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 Cochrane's CoI policies and arbitrate potential policy breaches.

The Research Integrity Editor and CoI Panel can be contacted in the following ways:

  • All queries relating to author CoI for a specific Cochrane protocol, review or update should be submitted by registered Cochrane Groups via the online referral form
  • For all other CoI queries or concerns (including queries about funding for a Cochrane review, funding for Cochrane groups, editor CoI, peer reviewer CoI or general queries about the policy, or concerns about CoI from readers, please email coiarbiter@cochrane.org 

Information to include in referrals

Referrals about author CoI on a Cochrane title, protocol or review submitted via the referral form should be submitted by registered Cochrane Groups. You will be prompted by the form to include the following information: 

  • The stage that the title / protocol / review / update is at (e.g. title proposed, ready for publication etc).
  • The title of the protocol / review / update.
  • The Editorial Manager or Archie manuscript ID number if available.
  • Which CoI policy applies (Conflict of Interest Policy for Cochrane Library Content or Commercial Sponsorship Policy).
  • The author by line as it appears / will appear in the protocol / review / update. 
  • Full details of financial payments made to all authors 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).
  • Full details of any patents held by the authors relevant to this protocol / review / update.
  • Details of the clinical studies included in the review that were conducted by the authors of the protocol / review / update. 
  • Your specific question for the Research Integrity Editors and CoI Panel. Please include as much detail as possible. 

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.

Referrals about a Cochrane Centre or Group (submitted by email to coiarbiter@cochrane.org) should include the following information:

  • 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 financial interest in the broader topic area of the CRG). Please include as much detail as possible. 

For all other queries (submitted by email to coiarbiter@cochrane.org), please explain your question for the Research Integrity Editors and the CoI Panel. Please include as much detail as possible. 

Process for handling referrals

Referrals will be handled in line with the following process:

  • All new referrals will be received and checked by the Editorial & Methods Department (EMD) team, who may liaise with the Cochrane group if any additional information is required.
  • All referrals will be reviewed by the Research Integrity Editor. Where the query is straightforward or a policy breach clearly has/has not occurred, they will be managed by the Research Integrity Editor.
  • Where the query is more complex or there is doubt about a policy breach, the case will be referred to the Senior Research Integrity Editor.
  • Complex or ambiguous cases will be referred to the CoI Panel Chair, who will generally refer to the full CoI Panel. 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 CoI) the final decision must have the agreement of the majority of the remaining 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 directly, if this facilitates information exchange or case resolution. All decision relating to referrals about Cochrane Library Content will be made based to the CoI Policy for Cochrane Library Content or Commercial Sponsorship Policy (as applicable).

See also flow diagram of the referral process.

Response timeframes

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

  • Referrals managed by the EMD Research Integrity Editor - 3 working days
  • Referrals escalated to the Senior Research Integrity Editor for a ruling or decision to refer to the panel – a further 2 working days
  • Referrals 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 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 must 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 referrals submitted via the online referral form that relate to Cochrane protocols / reviews / updates and associated 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.