Quantifying the variability of financial disclosure information reported by authors presenting at annual spine conferences

Spine J. 2011 Jan;11(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2010.08.022. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


Background context: In recent years, greater attention has been directed toward determining how potential financial conflicts of interest may affect the integrity of biomedical research. To address this issue, various disclosure policies have been adopted in an attempt to increase the transparency of this process. However, the consistency of such reporting among spine surgeons remains unknown. This study quantifies the variability in the self-reported disclosures of individual authors presenting at multiple spine conferences during the same year.

Methods: The author disclosure information published for the 2008 North American Spine Society (NASS), Cervical Spine Research Society (CSRS), and Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), conferences were compiled into a database. We evaluated the disclosure policy for each society and compared the disclosure listings of authors who presented at more than one of these meetings.

Results: Disclosure records were available for 1,231 authors at NASS, 550 at CSRS, and 642 at SRS. Of these individuals, 278 (NASS), 129 (CSRS), and 181 (SRS) presented at one of the other conferences and 40 presented at all three conferences. North American Spine Society and CSRS required disclosure of all financial relationships, whereas SRS only requested disclosures pertinent to authors' presentations. Of the 153 authors who presented at the NASS and CSRS meetings, 51% exhibited discrepancies in their disclosure information. In contrast, only 9% of the 205 individuals whose data was listed at both the NASS and SRS conferences demonstrated irregularities. Similarly, 18% of the 56 authors who had provided information to both CSRS and SRS were inconsistent in their reporting.

Conclusions: These findings emphasize the significant variability that currently exists in the reporting of financial conflicts of interest by authors who presented at three major spine conferences within the past year. We believe these discrepancies are likely because of confusion regarding what relationships should be acknowledged in certain situations and the clear lack of uniformity among the disclosure policies established by these various associations.

Clinical relevance: This study evaluates financial conflicts of interests in clinical research.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics
  • Biomedical Research / ethics
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Conflict of Interest / economics*
  • Congresses as Topic / economics
  • Congresses as Topic / ethics
  • Congresses as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Disclosure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Support as Topic / economics
  • Research Support as Topic / ethics
  • Research Support as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Societies