After a big kerfuffle in March over whether a researcher violated a confidentiality agreement with JAMA, the journal has eased off a bit with an editorial laying out the new policy for reporting conflict of interest.

As I noted in a post in March, Dr. Jonathan Leo alerted JAMA editors to a conflict of interest in an article published last year, which JAMA addressed several months later in a correction and apology published this spring.

The problem was that Leo went to the NY Times and BMJ because he thought JAMA's lengthy delay in replying meant they weren't going to do anything, so JAMA slammed Leo in an editorial saying his contact with the other media organzations "while the confidential investigation of unreported conflicts of interest is under way" was considered to be "a serious ethical breach of confidentiality that not only potentially damages our ability to complete a fair and thorough investigation (of the specific issue that Leo had brought to our attention), but also potentially damages JAMA's reputation by the insinuation that we would fail to do so."

The Wall Street Journal reports today in the Health Blog that the editors are backing off slightly from their requirement that complainants keep silent. Now, JAMA says:
"We will explain to the person bringing the allegation that gaining full cooperation of all parties with knowledge of the facts is likely to be enhanced by maintaining confidentiality while the investigation is under way. ... Furthermore, the person making the allegation will be informed about progress of the investigation and will be notified when the investigation is completed."
The WSJ article quotes Leo as saying he is glad "that JAMA has not followed through on their original policy - essentially a gag order," and that "they no longer maintain their allegations that I violated a confidentiality agreement and was guilty of an ethical breach."