Skip to main content

Financial relationships of editorial board members of cardiothoracic surgery journals

To the editor,

Editorial board members (EBMs) of medical journals are influential and supervise the dissemination of peer-reviewed medical information. Given their unique position, EBMs with industry relationships can pose as a conflict of interest and generate controversy. In this cross-sectional study, we characterize the financial relationships of cardiothoracic surgery journal EBMs.

Methods

We searched Clarivate Web-of-Science 2020 Journal Citations Report (JCR) [1] applying the “cardiac and cardiovascular systems” and “surgery” filters. Adapting previous methodology [2], we screened by hand to identify journals focusing on cardiothoracic surgery based on their name, target readership, and societal affiliations. Additionally, journals listed on JCR were used to identify any related sister journals [2]. For each journal, we recorded the name and 2020 impact factor [1]. Each journal’s official website was reviewed to identify the name and affiliation of their editor in chief(s), associate editor(s), deputy editor(s), and other EBMs. Journal administrators and honorary and emeritus editors were excluded from analysis [3]. Additionally, we recorded whether journals disclosed EBMs’ conflict of interest on their website. Using the Open Payments database [4], we recorded the financial associations of EBMs, including general industry payments, research funding, and stock ownership/investment interest. Adapting previous methodology [5] and in accordance with the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines, we recorded EBM’s industry payments in 2020 and the preceding 2 years. Categorical variables were reported as counts and percentages. After assessing normality using the Shapiro-Wilk and Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests, continuous variables were reported as median with interquartile range [IQR] or mean with standard deviation (SD). Independent samples Mann-Whitney U-test and Spearman’s correlation test were used to find the impact of journal subscription status (open access/subscription) and impact factor, respectively, on EBM industry payments.

Results

A total of 29 cardiothoracic surgery journals with 1611 individual EBMs were identified. The median impact factor was 1.897 [IQR 1.62–3.733], and the median number of EBMs was 56 [IQR 46–74]. Of the 29 journals, 2 (6.9%) disclosed their EBMs’ conflict of interest on their official website. Among EBMs, 1262 (78.3%) were affiliated with only one journal, while 349 (21.7%) served on the editorial boards of two or more journals (Table 1).

Table 1 Summary and financial associations of 1611 editorial board members

Overall, 516 (32.0%) EBM had Open Payments profiles. Of these, 458 (88.8%) received industry payments between 2018 and 2020, 452 (87.6%) received general payments, 164 (31.8%) received industry research funding, and 7 (1.4%) had stock ownership/investment interest with a company.

Discussion

To our knowledge, this is the first study to characterize financial relationships of the EBMs of cardiothoracic surgery journals. We found that 88.8%of editors with available Open Payments profiles had received industry payments in the past 36 months.

Our results must be interpreted in the context of several limitations. Only US-based EBMs and practicing physicians could be analyzed using the Open Payments database. This limited our sample size to 516 (32.0%) of editors and may not be representative of all EBMs. The database also did not detail what departments of multidisciplinary companies were involved in payments. Additionally, we could not account for any errors in the Open Payments data.

Recommendation

The wide prevalence of financial relationships among cardiothoracic surgery journal EBMs and the low number of journals disclosing their EBMs’conflicts of interest to the public is very concerning. As journal leadership is tasked with directing the distribution of peer-reviewed information which guide clinical practice, journals must revise editorial disclosure policies to maximize transparency and improve trust among readership.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article (and its supplementary information files).

Abbreviations

EBM:

Editorial board members

JCR:

Journal Citations Report

IQR:

Interquartile range

SD:

Standard deviation

ICMJE:

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors

US:

United States

References

  1. Journal Impact Factor - Journal Citation Reports. Web of Science Group. Accessed 4 Sep 2021. https://clarivate.com/webofsciencegroup/solutions/journal-citation-reports/

  2. Guetter CR, Vervoort D, Luc JGY, Ouzounian M Female and country representation on editorial boards of cardiothoracic surgery journals. Semin Thorac Cardiovasc SurgPublished online August 2021:S1043067921003944. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.semtcvs.2021.08.015

  3. Mehlman CT, Okike K, Bhandari M, Kocher MS (2017) Potential financial conflict of interest among physician editorial board members of orthopaedic surgery journals. J Bone Joint Surg 99(5):e19. https://doi.org/10.2106/JBJS.16.00227

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Open Payments Data - CMS. Accessed 26 Oct 2021. https://openpaymentsdata.cms.gov/search

  5. Hameed I, Mori M, Ahmed A et al Financial associations between authors of commentaries on randomized clinical trials of invasive cardiovascular interventions and trial sponsors. JAMA Intern MedPublished online August 16, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.4584

Download references

Acknowledgements

None.

Funding

None

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

AA contributed to the study conceptualization/design, data collection, statistics, data analysis, drafting article, and approval of article. KSV contributed to study conceptualization/design, data collection, data analysis, drafting of article, and approval of article. SA contributed to study conceptualization/design, data collection, data analysis, critical revision of article, and approval of article. DMM contributed to study conceptualization/design, data collection, data analysis, drafting of article, and approval of article. KHL contributed to study conceptualization/design, data collection, data analysis, critical revision of article, and approval of article. DA contributed to data collection, data analysis, statistics, critical revision of article, and approval of article. IH contributed to the study conceptualization/design, data analysis, statistics, critical revision of article, and approval of article.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Irbaz Hameed.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

This review did not require ethical approval by our institutional review board or individual patient informed consent because no individual patient data was used for analysis.

Consent for publication

Not applicable

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ahmed, A., Varghese, K.S., Ahmed, S. et al. Financial relationships of editorial board members of cardiothoracic surgery journals. Cardiothorac Surg 30, 9 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43057-022-00070-x

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s43057-022-00070-x