Conflict of Interest: 2 Case Studies for Reviewers

Hernandez headshotWritten by Lyndon Hernandez, MD, MPH, FASGE, Chair of the GIE Editorial Review Board

Conflict of interest is not always clear cut and could pull us in the opposite direction, but thankfully we have guidelines to follow that will help. We have 2 practical cases that illustrate norms and behaviors we expect from our reviewers.


Case 1
Dr A is invited to review a manuscript on esophageal varices. He remembers serving as co-author for a multicenter trial on a related topic published 13 months ago. This duration, he surmises, is probably long enough to eliminate conflict of interest, and he accepts the invitation.

Case 2
Dr B is a consultant for a medical device company. During an interaction with company representatives, Dr B guesses that they might be interested to know about a competing catheter device based on a manuscript he reviewed 6 months ago, but has not yet been published.

Further Reading

  1. COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. Accessed February 2017.
  2. Baillie J, Kochman ML, Triadafilopoulos G. Conflict of Interest Principles for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Gastrointest Endosc. 2006; 63(7):33-35A.

Case 1 Answer
No. GIE has set a threshold of the past 2 years, through the present and 1 year into the future, to warrant conflict of interest. Per COPE guidelines, reviewers “should inform the journal if: they work at the same institution as any of the authors (or will be joining that institution or are applying for a job there); they are or have been recent (eg, within the past 3 years) mentors, mentees, close collaborators, or joint grant holders; they have a close personal relationship with any of the authors.”

Case 2 Answer
No. Dr B should keep all details of a manuscript and its critique confidential, not just during a review but also after a review. In fact, confidentiality extends to the authors themselves; as a reviewer, you are not to contact the authors directly without the permission of the journal.

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