Pay-to-cite, COI, or not?
A company called Cyagen, which sells lab mice to researchers, started to offer a financial incentive for citations in peer-review research papers. The offer multiplied $100 by the impact factor of the journal. Last week, some bloggers and others publicized this. Then the internet exploded. But as explained by John Bohannon in the ScienceInsider Blog, this offer is not what it looks like at first glance. The lack of clarity in Cyagen’s advertisement led many to the conclusion that the company wished to pay for authors to cite Cyagen’s research.
But the company does not perform research — they sell the mice to the labs for their experiments. Authors have to state from whom they obtained their lab animals in the methodology section anyway. The financial incentive does not give cash, but credit toward your lab’s next purchase of mice. Is this only a matter of product placement in academic papers? Should authors who receive these incentives declare them as a financial conflict of interests?
Despite the fact that no money has actually changed hands nor does the incentive call for citations to papers, medical doctor and science blogger Ben Goldacre argues the more transparency, the better. The resulting online discussions over whether the Cyagen offer requires a COI statement lead Goldacre to this conclusion:
It took a very long time for journals and academics to accept the importance of declaring financial conflicts of interest. Along the way, various interest groups have tried to wriggle and argue that, hey, look, their particular specific financial incentive won’t really influence behaviour, so it shouldn’t really be declared. That’s why it is appropriate to have a single set of cultural norms: so that there is no wriggle room or ambiguity about declaring the big financial stuff, or the curios that might sometimes be salient.