The Spine Journal outlines “fundamental changes” for submitting articles


Editor-in-chief of The Spine Journal, Eugene Carragee, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, USA, and his fellow editors have outlined new, more stringent, requirements for authors wishing to have their articles published in The Spine Journal.


In an editorial published in The Spine Journal online, the editors claim that “fundamental changes” are needed in reporting and publication processes to preserve both scientific integrity and public trust. The editors vowed that they would make a series of editorial changes in the June issue of The Spine Journal, which they dedicated to a critical review of Medtronic’s recombinant bone morphogenic protein-2 (rhBMP-2; Infuse Bone Graft) with one criticism being that the authors of the Medtronic-sponsored studies of rhBMP-2  failed to accurately disclose “substantial” conflicts of interest.


Under the new requirements, authors submitting articles to The Spine Journal will be asked to “incorporate both study and funding sources and a study-specific appraisal of potential conflict of interest-associated biases in the text of the manuscript.” As a result, funding and other financial relationships should now be reported in the method section of a paper (including the magnitude of the financial association, with specific dollar amounts within ranges) and the authors should review these financial associations as a source of study bias in the discussion section of a paper.


As well changing the requirements for articles being submitted, the editors have also made changes to the way that submitted papers are reviewed. Peer reviewers and editorial board members will not be able to review any papers where they might have a potential conflict of interest. Additionally, The Spine Journal now has two deputy editors for Evidence and Methods. The editors write: “This process should better ensure methodological rigor, the proper reporting of sources of error and potential bias, and appropriate interpretation of results in light of the study’s strength and limitations.” They added that close attention will be paid to role of study funding, support, and sponsorship on design, conduct, analysis, and reporting as potential sources of bias.


Another fundamental change is that both the Editor-in-chief and the deputy editors will not be able to have any potential conflict of interests. The editors reported: “The [editorial] Board has determined that the editor-in-chief, with whom the final publication decision ultimately resides, should be held to the most stringent level of conflict management, including divestment of conflicting assets.”


In their editorial, the editors of The Spine Journal stressed that their intention is not to limit access to new information but to “provide transparency and balanced context.” They added: “Authors and readers should understand that we all strive for a common standard of excellence in publication and the highest integrity of research we present to the public.”