- Croakey encourages contributors to declare relevant conflicts of interest, and Croakey’s own declaration is spelt out towards the bottom of this page.
- Much of the material has been adapted from the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) statement on this topic.
Why do conflicts of interest matter?
The World Association of Medical Editors notes that everyone has conflicts of interest of some sort, and that this does not, in itself, imply wrongdoing. But if these are not managed effectively, they can cause authors and editors to make decisions that, consciously or unconsciously, tend to serve their competing interests.
What are conflicts of interests?
The World Association of Medical Editors notes that there are many kinds of competing interests.
• Financial ties
Examples of financial ties to industry include payment for research, ownership of stock and stock options, as well as honoraria for advice or public speaking, consultation, service on advisory boards or medical education companies, and receipt of patents or patents pending. Also included are having a research or clinical position that is funded by companies that sell drugs or devices. Competing interests can be associated with other sources of research funding including government agencies, charities (not-for-profit organizations), and professional and civic organizations. Clinicians have a financial competing interest if they are paid for clinical services related to their research —for example, if they write, review, or edit an article about the comparative advantage of a procedure that they themselves provide for income. Financial competing interests may exist not just on the basis of past activities but also on the expectation of future rewards, such as a pending grant or patent application.
• Academic commitments
Participants in the publications process may have strong beliefs (“intellectual passion”) that commit them to a particular explanation, method, or idea. They may, as a result, be biased in conducting research that tests the commitment or in reviewing the work of others that is in favor or at odds with their beliefs.
• Personal relationships
Personal relationships with family, friends, enemies, competitors, or colleagues can pose COIs. For example, a reviewer may have difficulty providing an unbiased review of articles by investigators who have been working colleagues.
• Political or religious beliefs
Strong commitment to a particular political view (eg, political position, agenda, or party) or having a strong religious conviction may pose a COI for a given publication if those political or religious issues are affirmed or challenged in the publication.
• Institutional affiliations
A COI exists when a participant in the publication process is directly affiliated with an institution that on the face of it may have a position or an interest in a publication. An obvious concern is being affiliated with or employed by a company that manufactures the drug or device (or a competing one) described in the publication. However, apparently neutral institutions such as universities, hospitals, and research institutes may also have an interest in the results of research. Professional or civic organisations may also have competing interests because of their special interests or advocacy positions.
How does Croakey manage conflicts of interests?
• Contributors to Croakey are expected to declare any potential conflicts of interests at the bottom of their posts. Ideally, these should also be declared on comments but we acknowledge that this is difficult to enforce, given that many comments are anonymous.
• If you are not sure whether to declare something, please ask. You may wish to consider the World Medical Association of Editors prompt that, “if my competing interest becomes known to others later, would I feel defensive or would others in the publication process, readers or the public think I was hiding my other interests or could they feel I misled or deceived them?”
• If Croakey subsequently discovers that relevant conflicts of interest have not been declared, they shall be published at a later stage.
Croakey’s conflicts of interests. Entry updated June 2014
Croakey is funded by a consortium of organisations that is organised by the Public Health Association of Australia. These organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating they have no say over the editorial content or direction of Croakey. More details are here.
Outside of Croakey, Melissa Sweet’s work and associations include:
In recent years, Melissa has written articles for the following publications:
Inside Story (Swinburne University), Crikey, BMJ, Medical Observer, Monash Magazine (via CoreText), RCNA Report, an app for Austrade (via Hardie Grant Books).
In August 2012, Melissa was accepted to undertake a PhD at Canberra University, and has a three-year Australian Postgraduate Award. She is working on a book related to Indigenous health and medical ethics. Her supervisors are Professor Matthew Ricketson, Professor Pat Dudgeon, Associate Professor Kerry McCallum and Dr Kate Holland.
Research and other associations
Melissa has submitted research to the Medical Journal of Australia and other journals, and maintains ongoing associations with the Public Interest Journalism Foundation (based at the Centre for Advanced Journalism, Melbourne University), Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, the Australian Health News Research Collaboration, and Dart Centre Asia Pacific. She is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Australasian Medical Writers Association.
She has been paid by Melbourne University’s Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics for helping to analyse media coverage of suicide for a study. In 2013 and 2014, Melissa was contracted to do two writing projects for the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.
In previous years, together with Marge Overs and Rock Lily Design & Consulting, she produced a newsletter called “Care & Connect” for patients and staff of the Sydney West Cancer Network, based at Westmead Hospital, Sydney. She also advised the Network on its website development.
Melissa has accepted invitations to present or participate in the following conferences or events in 2012. Conference organisers generally meet travel expenses and sometimes pay a fee.
- ASCHM regional state conference, Hunter Valley, March
- Boden Institute’s Health and Sustainability Unit, University of Sydney, workshop on health advocacy, Sydney, March
- Cancer Council Victoria forum on blogging for social good, Melbourne, April
- University of Sydney event on the future of healthcare, Sydney, April
- Meeting on overdiagnosis convened by Bond University Centre for Research in Evidence-based Practice, Coolangatta, April
- RCNA national conference, Cairns, May
- AH & MRC chronic disease conference, Sydney, June
- World Health Care Networks conference, July, Cairns
- Catholic Health Australia conference, Perth, August
- Cancer Council Western Australia, Cancer Update Series 2012, Perth, August
- New News conference, Melbourne Writers Festival, August
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency debate, Melbourne, September
- Mater Education National Leadership and Learning Conference, Brisbane, September
- AHHA conference (acting as conference rapporteur over three days), Sydney, September
- RACGP annual conference, Gold Coast, October
- CRANAplus conference, Cairns, October
- Lowitja Congress, Melbourne, November
Melissa has been invited to conduct workshops about media advocacy, writing and/or social media and citizen journalism for the following organisations in 2012. She is paid for these services.
- GPRA, Workshop on social media for GP registars, Canberra, March
- University of Sydney nursing faculty, writing workshop, Sydney, May
- GPET, Facilitate online workshop on media, advocacy and research, June
- University of Sydney writing and communications training for researchers, conducted jointly with Mark Ragg, July
Melissa does NOT provide public relations or media management services.
Previous Croakey COI declarations (from before 2012)
• Croakey is funded by a consortium of organisations, including The Public Health Association of Australia; VicHealth; The Epidemiology Unit of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory; The Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney; The Australian Health Promotion Association; The UNSW Research Centre for Primary Health Care & Equity; and The Australian Healthcare Reform Alliance. These organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating they have no say over the editorial content or direction of Croakey. You can read more detail here.
The Croakey moderator Melissa Sweet has many conflicts of interests, including:
• Regular or occasional contributor to Australian Rural Doctor and Pharmacy News (Reed Business), Australian Nursing Journal, British Medical Journal, The Worker (published by ACP for The Worker magazine), Inside Story (Swinburne University), Prevention magazine, Griffith Review, the Eastern Ranges GP Association Newsletter, Medical Observer, Australian Prescriber, and the Medical Journal of Australia. Since the end of 2011, she has been writing a monthly column for a hospital pharmacy blog, Who’s Talking, that is funded by Orion Laboratories (this stopped in early 2012). She has complete editorial control over the posts. Melissa has had books published by Pan MacMillan, Allen & Unwin, and ABC Books. She is occasionally asked to review articles for the Medical Journal of Australia, BMJ, and the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. She is a founding member of the Foundation for Public Interest Journalism, based at the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University.
• She has honorary appointments with the University of Sydney School of Public Health and the University of Notre Dame’s medical school (Sydney campus) (she resigned from the Notre Dame appointment in mid 2011). She is not paid for these appointments but the networks and information she obtains through these appointments do have an influence upon her thinking and work.
• She does occasional paid work for not-for-profit organisations, writing and editing reports. Clients have included the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, the Milbank Memorial Fund in the US, the Sax Institute, the NHMRC, Research Australia, VicHealth, and the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity at the University of NSW. In 2010, she began contributing a regular column to the newsletter of the Eastern Ranges GP Association in Victoria (this stopped at the end of 2011), and also began producing a newsletter called “Care & Connect” for patients and staff of the Sydney West Cancer Network, based at Westmead Hospital, Sydney.
• She is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Australasian Medical Writers Association, and has an ongoing association with the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma. More details about her affiliations and associations are available here.
• In recent years, she has received fees or travel-related expenses for speaking at events organised by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Public Health Association of Australia, the National Rural Health Alliance, the Gippsland Medical School, GP Access in Newcastle, the Australian Society of Travel Writers, National Forum on Safety and Quality in HealthCare, the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, Australian National University, and FroComm conference on marketing and communications in healthcare.
(Thanks to Carol Bennett, Ian Olver, Ian Haines, Agnes Vitry, Merrilyn Walton, Peter Mansfield and others for their comments on this policy).