Introduction Unbiased dissemination of research findings is essential to inform evidence-based policy in occupational health. For that reason, independence of journals from vested interests is essential for good publication practice. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) produces guidelines aimed at protecting the integrity of scientific research publication. Widely publicised cases involving journal failure to address Conflict of Interest in occupational health suggest that adherence to COPE guidelines may be limited. This study reviewed the published guidelines of 34 selected journals publishing on occupational health for stated adherence to ethical guidelines.
Methods From the first 60 citations generated from a PubMed Search on occupational hazards of pesticides, 46 journals were identified. After exclusion of disciplinary journals (e.g. on paediatrics, orthopaedics), non-English language journals and national/regional journals, a sample of 34 journals was generated. On-line instructions for authors, journal information and publication policies for these journals were reviewed and compared to the COPE Guidelines for attention to (a) editorial independence; (b) definition of conflict of interest.
Result Of the 34 journals, 16 (47%) reported following COPE guidelines; Only 3 journals (9%) explicitly cited editorial independence on their platform. Most journals (85%) explicitly provide for Conflict of Interest (CoI) procedures but most of those (90%) defined CoI in financial terms only with just under half (48%) recognising other forms of CoI.
Discussion Publication practices across journals are highly variable. Editorial independence appears either to be assumed or be of less importance to journals in the field, who concentrate their attention on financial conflict of interest declarations. Such practices may not be sufficient to maintain scientific integrity in the dissemination of research findings and in supporting evidence based occupational health policy.
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