Credibility (Mandatory criteria)
Mission of site
- Purpose of the website stated.
- Intended audience defined.
- If the website provides a mission statement, the content of the website matches the statement.
Disclosure of ownership/source
- Organization name and/or logo appear on every page. Contact information (mailing address and/or email address) should be provided, but need not be posted on every page. Every page should link to the contact page or the home page.
- Qualifications of organization or individual website owner should be obvious, including type of organization, e.g. government, non-profit, academic. The website should disclose individual's affiliations and alliances and disclose any relationship that might influence the content of the site.
- Websites should list the name and affiliation of each member of the Editorial Board, Advisory Board, or Board of Directors. If an organization does not have a board, they should at least include information regarding the site content policy and/or editorial policy.
Transparency of sponsorship
- Websites should use one or more of the methods listed below to describe the manner in which they address the issue of sponsorship or funding.
a. Disclosure of all sources of funding for organization/website or funding of persons involved in the development and review of web content. Describe the role of the funding source.
b. Disclosure of any relevant personal or financial associations that might be considered a potential conflict of interest.
c. If advertising is a source of funding, this should be clearly stated and a brief description of the website`s advertising policy should be included.
- If the website includes third-party content and/or advertising, the website should indicate whether it has control over this material. The website should also include a disclaimer stating that displaying this extra content does not imply endorsement. If ad space is sold, the website should specify how it uses funds from these marketing activities.
- The website may sell materials if they align with the website`s content. Content intended to promote or sell products or services should be clearly distinguished from the educational and scientific content.
Accountability to users
- Users should be able to contact the owner of the website to report any technical issues, such as broken links, or to provide feedback. Multiple methods of contacting the owner of the website (e-mail address, electronic form, postal address) should be provided, but need not be posted on every page. This information should be easily accessible from any page of the site, e.g. include link to the contact information in the footer or menu bar of every page or link back to the homepage.
- Owner or representative should respond to user feedback in a timely and appropriate manner. Websites should include a statement indicating that comments are welcome, but that volume may prevent a speedy reply.
- Websites offering interactive exchanges (e.g., chat room, ‘medical’ or similar advice in response to questions/comments) should provide information about the moderator or clinician's expertise and affiliations. Websites should disclose how comments will be moderated.
Data protection and privacy
- Websites should take reasonable steps to protect personal data (if collected) from unauthorized access.
- VSN members are encouraged to partner with or link to other websites with the same high standards.
- Websites should indicate when users are leaving the home site by using an external link icon, a disclaimer statement, or by opening a new window.