Year : 2022 | Volume
: 24 | Issue : 1 | Page : 4--6
Publication ethics: Notes for authors and editors
Arun Kumar Yadav1, Laxmikant Chaudhary2, Anuj Singhal3,
1 Department of Community Medicine, AFMC, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Health Services, O/O DGMS Army, New Delhi, India
3 Department of Internal Medicine, Army Hospital Research and Referral, New Delhi, India
(Dr). Anuj Singhal
Department of Internal Medicine, Army Hospital Research and Referral, New Delhi
|How to cite this article:|
Yadav AK, Chaudhary L, Singhal A. Publication ethics: Notes for authors and editors.J Mar Med Soc 2022;24:4-6
|How to cite this URL:|
Yadav AK, Chaudhary L, Singhal A. Publication ethics: Notes for authors and editors. J Mar Med Soc [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Jul 2 ];24:4-6
Available from: https://www.marinemedicalsociety.in/text.asp?2022/24/1/4/339535
Academic research involves many coordinated steps and processes – appropriate study design, study execution, data collection, data analysis, and finally, publication. While going through these steps and culminating in a publication can be an exciting experience, one should be aware of ethical code of conduct that binds researchers at every stage. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is an international forum for editors and publishers of peer-reviewed journals that provide the “code of conduct” and “best practice guidelines” that define publication ethics and advises editors on how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct. COPE was founded in 1997 to address breaches of research and publication ethics, with aims to find practical ways of dealing with the issues, and to develop good practices for publications.
Integrity of researchers is central to the quality and credibility of research. Researchers have a significant social responsibility to abide by the standards prescribed for their professions and by their institutions and also to be guided by the applicable regulations and guidelines. Responsible Conduct of Research involves components such as planning and conducting research, reviewing and reporting research, responsible authorship, and publication of the research work. The research team should maintain the highest standards to uphold the fundamental values of research.
Publication of scientific paper is critical for modern science evolution and professional advancement. However, it comes with many responsibilities. An author must be aware of good publication practices (GPP). While refraining from scientific misconduct or research frauds, authors should adhere to GPP. Publications which draw conclusions from manipulated or fabricated data could prove detrimental to society and health-care research. Good science can blossom only when research is conducted and documented with complete honesty and ethics. Unfortunately, publish or perish attitude has led to unethical practices in scientific research and publications. There is a need to identify, acknowledge, and generate awareness among junior researchers or postgraduate students to curb scientific misconduct and adopt GPP.
The topic of research ethics is important not only when conducting research but also when publishing it. It is one of the crucial pillars for maintaining scientific integrity and credibility. The onus to implement fair practices lies with researchers, universities/institutions, and publishers.
Policies and Core Practices Required for Highest Standards in Publication Ethics
Allegations of misconduct
The research misconduct can be defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in designing, conducting, or reviewing research or in reporting the findings of the research. Falsification involves misrepresentation of the research by changing data or results or by tampering with equipment, research methods, or materials. Fabrication involves reporting false or made-up data, results, or research outputs. Plagiarism involves presenting others' ideas, works, or words without acknowledging or providing appropriate credit to the original authorship.
All biomedical and health research needs to follow ethical guidelines and maintain research integrity in the conduct of research while ensuring the safety of research participants. Conducting research without informed consent or ethics approval and not maintaining data confidentiality is a form of scientific misconduct. Editors or publication houses may take disciplinary action as per COPE recommendations against scientific misconduct. Authors may be blacklisted or banned to submit articles in the respective journal in the future.
Complaints and appeals
The allegations regarding research misconduct can be reported directly to Director/Head of the institution with proper evidence and justification besides reporting to Editorial staff of Journal. Complainant can reveal her/his details or can anonymize identity but provide description of misconduct along with supporting documents. In case of suspected research misconduct or allegation, Director may constitute a 2–3 member inquiry committee to evaluate misconduct/allegation and explanation by respondent to investigate credibility of evidence, extent/nature of misconduct, personnel involved, and intentions to suggest further course of action, including punitive/disciplinary action. For investigation, committee would be given access to inspect any reports, data, manuscripts, or any other material considered relevant to the inquiry. Complaints would be closed, if there is no evidence of misconduct. If misconduct has happened, needful action based on seriousness of research misconduct such as issue warning, suspend research, and suggest penalty or other action may be taken. The inquiry should be time bound and completed within a fixed period from the date of receiving the complaint. Handling the allegation of misconduct should be customized and be dealt with on a case-to-case basis. Efforts should be made to safeguard interests of the complainant and respondent.
Authorship and contributionship
Since authorship is sought after, many unethical practices are prevalent. Ghost, guest, or gift authors are the examples of such practices. A ghost author is a person who has made a substantial contribution to the research or writing of a manuscript but is not listed as an author. It is dishonest to omit an author who has made significant contributions. In contrast to ghost author, guest or gift/honorary author is someone who is named as an author, but who did not contribute in a meaningful way to the design, research, analysis, or writing of a paper. Often guest or gift authors are well known and well respected in the field of research. The inclusion of their name in the author list might increase chances of acceptance for publication. The presence of well-known author on the board as a guest author can influence the opinion of clinicians, academicians, and politicians about a particular drug or device.
Authorship issue becomes a sensitive issue especially in large multicentric studies with multiple stakeholders. The authorship issues can also include changes in the order of the author names. For instance, the name of the author who was supposed to be third in the list appears fourth and so on. Moreover, the disputes arise because of the missing/omitted authors who were part of the study. Every journal has authorship criteria based on the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines for qualifying to become an author in a manuscript. The ICMJE states, “All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship, and all those who qualify should be listed.” The ICMJE describes three basic criteria that must be collectively met to be credited with authorship.
Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another paper or another author's “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one's own original work or duplicating one's own publication. World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) identifies plagiarism as a condition where six consecutive words are copied or 7 to 11 words are overlapping set of 30 letters. “Acknowledgment” is the ethically right manner of crediting someone else's work. In the case of verbatim, text is being taken from another source, it must be enclosed in quotation marks and by providing citation to indicate its origin. Upon utilization of someone else's work, the essence of the work must be reframed in her/his own words in a summarized version by providing appropriate citation.
Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. Unintentional plagiarism is usually seen in articles written by students or junior researchers. Lack of awareness and ignorance lead to unintentional plagiarism. Intentional plagiarism happens when an author deliberately copies documented or published work and presents it as his/her own. Both types of plagiarism are unethical and illegal.
There is another issue of salami publication or duplicate publication. Substantial overlapping with the one's previous study without any new message or submitting the same article in two or more journals simultaneously is not correct.
Conflicts of interest/competing interest
Conflicts of interest comprise those which may not be fully apparent and which may influence the judgment of author, reviewers, and editors. They may be personal, commercial, political, academic, or financial. “Financial” interests may include employment, research funding, stock or share ownership, payment for lectures or travel, and consultancies and company support for staff. Such interests, where relevant, must be declared to editors by researchers, authors, and reviewers. Editors should also disclose relevant conflicts of interest to their readers. If in doubt, disclose.
Conflicts of interest, also called as competing interests, having competing interests in a product or device under consideration is not considered unethical; however, failure to disclose such hidden interests severely jeopardizes the outcomes reported in the paper. Once disclosed, it is the discretion of the readers to determine the influence of the conflicts of interest on the conclusions of the paper.
It is mandatory that all proposals on biomedical research involving human participants should be cleared by an appropriately constituted Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC), also referred to as Institutional Review Board, Ethics Review Board, and Research Ethics Board in some countries, to safeguard the welfare and the rights of the participants. The Ethics Committees are entrusted not only with the initial review of the proposed research protocols prior to initiation of the projects but also have a continuing responsibility of regular monitoring of the approved programs to foresee the compliance of the ethics during the period of the project. The basic responsibility of an IEC is to ensure a competent review of all ethical aspects of the project proposals received by it in an objective manner. IECs provides advice to the researchers on all aspects of the welfare and safety of the research participants after ensuring the scientific soundness of the proposed research through the appropriate Scientific Review Committee. With more and more indexing agencies for journals insisting of ethical clearance certificates for authors and not processing the article without ethics committee clearance, thus, taking a step towards preventing ethical oversight. More often, authors approach the ethical committee only at the time of the publication or when the study has been completed, which is not correct. The practice of starting recruitment of participants without ethical clearance may invite administrative action.
Peer review process
Peer reviewers are external experts chosen by editors to provide written opinions, with the aim of improving the study. Working methods vary from journal to journal, but some use open procedures in which the name of the reviewer is disclosed, together with the full or “edited” report. Suggestions from authors as to who might act as reviewers are often useful, but there should be no obligation on editors to use those suggested. The duty of confidentiality in the assessment of a manuscript must be maintained by expert reviewers, and this extends to reviewers' colleagues who may be asked (with the editor's permission) to give opinions on specific sections. Reviewers should provide speedy, accurate, courteous, unbiased, and justifiable reports. If reviewers suspect misconduct, they may write in confidence to the editor. Journals should publish accurate descriptions of their peer review, selection, and appeals processes. Journals should also provide regular audits of their acceptance rates and publication times.
Researchers need to follow the guidelines of ICMJE, COPE on publication ethics, research integrity and authorship, and important aspect of publication.
Role of all authors should be clearly identified/justified. Authorship should be duly given to all those who have substantially scientifically contributed to the research and may include permanent as well as contractual/temporary staff. The very first step to prevent plagiarism is the awareness about plagiarism, the consequences, and how to avoid plagiarism.
Needful trainings/workshops should be held periodically for newly recruited/appointed scientific/research/technical staff as an orientation and induction practice to create awareness toward research integrity. Continued education and training is also necessary to keep researchers apprised of contemporary issues related to research integrity and publication ethics.
Research institutes should facilitate initiatives to organize training programs on regular basis for bringing awareness and updating the skills/knowledge of the researchers regarding the research integrity. This includes holding regular journal clubs, workshops, and invited lectures to facilitate discussion, generate awareness, and sensitize researchers at the institute level.
In Journal of Marine Medicine, we strive to follow highest standard of publication ethics. Peer review process, audit of the process, and ICMJE and COPE are followed. Steps such as copyright form are send to every author for digital signature, and option is being given to raise a query related to article at the stage. However, our future endeavor is to make entire publication process transparent, user friendly yet scientific and ethics compliant.
At the end, it is the community of researchers, ethical committee members, publishing houses, editors, administrators, and other stakeholders in research should come together to make the process as fair and transparent as possible for the science.
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