PubMed to Disclose Funding Information of Studies Up Front

In March, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) implemented a series of changes to how conflict-of-interest (COI) information is displayed in PubMed-indexed abstracts. COI statements will now be displayed on the front page of an article’s abstract to alert readers to any possible industry influence over studies.

The changes are a response to concerns about transparency, which more than 60 scientists raised in a 2016 letter to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and NLM Acting Deputy Director Betsy Humphreys, MLS. COI statements are often buried at the end of articles, making it difficult for readers to discern whether studies have potentially been influenced by industry sponsors when they are searching literature databases like PubMed, which includes only study abstracts.

“Adding disclosures about researchers’ financial relationships with drug, food, chemical, and other industries makes PubMed search results even more useful than they already are,” Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which cosigned the 2016 letter to Dr. Collins and Ms. Humphreys, said in a statement. “We thank the NLM for adding this feature and hope journalists who rely on PubMed make consistent use of it when reporting on studies related to nutrition and health.”

Sources: Vox, April 19, 2017; Collins M. PubMed updates March 2017. NLM Tech Bull. 2017; 415:e2.