudice is more acceptable to both journals and the scientific community.
A conflict of interest involves a clash between potential or direct personal gains and professional responsibilities. These can involve both individuals and organizations, and can affect everyone related to the academic publication cycle viz. authors, editorial staff and peer reviewers.
There are different types of conflict of interest, the broad categories for which are outlined below. It is essential for authors to carefully scrutinize all aspects of their work to identify and if possible, avoid all such issues.
This is the type that is most commonly encountered. It is inappropriate to receive research funding or support of any kind from individuals or organizations which may stand to benefit from a specific outcome or interpretation of the research. Further, the author/s or their employers should not be in a position where they have a financial stake in the publication of the work.
Since research activities can be competitive in nature, peer reviewers or sometimes even editorial staff may have interests opposite to those of the authors, or may not be able to make an impartial assessment of the research.
If any of the people involved in the publication cycle are personally related, then they may have a vested interest in the positive outcome of the research or publication of the article. Other situations can involve personal animosities leading to a negative bias in terms of publication of an article.
Editors or peer reviewers may have strongly-held opinions or beliefs about certain ideas leading to an intellectual bias or they may have conscious or unintentional preferences about various aspects like race, nationality or gender.
Some journals require authors to declare competing financial interests during the submission process. However, for the other factors mentioned above, it is necessary for all parties involved in the publication cycle to imbibe and inculcate healthy practices in order to minimize or eliminate conflicts of interest.