When reporting potential conflicts of interest, study authors must take a number of factors into account, including personal and professional relationships. Readers rely on truthful disclosure from authors verified by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) “Form for the Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest,” which was first adopted a decade ago. Now, the committee is proposing revisions to the form, which it detailed in an editorial published in JAMA.

The committee cites disagreement, confusion, and controversy over author disclosures as potential problems with the current form. Authors may not report items they do not find sufficiently important, or may be wary of readers interpreting certain items as a sources of possible wrongdoing. To this end, the committee offers several changes to the ICMJE form. First, they will retitle the form “The ICMJE Disclosure Form,” as the inclusion of the word “potential” in the current title may lead to incorrect interpretations of problematic influences. Second, rather than allowing authors to disclose which items they find important, readers can now view disclosed items and relationships to decide for themselves whether those items have played a role in the research. To guard against authors omitting items, erroneously or not, the committee will also provide a checklist for authors.

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The committee is currently collecting feedback about the proposed changes to the form and will implement this feedback before the final version is released. To further ensure that the process of disclosure is streamlined, they will only accept disclosures from web-based repositories in the future, which will allow authors to create electronic disclosures from an itemized inventory. A template is already available and will be updated for use with the revised form. The committee hopes that these changes will promote transparency and trust between authors and their readership.

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Taichman DB, Backus J, Baethge C, et al. A disclosure form for work submitted to medical journals: a proposal from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. JAMA. 2020;382:667-668.