A newly published study looks at medical journals and whether the publication of industry-supported trials might cause a conflict of interest by improving the journals’ importance or income.
Researchers looked at “impact factor” – a measure of a journal’s importance based on how often its articles are cited – and they looked at income from the sale of reprints to drug companies.
While they found that the publication of industry-supported randomized controlled trials is associated with an increase in both the impact factor and income from reprints, they do not conclude that editors’ decisions are affected by those increases.
Importantly, these findings do not imply that the decisions of editors are affected by the possibility that the publication of an industry-supported trial might improve their journal’s impact factor or income.
Despite that conclusion, the researchers do suggest that journals routinely disclose information on the source and amount of income they receive.
In that spirit, PLoS Medicine discloses its sources of income for 2009 and the editors discuss the issue in an editorial.