Conflicts of interest (COIs), financial or otherwise, are obviously a major concern across the scientific process. Although it can be argued that transparent disclosure of one’s interests and affiliations is not the most important goal to pursue (and I might agree), the absence of such disclosure feels (to me) like a reporting deficiency.
Of course, all disclosures are not created equal. In terms of completeness, statistician Stephen Senn may take the cake with his declaration of interest. Just about the only thing missing is a description of his diet (though I do not mean to imply that Senn has been involved in any work in nutrition research; he may have, I don’t know). I especially like his “warnings” giving context to the disclosures that follow. For example:
Second, these declarations are made freely by me. Other parties that are named have not been consulted.
I applaud the spirit and potential utility of Senn’s disclosure, but I worry that such a high standard may not be fair to expect of everyone. I don’t know when Senn first made his statement (in its current format) available, but for the recent time period he has been a well-established, experienced expert. This does not make him immune to judgment, loss of opportunity, or other negative effects of others’ awareness of his interests, but I have to assume it protects him to some extent. In particular, disclosure of one’s religious and political views strikes me as risky. Making these available risks inviting the ill will of those who disagree, and the potential impacts might be more significant (and relatively less mitigated) to professionals earlier in their careers.
I expect that “full disclosure” in Senn’s style would be an improvement to the typical disclosures found in journal articles today. Perhaps others could be more easily persuaded to follow his lead if the expectation is relaxed to exclude the most personal information.