Adherence to non-financial conflicts of interest policy in Cochrane reviews where authors are also editorial board members
Rachel Riera, Hospital Sírio-Libanês / Universidade Federal de São Paulo / Cochrane Affiliate Rio de Janeiro
2Universidade Metropolitana de Santos / Hospital Sírio-Libanês / Cochrane Affiliate Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
3Centro Universitário Arthur Sá Earp Neto (Unifase) / Cochrane Affiliate Rio de Janeiro / Oxford-Brazil EBM Alliance, Brazil
4Oxford-Brazil EBM Alliance, Brazil
5University of Oxford / Oxford-Brazil EBM Alliance, UK
6Universidade Federal de São Paulo / Hospital Sírio-Libanês / Cochrane Affiliate Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Background: Conflict of interest (COI) represents a major threat to the validity of research, and its impact is well recognized and has been extensively addressed in the literature [1,2]. The impact of nonfinancial conflict of interest (nfCOI) in conducting systematic reviews is not ignored by Cochrane, which has a strict policy, updated recently, and whose management process is a responsibility of Cochrane Review Group (CRG) editorial boards. An author’s involvement in a supporting CRG editorial board represents an additional threat that must not be neglected, although this involvement is allowed by Cochrane policy .
Objectives: To assess adherence to Cochrane’s editorial nfCOI policy when an author has a role on the editorial board of the hosting CRG.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis  conducted at the Evidence-Based Medicine Discipline, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Unifesp), Brazil, through a partnership with Oxford-Brazil EBM Alliance .
Results: All 260 published Cochrane reviews (CRs) in issues 1 to 6 from 2019 of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were analysed. Overall, 133 (51.2%, 133/260) CRs had at least one author who was also listed as an editor in the CRG. Of these, 5 (3.8%, 5/133) appropriately declared the conflict according to Cochrane policies. In 6.5% (17/133) of CRs, the contact author had a leading editorial position within the CRG, and this was stated according to Cochrane policy in 4 of 17. No CR with the contact author who also had a leading editorial position detailed strategies to prevent any potential issues related to this issue during the editorial process in accordance with Cochrane policy.
Conclusions: CRs demonstrate poor adherence to Cochrane’s own policy on nfCOI when review authors also have an editorial role in the supporting CRG. Further updates of Cochrane’s COI policy should address strategies to improve adherence alongside transparency of editorial processes. We proposed a specific nfCOI form to facilitate disclosure when authors are also editors (available in ).
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: It is important that Cochrane ensures the management and reporting of nfCOI to ensure credibility as a global leader in the production and dissemination of systematic reviews.