Undisclosed conflicts of interest

Public trust in the peer review process and the credibility of published articles depend in part on how well conflict of interest is handled during writing, peer review, and editorial decision making. Conflict of interest exists when an author (or the author’s institution), reviewer, or editor has financial or personal relationships that inappropriately influence (bias) his or her actions (such relationships are also known as dual commitments, competing interests, or competing loyalties).

 Read more about identifying undisclosed conflicts of interest

Note the procedures below are similar to those for research standards violations.

The complainant must be made aware that the matter cannot be investigated unless the journal editor informs the corresponding (or complained-about) author (due process) and possibly the institution or company at which the research took place.

In the communication to the corresponding/complained-about author (see Form letter A1), the editor should indicate that the matter is likely to be referred to the institution or company where the research took place, the standard-setting body (if relevant), the institution or company which provided undisclosed financial support (if relevant), or any other relevant institution or agency (for example a funding agency) unless the author provides a reasonable explanation (accepted as reasonable by the editor).

What if the corresponding/complained-about author accepts the position of the complainant?


What if the corresponding/complained-about author rejects the position of the complainant?


What if the corresponding/complained-about author has not responded to the editor’s communication?


What if the institution, company or agency responds and indicates either that they agree there was misconduct or that they will investigate and mediate the result?


What if the institution responds negatively or does not respond?


What if the authors and complainant, employing institutions, standard-setting body or funding agencies fail to reach consensus or to act in a reasonable manner and time?


COPE flowcharts

These are available for a second opinion. (*) Note: there may be some minor differences between COPE-recommended procedures and Elsevier-recommended procedures. It is therefore suggested that editors always discuss and agree with their publishing contact on a course of action together.. This is often the time for the editor to discuss the case with his/her publishing contact within Elsevier and agree what action, if any, needs to be taken.