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I am a full time employee at company XYZ, and will be co-author with university researchers on a paper utilizing one of my company's products. My affiliation will therefore be listed as "XYZ." Is it then also necessary to put in the Conflicts of Interest section that I am a paid employee of company XYZ? It seems redundant when my affiliation is indicating that I work at XYZ, but I haven't been able to find any definitive answers.

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    At the very least, it seems like an easy thing to do to CYA just in case. Commented Jul 10 at 18:58
  • And add a note to the editor asking if it is really needed...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 10 at 19:11
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    What would be the perceived conflict in the conflict of interest? How could working for XYZ potentially cloud your judgment? Commented Jul 10 at 19:40
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    @WolfgangBangerth OP states that the paper utilizes one of XYZ' products, but doesn't go into detail. If the paper reports results about said product, or otherwise appears to endorse the product, there could be financial impacts on XYZ and there could be various pressures on OP to present the product in a good light, even if that results in inaccurate (or worse) representations.
    – Anyon
    Commented Jul 10 at 22:33
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    There's no benefit to not stating a conflict of interest here, so 🤷
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jul 11 at 9:43

4 Answers 4

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I see no reason to not be as explicit as possible. A conscientious editor will probably ask about it anyway.

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  • Fair enough! Affiliation is usually in a more obvious spot (like right below the author list) in my experience, hence my question, but you're right, there's no harm in being more explicit.
    – Brian
    Commented 2 days ago
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If your research uses an XYZ product in a fundamental way and you work for XYZ, then your paper should definitely have a disclaimer about possible conflicts of interest stating that you work for them.

Maybe this disclaimer should contain a lot more, what the alternatives to the XYZ product are, how the result of your research affects product XYZ, how your work at XYZ relates to the XYZ product in your research, etc. That depends on the details of your research which we don't know.

If you did check these things and found that the only possible source of conflict of interest is you working there then you can use your statement as a sort of proof that you did consider the issue and there is no conflict to worry about. That is much better for you than not having such a statement when anyone reading the paper could notice that there is a potential conflic of interest about XYZ that is not addressed.

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    The disclaimer might also include how much your work at XYZ involves the product. Are you part of the team or in a different department?
    – w123
    Commented Jul 11 at 12:10
  • @w123 Good point, added
    – quarague
    Commented Jul 11 at 12:12
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    Also relevant to disclose any other influence of the company on the work. Even if they haven't paid any of the other authors directly, have they provided other support? Did they provide the product for free? Other research materials? Travel fees? Some of these things may be covered in disclosures by other authors but others belong more to the project as a whole and it's important they not be missed.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 11 at 12:34
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Which takes more time: (1) posting a question on academia se, waiting for answers, and then reading the answers, or (2) just stating the conflict of interest just in case.

Benefits to stating it:

It's clearly in a "conflict of interest" section; people don't have to go hunting for it. People might not notice your affiliation. And especially in these days of automation of parsing of documents, you should make it easy to find your COI, rather than relying on the reader inferring it.

People might wonder whether you intended people to not notice your affiliation.

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  • I'm not sure how time taken is relevant; I've wondered this for a while & this question may be helpful for others. My experience is that the affiliation section is actually much more prominently displayed & typically on the very first page. The COI on the other hand, is typically on the last page. Affiliations are usually one of the first things I personally look at when reading a new paper, but I'm interested in other perspectives, like yours. You make a good point about automated parsing.
    – Brian
    Commented 2 days ago
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If there is a Conflict of Interest section you should definitely list it - the alternative would be to say there is no conflict of interest, which would not be true.

If there is no Conflict of Interest section, you should still probably declare it, because the journal or publisher likely requires it. Check the journal's or publisher's websites for details. For example here's the relevant webpage from Sage:

In your Journal Publishing Contributor Agreement you will be asked to certify that:

  1. All forms of financial support, including pharmaceutical company support, are acknowledged in your Contribution.
  2. Any commercial or financial involvements that might present an appearance of a conflict of interest related to the Contribution are disclosed in a covering letter accompanying the Contribution and all such potential conflicts of interest will be discussed with the Editor as to whether disclosure of this information with the published Contribution is to be made in the journal.
  3. That you have not signed an agreement with any sponsor of the research reported in the Contribution that prevents you from publishing both positive and negative results or that forbids you from publishing this research without the prior approval of the sponsor.
  4. That you have checked the manuscript submission guidelines to see whether the journal requires a Declaration of Conflicting Interests and have complied with the requirements specified where such a policy exists.

Therefore, if you don't mention it in your cover letter, you would be lying in the Journal Publishing Contributor Agreement (even if your COI is obvious from your affiliation).

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