SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
17 July 2014
Volume 15 Issue 7

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Call for Discussion of Requiring Disclosure of Financial Support for Published Research

Terence Boyle, El Rito, New Mexico

Most of us have a primary affiliation that we list on published papers or those presented at meetings. Some of us have secondary affiliations on boards, members of institutions and commissions. These may or may not be remunerated. Most of these represent some form of professional recognition and may ultimately lead to a higher salary or enhanced position.

I recently developed interest in the side effects and efficacy of the statin I was taking for treatment of lipid levels that were appearing in my blood sample associated with routine physical examinations. I began to read the medical literature, both the practioners’ publications aimed at physicians and nurses etc., as well as the primary peer-reviewed literature. In nearly all the publications I looked at of both types, in addition to listing the authors’ primary affiliations, secondary affiliations were listed as a footnote on the first page or at the end of the article. Some had more detailed information on the financial connections of the authors to various institutions relevant to the topic of the paper submitted. Many articles of these publications included disclaimers stating that the authors had no affiliations with pharmaceutical companies or their affiliated institutions, or they did and showed the extent in terms of their membership in these institutions or their financial compensation. My readings were not extensive, but in one paper the authors found statins completely free of concern. The secondary affiliations revealed heavy support from the pharmaceutical industry.

Obviously, a paper funded by an oil company that suffered an oil spill would be considered in the light of the primary affiliation of the authors. But what of the support or secondary affiliations of authors on such papers?  What about the affiliation or support of authors on papers concerning a pesticide or an industrial chemical associated with fracking transport and fate, or complex toxicity?  These connections are certainly not restricted to the private sector and are apparent in both academic and governmental sectors.

By charter, we are a society with a plurality of membership affiliation: academic, government and business.  I am highly supportive and approving of this plurality. I think it is intellectually and practically healthy. While it is obvious what support a prospective author of one of the SETAC journal articles receives when they are from business, it is not so apparent when a prospective author’s primary place of employment is either from academia, a private research institute, a consulting firm or a government agency. All of these last categories do receive support from outside sources of one sort or another.

I am suggesting that some discussion ought to occur within SETAC as to whether its journals should institute a policy like those established by present medical journals which make the affiliation and support of the authors apparent to the readership. If so, the requisites be for establishing financial connections of the authors with relevant financial sources of support, either for the author directly or support for the study leading to the submitted paper should be established.

To review the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association current comprehensive policies for managing relationships with industry, please click here.

Also, the NHLBI has further qualified potential influences as follows:

A person is deemed to have a significant interest in a business if the interest represents ownership of ≥5% of the voting stock or share of the business entity, or ownership of ≥$10,000 of the fair market value of the business entity; or if funds received by the person from the business entity exceed 5% of the person’s gross income for the previous year. Relationships that exist with no financial benefit are also included for the purpose of transparency.

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