Competing interests

Following the lead of Dr A.S. Relman, editor of your competing journal the New England Journal of Medicine,[1] the BCMJ appropriately places a statement on “competing interests” in any published research paper. In the Guidelines for Authors is the statement that clinical papers will not be reviewed without a statement of competing interests.

In 1990 Dr Relman extended these rules for the New England Journal of Medicine to include editorials.[2]

Your editorials are currently identified by the initial of the author (although the full name is provided in the “contents” section), but contain no statement of competing interests. Could I ask that you update your editorial policy so that the reader can identify immediately the author of an editorial, and that this author provide an appropriate statement on competing interests? It is after all only 15 years since NEJM instituted similar changes.

—R.M. Preshaw, MD
Saltspring Island

BCMJ responds

Dr Preshaw’s comments are appreciated and certainly germaine when considering the extremely important issue of scientific publishing ethics.

However, the need to publish statements with regard to competing interests for reviewers was originally instituted to ensure the reviewers of original research were not conflicted because of their own research focus or because of an association (past or present) with a commercial enterprise that was in any way competitive with the agent or device under investigation. As the BCMJ’s focus is not original scientific research, the need to publish a statement of reviewers’ competing interests is unnecessary. In the rare case of a conflict, reviewers excuse themselves from the discussion and decision-making process.

As to the question of names vs titles, most of the members of the BCMJ Editorial Board are well-known physicians and they all prefer to be identified by initials only. Anyone interested in knowing their full names can find them easily in the masthead.

Perhaps we should publish a yearly picture of the Editorial Board members with attached identifiers so a face can be associated with the initials which, to my mind, would be far more useful.



1. Relman AS. Dealing with conflicts of interest. N Engl J Med 1984;310:1182-1183. PubMed Citation
2. Relman AS. New “Information for Authors” and readers. N Engl J Med 1990;323:56. PubMed Citation


R.M. Preshaw, MD, James A. Wilson, MD. Competing interests. BCMJ, Vol. 47, No. 9, November, 2005, Page(s) 475 - Letters.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

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