Relationships among commercial practices and author conflicts of interest in biomedical publishing

S. Scott Graham, Zoltan P. Majdik, Dave Clark, Molly M. Kessler, Tristin Brynn Hooker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Recently, concerns have been raised over the potential impacts of commercial relationships on editorial practices in biomedical publishing. Specifically, it has been suggested that certain commercial relationships may make editors more open to publishing articles with author conflicts of interest (aCOI). Using a data set of 128,781 articles published in 159 journals, we evaluated the relationships among commercial publishing practices and reported author conflicts of interest. The 159 journals were grouped according to commercial biases (reprint services, advertising revenue, and ownership by a large commercial publishing firm). 30.6% (39,440) of articles were published in journals showing no evidence of evaluated commercial publishing relationships. 33.9% (43,630) were published in journals accepting advertising and reprint fees; 31.7% (40,887) in journals owned by large publishing firms; 1.2% (1,589) in journals accepting reprint fees only; and 2.5% (3,235) in journals accepting only advertising fees. Journals with commercial relationships were more likely to publish articles with aCOI (9.2% (92/1000) vs. 6.4% (64/1000), p = 0.024). In the multivariate analysis, only a journal's acceptance of reprint fees served as a significant predictor (OR = 2.81 at 95% CI, 1.5 to 8.6). Shared control estimation was used to evaluate the relationships between commercial publishing practices and aCOI frequency in total and by type. BCa-corrected mean difference effect sizes ranged from -1.0 to 6.1, and confirm findings indicating that accepting reprint fees may constitute the most significant commercial bias. The findings indicate that concerns over the influence of industry advertising in medical journals may be overstated, and that accepting fees for reprints may constitute the largest risk of bias for editorial decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0236166
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding is provided by National Endowment for the Humanities grant HAA-261070. The funder had no role in the analysis or interpretation of data, the writing of this report, or the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Graham et al.


  • Advertising
  • Biomedical Research
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Editorial Policies
  • Humans
  • Ownership
  • Publication Bias

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article


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