A competing interest exists when an individual (or the individual's institution) has financial, personal or professional relationships with other persons or institutions that could unduly bias his or her actions or judgements. Competing interests may arise of those relationships, irrespective of whether the judgement is actually affected or only potentially.
In particular all participants in the peer review process are responsible for recognizing and disclosing all relationships that could be viewed as presenting a potential conflict of interest and that would embarrass them if it became generally known after publication of the manuscript. Competing interests could interfere with a referee's objective assessment of the manuscript under peer review or might impair the final decision of an editor regarding acceptance or rejection of a manuscript. Competing interests can include any of the following examples:
The selection of peer reviewers with obvious competing interest, such as those who work in the same institution as any of the authors, is to be avoided. Authors may provide editors with the names of persons they feel should not be asked to review the manuscript because of potential conflict of interest. When possible authors should explain such concerns to facilitate the editor's decision making whether or not to honor such requests. Referees who anticipate that the necessary objectivity for reviewing the manuscript is seriously impaired, should exclude themselves from peer-review of the paper. In any case, editors must consider the referees' statements when weighing their recommendations.