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Ethics Week – COI And EM Journal Editors

June 6, 2019

Written by Clay Smith

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Almost one third of prominent US-based EM journal editors had financial conflicts of interest (COI), yet only one of those journals publicly disclosed this.

Why does this matter?
Authors are required to disclose financial COI when submitting papers for possible publication.  But what if the journal editors have COI?  They are in a position to enhance or suppress what is published.  How big is this problem? The CMS Open Payments database publicly reports such payments.

COI conundrum
The authors determined the most prominent US EM journals, based on citation metrics, and cross checked the editors with the CMS Open Payments database.  Of the 198 editors, 60 had a financial COI – that’s 30.3%.  Median general payments were small, around $200.  Of the 52 editors that received general payments, 28.8% were over $5000, which is the threshold the NIH considers “significant.”  Research payments were higher, with a median around $47,000.  Of the 36 editors who received over $5000 in general or research payments, just 7 of them (19.4%) publicly disclosed this on the journals’ websites.  The maximum general payment was $116,000 and maximum research payment was over $3.5 million.  The journals in question are: Academic Emergency Medicine, American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Journal of Emergency Medicine, and Resuscitation.  The Open Payments data does not distinguish what portion goes to the institution, which is often substantial.  Only one of the five journals publicly lists editors’ COI as of 2017.  Not surprisingly, it is the one that published this paper.

Financial Conflicts of Interest Among Emergency Medicine Journals’ Editorial Boards.  Ann Emerg Med. 2019 Apr 5. pii: S0196-0644(19)30142-8. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2019.02.020. [Epub ahead of print]

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Reviewed by Thomas Davis

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