The following is the policy for all journals published by JMIR Publications. Our policy is based on the COI policy of PLOS. Bullet points below marked with * are additions/clarifications by JMIR
What Represents a Competing Interest?
- A competing interest / conflict of interest (COI) is anything that interferes with, or could reasonably be perceived as interfering with, the full and objective presentation, peer review, editorial decision-making, or publication of research or non-research articles submitted to a JMIR journal.
- Competing interests can be financial or non-financial, professional, or personal. Competing interests can arise in relationship to an organization or another person.
- Declaring all potential competing interests is a requirement at JMIR Publications and is integral to the transparent reporting of research.
- COIs of an author (for example, being the owner of a product described in the article) do not automatically disqualify an article from publication, but the key is disclosure.*
- Failure to declare competing interests can result in immediate rejection of a manuscript. If an undisclosed competing interest comes to light after publication, JMIR Publications will take action in accordance with COPE guidelines and issue a public notification to the community or publish a corrigendum (see below).
- Instances where authors nominate peer-reviewers which have an obvious competing interest, who contact or influence reviewers to submit reviews, or who assume false identities as "fake reviewers" will be treated as scientific misconduct, and we will reserve steps such as immediate rejection or retraction of already published manuscripts, and informing the host institution of authors about the attempted or actual misconduct. See also As author, who can/should I nominate as peer-reviewer? *
What to Declare
All potentially competing interests (see below) must be declared if they occurred within 5 years of conducting, or preparing for publication, the research under consideration.
Interests outside the 5-year time frame must also be declared if they could reasonably be perceived as competing according to the definition above.
We ask authors not to nominate reviewers which have financial or non-financial competing interest. If authors knowingly nominate reviewers which have a conflict, this can be construed as attempted scientific misconduct (see above and As author, who can/should I nominate as peer-reviewer?).
We ask reviewers to declare any such competing interests, and - if they are too strong - decline the review request.*
Financial competing interests
Financial competing interests include but are not limited to:
- Ownership of stocks or shares
- Paid employment or consultancy
- Board membership
- Patent applications (pending or actual), including individual applications or those belonging to the institution to which the authors are affiliated and from which the authors may benefit
- Research grants (from any source, restricted or unrestricted)
- Travel grants and honoraria for speaking or participation at meetings
Non-financial competing interests
Non-financial competing interests include but are not limited to:
- Acting as an expert witness
- Membership in a government or other advisory board
- Relationship (paid or unpaid) with organizations and funding bodies including nongovernmental organizations, research institutions, or charities
- Membership of lobbying or advocacy organizations
- Writing or consulting for an educational company
- Personal relationships (i.e. friend, spouse, family member, current or previous mentor, adversary) with individuals involved in the submission or evaluation of a paper, such as authors, reviewers, editors, or members of the editorial board of a JMIR journal.
- The above includes previous joint co-authorship on grant proposals or papers - at the very least, such a relationship should be disclosed*
- Personal convictions (political, religious, ideological, or other) related to a paper's topic that might interfere with an unbiased publication process (at the stage of authorship, peer review, editorial decision-making, or publication)
- if authors evaluate innovations and software (e.g. apps) that they have created themselves or where they were involved in the development process - whether or not they have financial interests - then this should be made clear either in the paper themselves, or be disclosed in the COI section. Similarly, reviewers who review evaluation papers of products/services/innovations/software/apps which they have developed (or where they were involved in the development process) must disclose this in the review form* (JMIR requirements/clarifications, added March 15, 2018)
Who Must Declare Competing Interests?
At the time of submission, authors must state what competing interests are relevant to the submitted research. These may include but are not limited to:
- Names of all funding sources (in the Acknowledgements section)
- Description of funder’s role in the study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; writing of the paper; and/or decision to submit for publication (in the Acknowledgements section)
- Whether they have served or currently serve on the editorial board of the journal to which they are submitting (in the Conflicts of Interest section)
- Whether they have acted as an expert witness in relevant legal proceedings (in the Conflicts of Interest section)
- Whether they have sat or currently sit on a committee for an organization that may benefit from publication of the paper (in the Conflicts of Interest section)
- Whether they or their family members work for or own stocks or stock options of the company which developed or owned the app/product evaluated/discussed in the paper, or benefit otherwise financially from publication of the article (in the Conflicts of Interest section)*
- Whether they were involved in the development of the innovation/software/app they have been evaluating* (JMIR requirements/clarifications, added March 15, 2018)
Editors and reviewers
Editors (professional or academic, paid or unpaid) and reviewers (see peer-review form) must declare their own competing interests and if necessary disqualify themselves from involvement in the assessment of a manuscript.
Under no circumstances will editors be allowed to handle a manuscript they are a coauthor on (except for editorials).
Common reasons for editors and reviewers to recuse themselves from the peer review process may include but are not limited to:
- They work at the same institution or organization as an author, currently or recently
- They collaborate with an author, currently or recently
- They have published with an author during the past 5 years
- They have held grants with an author, currently or recently
- They have a personal relationship with an author that does not allow them to evaluate the manuscript objectively
- they or their family members work for or own stocks or stock options of the company which developed or owned the app/product evaluated/discussed in the paper, or benefit otherwise financially from publication of the article *
- Whether they were involved in the development of the innovation/software/app which is discussed or evaluated in the paper they are reviewing* (JMIR requirements/clarifications, added March 15, 2018)
Anyone who comments on published JMIR Publications articles (e.g. in a letter to the editor or online) must declare all competing interests (financial or non-financial) at the time of posting the comment.
Editorial Actions and Decisions
- JMIR editors must take all competing interests into account during the review process and ensure that any relevant ones are declared in the published article.
- JMIR editors will not publish commissioned or any other non-research articles if they are aware of a competing interest that, in their judgment, could introduce bias or a reasonable perception of bias.
- JMIR editors do not consult reviewers who have competing interests that, in the editors' judgment, could interfere with unbiased review.
Post-Publication Procedures for Undisclosed COIs
- Reviewers should point out any undisclosed author-COIs which they notice to editors using the review form, prior to publication (e.g. "through a Google search I found that the submitting author is owning a company which owns the app - this was not disclosed").*
- Readers are invited to bring cases of undisclosed COIs in published manuscripts to our attention (firstname.lastname@example.org), post publication. We will follow the COPE Procedures to investigate undeclared COIs, which may lead to publication of a corrigendum, or (in severe cases) retraction of the article and/or notification of the authors' institution.*