Friday, March 11, 2005

Subj: Your Query about Competing Interests
Date: 3/11/2005 3:23:52 PM Pacific Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Dear Michael,

As promised, I am writing to let you know about our competing interests policy as it applies to David Ho’s commentary that discusses the scientific reasons why he thinks an HIV vaccine could be developed.

We discussed this issue with David Ho, and also at our editorial meeting today.

As you know, we ask authors to declare financial ties that may be relevant to the specific article that they are writing. We ask all authors to look at our competing interests policy ( and declare any competing interests. So, for example, if an author in his/her article discusses a particular treatment, it would obviously be extremely important for that author to declare any ties to the manufacturer of that treatment.

In discussing the scientific reasons why he is optimistic that an HIV vaccine could be developed, Professor Ho did not believe that his financial ties had any specific relevance to the issue of the science behind HIV vaccine development (his ties are to manufacturers of antiretroviral therapies, and these manufacturers arguably stand to lose financially if a vaccine is developed).

As I mentioned before, we are constantly revisiting our competing interests policies (we are a new journal, and or policies are still evolving). We have had two examples now where readers have written in to say they felt that an author should have declared all their sources of funding (whether or not they were connected with the piece). This has prompted us to consider whether to ask all authors simply to declare all their sources of funding (leaving it up to readers to decide what is and is not relevant). This is one question that we will put to our external advisory group on competing interests once it is up and running.

I am sure that we do not have the perfect policy, but we are trying to come up with the one that works best (i.e. that allows readers to know whether financial ties could have biased the article). As we evolve, I will be sure to keep you informed. It is valuable for us to have feedback from our readers on how we are doing. Many—perhaps even most—journals still don’t have any policy at all about asking authors to declare competing interests. We have launched our journal with a policy that we realize may need revision.

Finally, please do look at our editorial that comes out at the end of this month (written by the PLoS Medicine editors). As with all articles, it will be freely available at It discusses our first steps towards adopting competing interests policies that can help to protect the probity of the journal’s content.

With thanks again for your interest in PLoS Medicine,

Best wishes

Gavin Yamey MD, MRCP
Magazine Editor, PLoS Medicine
Public Library of Science
185 Berry St, Ste. 1300
San Francisco, CA 94107 USA
tel (+1) 415-624-1221
fax (+1) 415-546-4090

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