independent, in-depth social journalism for health

Editorial policies

Disclaimer

Croakey operates under resource constraints. We do not have full-time staff but rely upon the goodwill of busy people to contribute articles and to assist with projects.

We do the best we can with limited resources – often posts are simply aiming to link you into useful sources/resources rather than to provide considered, comprehensive analysis or reporting.

Croakey is a place for sharing ideas and discussions – it does not intend to provide personal health advice. If any articles raise personal health issues or concerns for you, please seek expert advice.

At present, Croakey does not have a formal organisational structure. Melissa Sweet, trading as Sweet Communication, takes overall responsibility for the Croakey editorial content.

(We are currently seeking to recruit a law firm to provide probono advice about our organisational structure, and on an ongoing basis).

Comments policy

We are grateful when readers take the time to leave comments, particularly if correcting errors, pointing out omissions or contributing to informed debate.

However, we ask that all comments value-add in some way to the topic or discussion. We will not publish comments that do not add some meaningful value, or that are not civil. Abuse and racism will not be tolerated.

Respect and cultural safety in language

In relation to mentions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Croakey recommends that those contributing articles and comment follow the language and style recommended in these publications:

Conflicts of interest policy

Croakey encourages contributors to declare relevant conflicts of interest, as we do ourselves (see details at the Croakey team section).

Much of the material has been adapted from the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) statement on this topic.

Why do conflicts of interest matter?

The World Association of Medical Editors notes that everyone has conflicts of interest of some sort, and that this does not, in itself, imply wrongdoing. But if these are not managed effectively, they can cause authors and editors to make decisions that, consciously or unconsciously, tend to serve their competing interests.

What are conflicts of interests?

The World Association of Medical Editors notes that there are many kinds of competing interests.

These include:

  • Financial ties

Examples of financial ties to industry include payment for research, ownership of stock and stock options, as well as honoraria for advice or public speaking, consultation, service on advisory boards or medical education companies, and receipt of patents or patents pending.  Also included are having a research or clinical position that is funded by companies that sell drugs or devices. Competing interests can be associated with other sources of research funding including government agencies, charities (not-for-profit organizations), and professional and civic organizations.  Clinicians have a financial competing interest if they are paid for clinical services related to their research —for example, if they write, review, or edit an article about the comparative advantage of a procedure that they themselves provide for income. Financial competing interests may exist not just on the basis of past activities but also on the expectation of future rewards, such as a pending grant or patent application.

  • Academic commitments

Participants in the publications process may have strong beliefs (“intellectual passion”) that commit them to a particular explanation, method, or idea.  They may, as a result, be biased in conducting research that tests the commitment or in reviewing the work of others that is in favour or at odds with their beliefs.

  • Personal relationships

Personal relationships with family, friends, enemies, competitors, or colleagues can pose COIs.  For example, a reviewer may have difficulty providing an unbiased review of articles by investigators who have been working colleagues.

  • Political or religious beliefs

Strong commitment to a particular political view (eg, political position, agenda, or party) or having a strong religious conviction may pose a COI for a given publication if those political or religious issues are affirmed or challenged in the publication.

  • Institutional affiliations

A COI exists when a participant in the publication process is directly affiliated with an institution that on the face of it may have a position or an interest in a publication.  An obvious concern is being affiliated with or employed by a company that manufactures the drug or device (or a competing one) described in the publication.  However, apparently neutral institutions such as universities, hospitals, and research institutes may also have an interest in the results of research. Professional or civic organisations may also have competing interests because of their special interests or advocacy positions.

How does Croakey manage conflicts of interests?

  • Contributors to Croakey are expected to declare any potential conflicts of interests at the bottom of their posts. Ideally, these should also be declared on comments but we acknowledge that this is difficult to enforce, given that many comments are anonymous.
  • If you are not sure whether to declare something, please ask. You may wish to consider the World Medical Association of Editors prompt that, “if my competing interest becomes known to others later, would I feel defensive or would others in the publication process, readers or the public think I was hiding my other interests or could they feel I misled or deceived them?”
  • If Croakey subsequently discovers that relevant conflicts of interest have not been declared, they shall be published at a later stage.

(Thanks to Carol Bennett, Ian Olver, Ian Haines, Agnes Vitry, Merrilyn Walton, Peter Mansfield and others for their comments on this policy).

 

 

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