Referrals to the Research Integrity Editors and the Conflict of Interest (CoI) Panel

Referrals to the Research Integrity Editors and the Conflict of Interest (CoI) Panel
Referrals to the Research Integrity Editors and the Conflict of Interest (CoI) Panel

Cochrane's Research Integrity Editors and the Conflict of Interest (CoI) Panel provide advice on implementation of the CoI policy for Cochrane Library Content and arbitrate potential policy breaches.

For any concerns relating to a specific Cochrane Review or other Cochrane Library content please submit your query using the referral form. General queries about how the policy should be applied can also be made using this form.

All cases will be assessed following the process detailed below.

Information to include in referrals
Arbitration process
Response timeframes
Decisions
Appeals
Case referral database

Information to include in referrals

Referrals should include the following information:

  • Referrals about a Cochrane title, protocol or review: Please give full details of the title, protocol, or review, including affiliations for all authors. Please also give full details of the financial payments from organizations to which this matter refers (i.e. activity, recipient, date of payment, name of organization, type of organization, website; and organization’s involvement to the title, protocol, or review), of any patents held by the authors for products relevant to this title, protocol, or review. For some cases it may be necessary to provide details of the clinical studies included in the review that were conducted by the authors of the title, protocol, or review.
  • Referrals about a Cochrane Centre or Group: Please give full details of the group and of the funder to which this matter refers (i.e. group involved, recipient, date of payment, name of company or organization, type of organization, website and organization’s relationship to the group).
  • General queries: Please explain your question for the Research Integrity Editors and the CoI Panel in detail.

See here for a list of websites/databases that can be used to identify which companies make particular pharmaceutical products. This can be used to help determine whether a financial interest is relevant to a particular review.

Arbitration process

Referrals should be made by registered Cochrane groups, on behalf of individuals, using the online form.

All new referrals will be received and checked by the Editorial & Methods Department (EMD) team, who will liaise with the Cochrane group if any additional information is required.

All cases will be reviewed by the Research Integrity Editor and where it is clear that a policy breach has/has not occurred, these cases will be managed by the Research Integrity Editor. Where there is doubt about a policy breach, the case will be referred to the Senior Research Integrity Editor who will help to either manage the case or will refer it to the CoI Panel Chair. The Chair will generally refer such cases to the full CoI Panel, however the decision to refer rests with the Chair.

The CoI Panel will decide on each referral after individual panel members have considered it, and then reach a consensus (either by e-mail discussion or teleconference). The final decision must have the agreement of the majority of panel members. In circumstances in which one member of the panel is unable to participate (e.g. due to a conflict of interest) the final decision must have the agreement of remaining majority of panel members. In cases where there is disagreement within the panel over the existence of a breach and consensus cannot be achieved, the Senior Research Integrity Editor will make the final decision.

The Research Integrity Editors and the CoI Panel members may wish to communicate with the Cochrane Review Group (CRG) staff involved in the referral case directly, if this facilitates information exchange or case resolution. All decision will be made based to the CoI Policy for Cochrane Library Content.

See flow diagram of case referral process.

Response timeframes

An initial response will be provided to all referrals within the following timeframes:

  • An initial response to cases managed by the EMD Research Integrity Editor - 3 working days
  • Cases escalated to the Senior Research Integrity Editor for a ruling or decision to refer to the panel – a further 2 working days
  • Cases escalated to the CoI Panel Chair or full panel - an additional 10 working days

The sender will be notified when a case is referred to the Senior Research Integrity Editor, or the CoI Panel.

Decisions

When the Research Integrity Editors or CoI Panel have reached a decision this will be communicated directly to the person who submitted the case referral form, including a recommended course of actions for managing any policy breaches. This may include advice that a review cannot be published or be withdrawn. The CRG and/or author team have the right to appeal any such decision.

Appeals

Appeals against decisions made by the Research Integrity Editors and the CoI Panel should be made in writing within one calendar month of receiving a decision and should be submitted via coiarbiter@cochrane.org.

Appeals will be managed as follows:

  • For cases initially managed by the Research Integrity Editor, the appeal and all relevant correspondence will be forwarded to the Senior Research Integrity Editor.
  • For cases or appeals initially managed by the Senior Research Integrity Editor, the appeal and all relevant correspondence will be forwarded to the CoI Panel. 
  • For cases or appeals initially managed by the CoI Panel, the appeal and all relevant correspondence will be forwarded to the Editor in Chief for a final decision.

See flow diagram of appeal process.

Timelines for receiving an initial response to appeals are as follows:

  • For appeals reviewed by the Senior Research Integrity editor - 5 working days
  • For appeals reviewed by the CoI panel - 15 working days
  • For appeals reviewed by the Editor in Chief - 20 working days

Case referral database

Full details of all cases referred to the Research Integrity Editors or CoI Panel along with a record of discussions and deliberations will be securely stored in an online database. Access to these case reports will be limited to the EMD Project Officer, the Research Integrity Editors and members of CoI Panel.