Conflict of Interest
Conflicts of interest (sometimes referred to as ‘competing interests’) occur when outside issues affect, or are perceived to affect, the neutrality or objectivity of research. It can happen at any stage in the research cycle, including during the experimentation phase, while a manuscript is being written, or during the process of turning a manuscript into a published article.
Conflicts of interest do not always stop work from being published or prevent someone from being involved in the review process. However, they must be declared. A clear declaration of all possible conflicts – whether they actually had an influence or not – allows others to make informed decisions about the work and its review process.
If conflicts of interest are found after publication, this may be embarrassing for the authors, the Editor, and the journal. It may be necessary to publish a corrigendum or reassess the review process.
Some common conflicts include:
Personal – a pre-existing relationship induces an individual to act inappropriately.
Financial – an individual receives payment relating to the subject of the research, or from connected organizations.
Intellectual property – an individual puts undue emphasis on patents or trademarks that they own, or are owned by their organization.
Affiliations – an individual is employed by or is a member of an organization with interest in the outcome of the research.
Ideology – an individual is influenced by beliefs or associations relating to the subject of the research.
It should carefully consider how these and other similar topics may affect, and how they could affect others involved in the handling of the manuscript.
Conflicts for authors are most often associated with the risk of bias in a manuscript. If an author has any interest or association that could be seen to have influenced the decision-making process, the author should ensure that it is declared at the time of submission.
An author may be asked to make certain changes to the manuscript as a result of the author’s declaration. These requests are not an accusation of impropriety. The Editor or reviewer will help the author to protect the work against potential criticisms.
If authors are in any doubt about declaring a potential conflict, remember that if it is revealed later – especially after publication – it could cause more problems than simply declaring it at the time of submission. Undeclared conflicts of interest could lead to a corrigendum or, in the most serious cases, a retraction.
Whether or not the author believes a conflict of interest exists, the author will be asked to include a statement in the manuscript. If the author believes no conflicts exist, the author will be asked to confirm this in writing.
As a member of the journal’s Editorial Board, the editor need to be very aware of the risk of conflicts when handling a manuscript.
Firstly, the editor should assess his potential conflicts. If the editor has recently co-authored with the author of the manuscript, the editor could be perceived to be influenced by the editor's relationship. Similarly, if the editor has recently shared an affiliation or employment history with the author, it could also be seen to be inappropriate for the editor to handle their work. JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN AGRICULTURE aims to avoid assigning papers to editors who might have conflicts, but we also expect our Editors to declare any conflicts. If the editor believes a conflict exists, he should refuse to handle the manuscript.
As a subject expert, the journal relies on the editor's knowledge of the discipline to assess any conflicts declared by a submitting author. Editors are also uniquely placed to be able to identify any undeclared conflicts that an author might have. The editor should think about these factors when making a recommendation on the manuscript.
The editor should also consider potential conflicts when assigning the manuscript to reviewers. JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN AGRICULTURE performs a conflict of interest checks on all reviewers before they receive the paper for review. Still, the editor should also rely on their knowledge of the sector to inform the assignments the editor makes. Typically, the editor should not select a referee who:
works or has recently worked at the same institution as the author or authors; or
has recently co-authored a paper with the author or authors; or
has a recent or current collaboration with the author.
Discretion may be applied when a consortium author publications.
If the editor has concerns about a potential reviewer, consider appointing someone else. If the editor believes a reviewer’s recommendation on a manuscript was made to further their interests, the editor may tell the authors they do not need to address that point.
JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN AGRICULTURE is aware that certain specialist areas may involve a higher likelihood of association and overlap between researchers. In some instances, the editor may be the best-placed individual to act as an editor despite a connection with the author or authors. In this case, the editor should inform JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN AGRICULTURE editorial contact. JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN AGRICULTURE can then refer the case for review by our Research Integrity team.
By agreeing to peer review a manuscript, you are providing an essential neutral assessment. As such, the reviewer should ensure that the reviewer has no conflicts of interest that could be seen to prevent the reviewer from acting impartially.
The reviewer should ensure that the reviewer has no recent association with the author and that the reviewer has not previously coauthored with the authors. The reviewer should also not have a recent shared employment history.
JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN AGRICULTURE operates a ‘single blind’ approach to peer review. The reviewer's name will not be made available to the authors. It allows the reviewers to provide honest, pertinent feedback.