Publishing research in reputable journals is a significant milestone for any academic or researcher. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Ensuring that your work adheres to journal publication ethics is not only a fundamental aspect of scholarly integrity but also vital for maintaining the credibility and trustworthiness of the scientific community.
In this blog post, we will explore essential journal publication ethics that authors should be aware of when preparing and submitting their manuscripts.
Journal Publication Ethics for Authors
One of the most critical ethical considerations is ensuring that your work is original. Your manuscript should not have been previously published elsewhere, except in cases of preprints, institutional repositories, or theses, which should be properly cited within your article. Duplicate submission of the same or similar content to multiple journals can lead to severe consequences, including rejection and sanctions.
Plagiarism is a clear violation of journal publication ethics. Authors must avoid using someone else’s words, figures, or ideas without proper attribution. All sources, whether text, images, or data, should be cited where used, and direct quotations must be enclosed in quotation marks.
Plagiarism manifests in various ways, ranging from the act of presenting someone else’s paper as one’s own, to duplicating or rephrasing substantial portions of another individual’s work (without proper acknowledgment), to asserting ownership of research findings conducted by others.
Plagiarism in any of its forms is considered unethical conduct in the realm of publishing and is not tolerated.
To help detect potential plagiarism, many journals employ plagiarism detection tools like Crossref Similarity Check (e.g., iThenticate).
3. Authorship of the manuscript
Transparency in authorship is essential. All authors should have made a substantial intellectual contribution to the research and manuscript.
Only individuals who satisfy the following authorship criteria should be included as authors in the manuscript, as they must be prepared to assume public accountability for the content:
- Made substantial contributions to the conception, design, execution, data acquisition, or analysis/interpretation of the study.
- Drafted the manuscript or critically revised it to enhance its intellectual significance.
- Have reviewed and granted their approval for the final version of the paper and consented to its submission for publication.
Anyone who has made noteworthy contributions to the work reported in the manuscript (such as providing technical assistance, aiding in writing and editing, or offering general support) but does not meet the authorship criteria must not be listed as an author. However, they should be acknowledged in the “Acknowledgements” section after obtaining written permission from them to be named.
The corresponding author is responsible for ensuring that all appropriate coauthors (as defined above) are included in the list of authors, and that no inappropriate co-authors are included. They must also confirm that all co-authors have reviewed the final manuscript version, granted their approval, and agreed to its submission for publication.
4. Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts of interest (COIs), also referred to as ‘competing interests,’ arise when external factors beyond the research could reasonably be seen as influencing the impartiality or objectivity of the work or its evaluation. Such conflicts can manifest at any phase of the research process, whether during experimentation, manuscript composition, or the transformation of a manuscript into a published article.
In cases of uncertainty, it is advisable to disclose a potential interest or engage in a discussion with the editorial office. Failing to declare such interests may result in sanctions. Manuscripts submitted with undisclosed conflicts that are subsequently exposed may face rejection. Published articles may necessitate reassessment, the issuance of a corrigendum, or in severe instances, retraction.
Authors are required to:
(1) Disclose any potential conflicts of interest as early as possible, typically by submitting a disclosure form during the manuscript submission process and incorporating a statement within the manuscript.
(2) Provide details of any conflicts of interest that could be perceived as affecting the outcomes or interpretation of the manuscript. Examples of potential conflicts of interest that should be disclosed encompass financial interests, such as honoraria, educational grants, funding sources, participation in speakers’ bureaus, membership in organizations, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, equity interests, paid expert testimony, or patent-licensing arrangements. Non-financial conflicts of interest, including personal or professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge, or beliefs related to the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript, should also be disclosed.
Authors should explicitly state all sources of financial support for the work, including grant numbers or other reference identifiers, if applicable.
Discovering conflicts of interest after a publication has been released can lead to an uncomfortable situation for the authors, the Editor, and the journal. It may become necessary to issue a corrigendum or reevaluate the review process.
Conflicts of interest encompass various categories, including:
- Financial: This pertains to funding, payments, goods, or services received or anticipated by the authors related to the subject of the work, or from an organization with a vested interest in the work’s outcome.
- Affiliations: It involves authors being employed by, serving on the advisory board of, or holding membership in an organization with a stake in the work’s outcome.
- Intellectual property: This includes patents or trademarks owned by the author or their organization that may influence the work.
- Personal: Personal conflicts involve connections such as friends, family, relationships, or other close personal associations that could affect the work.
- Ideological: Ideological conflicts encompass beliefs or activism, like political or religious affiliations, that are relevant to the work.
- Academic: Academic conflicts may arise when the work critiques or competes with the research of others in the same field.
5. Informed Consent
When conducting research involving human subjects, ensure that you have obtained informed consent from participants, respecting their rights and privacy. Journal publication ethics require authors to provide assurances that participants’ rights are protected and that their consent was appropriately sought and granted.
6. Peer Review
Authors have a responsibility to actively engage in the peer-review process. They should fully cooperate by promptly responding to editors’ requests for raw data, clarifications, and proof of ethics approval, patient consents, and copyright permissions.
In cases where the initial decision is “revisions necessary,” authors should systematically address the reviewers’ comments, point by point, and submit a revised manuscript to the journal within the provided deadline.
7. Reporting standards
Authors of original research are expected to provide a precise record of the conducted work and the outcomes, accompanied by an impartial evaluation of the work’s importance.
The manuscript must offer adequate information and citations to enable others to reproduce the research. Review articles should be truthful, unbiased, and all-encompassing, while editorial pieces expressing ‘opinions’ or perspectives should be distinctly indicated as such.
Engaging in deceptive or knowingly erroneous assertions is considered unethical and not permissible.
8. Error Reporting
If you discover errors in your research after publication, act promptly to inform the journal. The correction of errors or misleading information is vital to maintaining the integrity of the scientific record.
When authors identify substantial errors or inaccuracies in their previously published work, it is their responsibility to expeditiously inform the journal’s editors or publisher and collaborate with them to rectify the paper, either through an erratum or by withdrawing the paper.
If a third party informs the editors or publisher that a published work contains a notable error or inaccuracy, it is the author’s duty to swiftly make the necessary corrections or retractions, or present evidence to the journal editors substantiating the accuracy of the paper.
9. Copyright Agreement
Authors should be prepared to sign a copyright agreement with the journal outlining the terms under which their work will be published. Understanding these terms is crucial to avoid any future disputes.
10. Data Access and Retention
Authors might be requested to submit the unprocessed data from their research alongside the manuscript for editorial evaluation and should be ready to share this data with the public whenever feasible.
In any case, authors must guarantee that this data remains accessible to other qualified experts for a minimum of 10 years after the publication, preferably through an institutional or subject-specific data repository or another established data center. This should be done while ensuring the participants’ confidentiality and without violating any legal rights pertaining to proprietary data.
11. redundant and duplicate submissions or publications
Publishing papers that essentially describe the same research in more than one journal or primary publication is discouraged. Therefore, authors should refrain from submitting a manuscript that has already been published in another journal.
Submitting a manuscript to multiple journals simultaneously is considered unethical publishing behavior and is not acceptable.
In some cases, it may be justifiable to publish certain types of articles (such as clinical guidelines or translations) in more than one journal, provided specific conditions are met.
The authors and editors of the relevant journals must mutually agree to the secondary publication, which should present the same data and interpretation as the primary document.
The primary reference must be cited in the secondary publication.
12. Risks Associated with Human or Animal Subjects
If the research involves chemicals, procedures, or equipment that pose any inherent unusual hazards, the authors must explicitly identify these elements in the manuscript.
For studies involving animals or human participants, the authors must ensure that all procedures were conducted in accordance with relevant laws and institutional guidelines. Approval from the appropriate institutional committee(s) must be obtained, and the manuscript should contain a statement confirming this.
Authors should also include a statement indicating that informed consent was obtained when experimenting with human participants, always respecting the privacy rights of these individuals.
Adhering to journal publication ethics is a shared responsibility among authors, editors, and publishers.
By upholding these ethical standards, authors contribute to a trustworthy and reliable academic publishing environment. Ethical research practices not only enhance the quality and credibility of your work but also uphold the integrity of the broader scientific community. Remember, responsible research and publication are vital for the progress of science and knowledge dissemination.
By following these journal publication ethics guidelines, authors can help ensure their research makes a valuable and ethical contribution to their respective fields.