Research integrity

Non-financial conflicts of interest

A non-financial COI (NFCOI) is in general terms, each and every condition other than financial, that can generate, or be perceived as generating bias at any stage in the scientific process. NFCOIs (sometimes called “private interests”) can be personal, political, academic, ideological, or religious (Marcovitch et al., 2010; PLoS Medicine Editors, 2008).

Examples of NFCOIs that might conflict with RI include, but are not limited to

  1. Career advancement
  2. Recognition for professional achievement 
  3. “Conflicts of commitment” i.e. the loss of time or focus from the primary appointment to attend to a secondary project
  4. Institutional affiliations and/or academic associations
  5. Relatives and friendships
  6. Enmities
  7. Personal beliefs (e.g. religious) and nationalistic considerations
  8. Personal relationship with someone who has the disease or condition under study
  9. Institutional affiliation or academic associations
  10. Intellectual, theoretical, or school of thought commitments
  11. Academic competition or rivalry
  12. inant researcher in area of research
  13. Published opinions or advocacy positions
  14. Other ethnic or cultural bias

NFCOIs can be much more difficult to assess and manage, compared to FCOIs and can sometimes be even more powerful generators of bias (Editorial, 2018). As a general indication, it would be appropriate for individual investigators to excuse themselves from any decisional process on manuscripts, grant applications or career evaluations concerning friends, close colleagues, relatives or antagonists or that in general fall into the broad categories listed above. However, OSR appreciates that in many cases this broad-brush approach may not be applicable, e.g. in a reductio ad absurdum, if the few available expert reviewers for a given niche field all excused themselves, it would be nearly impossible to properly evaluate a grant application or manuscript from that field. Therefore, a strong sense of awareness, respect and ethos should always inform investigators evaluating the work of their peers (see also below in General considerations).

Finally, while public disclosure of NFCOIs may neither be necessary nor even appropriate, in case of doubt investigators should seek advice from the RIO or the official handling the process (e.g. journal editor, funding agency contact, chairperson of a search committee, etc.).