Q: Can I add the description about the conflicts of interest (COI) at the time of the author proof?

Detailed Question -

When going through the proofs after the acceptance of the manuscript, I found that I forgot to mention the COI. Can I add it at the time of the author proof?

1 Answer to this question

It’s great that your article has been accepted and has reached the proofing stage. So, it’s very close to publication.

However, it’s unfortunate that you have only now realized you forgot to mention the conflict of interest. As you can understand, the journal is likely to view this quite seriously. They may believe (at least initially) that this was a deliberate attempt on your part. However, from what you have written, this seems to be a genuine lapse.

So, here’s what we suggest.

You should write to the journal immediately, informing them of this and requesting for advice on the course of action. It would help to apologize for the oversight, in the manner you feel best. Overall though, you should convey that this was a genuine oversight rather than something deliberate.

Here are the journal-side possibilities we see.

  • They may put the publication on hold until the matter is resolved. As this is an ethical matter, and based on the nature of the conflict, this may take some time to resolve.
  • They may decide not to proceed with the publication, based on their policy in this matter. This may not necessarily be to penalize your lapse, but more a matter of their policy. In this case, you will need to withdraw the publication from here and consider submitting elsewhere. To the next journal though, you will need to be entirely transparent about the history of the paper and, of course, about any potential conflict of interest there.

As you discovered this so close to the publication, I understand that this could be anguishing for you. However, I/we hope it’s still a positive decision for you. Just in case it’s not, no doubt you’ll take the learning from here to the next publication.

All the best either way.

If it helps, you could go through the link below describing a similar situation from earlier. The difference was that the paper was already published. However, it did end positively, with the journal including the updated information in an erratum. Read the case study here: Failure to disclose potential conflict of interest lands author in trouble

For future publications, you may wish to refer to the following resources: