The International Continence Society is a leader in disseminating research and providing educational resources in the form of a journal, courses, videos and guidelines. In doing so, it takes its position seriously, both to uphold the highest ethical standards and to encourage their adoption across the globe. We were recently featured in a British Medical Journal (BMJ) article in which we were singled out for our high ethical standards:
The ICS is unusual among professional bodies in that the biographical details of members posted on its site include disclosures.
BMJ 10 October 2018
Although the BMJ did not contact us directly for comment, we welcome the opportunity to highlight our role as a leader in organizational ethics. It is no accident that our members make their disclosures public! Since 1971, the ICS has grown from a tiny group of medical experts volunteering their time and energy in a field that was largely ignored and suffered from severe social taboos, to a major society with thousands of members from across the globe. Our congress attracts thousands of professionals and experts from every discipline involved in continence care, and the research presented at our meetings is at the forefront of investigation and innovation in the field, all with the potential of improving the quality of life of millions of people suffering from incontinence worldwide.
During the last half century of growth, our field has changed beyond recognition. Not only do continence professionals perform fundamental work to address the stigma of incontinence, they now have at their disposal diagnostic tools, imaging technologies and treatment options that profoundly and positively impact their patients’ lives. Safe, reliable and effective advances in continence care, including educational materials, lifestyle products, physiotherapy and rehabilitation, pharmaceutical agents and surgery are now possible that our founders could only dream of. All this is the result of the accumulated corpus of evidence-based research and its promulgation by the physicians, basic scientists, physiotherapists and nurses that work together and publish in this field.
Over this period, we have seen the adoption of randomised control trials as the gold standard of scientific inquiry, and ICS has been a leader in promoting not only such high standards in scientific investigation, but it has also advanced ethical practises in medical research, publishing and dissemination through its policies and procedures. Disclosures of funding and conflicts of interest are now universally recognised as an essential aspect of performing and publishing medical research, but this has not always been the case. ICS has taken a very active stance on public disclosure from 2006 onwards:
- The ICS Ethics Committee was formed in 2003 as an integral part of the Society, and it has assisted in defining all aspects of our relations with industry which its Board of Trustees has implemented by inclusion in its bylaws and Code of Conduct.
- ICS Membership: full disclosures are required with joining or annual renewal and are online and publicly accessible
- All ICS elected officials and committee members are required to update their disclosures every year to maintain their office. These are also online and public.
- ICS is a registered UK Charity and our purpose and mission statement are public
- Our financial accounts are independently audited and public
- Our annual reports are submitted to the UK Charity Commission and are public
- Every speaker at ICS conferences, courses or workshops must complete a disclosure slide detailing their funding and affiliations. This slide is shown at the start of their talk.
- Every abstract formally presented at our meetings is published in our Journal with the disclosure underneath as per the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommendations
- All abstracts accepted at our meetings are published online free for educational use and public discourse
- Sponsors of ICS meetings are public
- Our meetings are accredited and conform to EU-ACME and industry guidelines for ethical disclosure
Implementing these standards has taken the incredible hard work, commitment and support of all our committees, members and delegates, hence the transparency of the ICS is very much a part of our DNA. All the members who were mentioned in the BMJ article uphold the high ethical standards established by the ICS as well as being internationally respected academic authorities in pelvic floor medicine and surgery.
The International Continence Society represents the gold standard in the ethical publication and dissemination of medical research, and we encourage other medical organisations to follow our lead.
- Vaginal mesh implants: putting the relations between UK doctors and industry in plain sight. BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4164