AAFS Revises Its Policy on Commercial Disclosure

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At the 2017 AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans, Sondra Doolittle noted that AAFS has been in the process of revising the AAFS POLICY ON CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, ABSTRACTS, AND PRESENTATIONS regarding the disclosure of commercial products in abstracts, presentations, and Conflicts of Interest (COI). The requirements changed and the upcoming revision of the policy was announced in New Orleans. While on one hand the policy lightens the disclosure requirements when they relate to the mention of products and services within abstracts and presentations, it also strengthens the requirement of the use of generic names when relating to pharmaceuticals and health care-related goods and services. It also specifically mentions employees of those same entities making presentations on their own goods and services.

Because it took many years to arrive at the disclosure levels previously required, it will also take a few years to change how authors disclose. Staff will work on this with the authors and their submissions. As part of the revision process, AAFS now has to draft and approve a mechanism to resolve the COIs of speakers pertaining to having a financial relationship with companies of health care-related goods and services; this also pertains to the Program Committee itself. The new policy is described below.


Presentations at AAFS Annual Scientific Meetings and corresponding abstracts must be formulated to promote education and to elevate accuracy, precision, and specificity in the forensic sciences. Presentations or abstracts which solely promote a commercial product, company, entity, or service will not be allowed at the AAFS Annual Scientific Meetings. Presentations by commercial entities shall be limited to the science and not be an advertisement or promotion of their product over that of a competitor. Any abstract or presentation that is perceived by a Section Program Chair or the Academy Meeting Program Chair as a product endorsement will not be approved for presentation at the meeting. A presentation given at a meeting that, in the opinion of the Section Program Chair or the Academy Meeting Program Chair, is a product endorsement may result in the presenter and corresponding company being barred from making presentations at future AAFS meetings.

Providers of continuing education are responsible for collecting information from its faculty (speakers), planners (program committees), and managers (staff) of CME/CE content and resolving any Conflicts of Interest (COI) prior to the commencement of the CME/CE activity. The intent of the COI resolution process is to ensure that provider, faculty, and planner financial relationships with commercial interests and resultant loyalties do not supersede the public interest in the design and delivery of CME/CE activities for the profession. It is the Academy’s view that relevant commercial and financial relationships create actual conflicts of interest when individuals have both a financial relationship with a commercial interest and the opportunity to affect the content of the program regarding the products or services of that commercial interest.*

Authors may submit and make presentations with specific references to non-health care-related products and services without disclosure; however, only in the context of describing a scientific methodology, case-related information, or the source of a sample (e.g., Dacron® fibers, Glock® rifling, 3M® tapes, Ford® Explorer®, explosive formulations, coating materials, etc.). It is appropriate for those products to be specifically identified since they are relevant to the scientific results or cases and these references are exempted from the disclosure requirement.

Exceptions to the “requirement to disclose” pertain to the discussion of health care-related products and services by speakers employed by the same entity as well as the discussion of all pharmaceutical products. Trade and commercial names of pharmaceuticals are prohibited in both abstracts and presentations, and only the generic product name can be used. As an example, pharmaceuticals such as Ambien® must be changed to its generic designation of zolpidem in all references.

AAFS reserves the right to remove/change commercial references not properly disclosed by the author. Development of AAFS’s COI resolution mechanism will be reviewed and approved by the AAFS Policy and Procedure Committee.


Policy Version 2.1/5-2017