The publication of an article in a peer-reviewed journal or conference proceedings is an essential building block in the development of a coherent and respected network of knowledge. It is a direct reflection of the quality of the work of the Authors and the institutions that support them. Peer-reviewed articles support and embody the scientific method. It is therefore important to agree upon standards of expected ethical behaviour for all parties involved in the act of publishing: Authors, Editors, and Reviewers.
All ethical and misconduct cases are assessed and handled based on their individual merit while following the guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), such as the COPE Core Practices, and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).
A selection of key points is included below, but you should always refer to the three links listed above for full details.
According to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) plagiarism is the “theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another's work”. Said differently, plagiarism is when someone copies words, chunks of text or ideas of someone else without proper attribution. Such practices are unacceptable and articles which contain plagiarized text or ideas will not be considered for publication in IEC journals or proceedings. Publishers and Editors expect that all articles which are submitted to a journal or proceedings are original and have not been submitted or published elsewhere.
Authors are required to practice due caution when reusing portions of text from previous publications by giving appropriate credit where due. Duplicate (or redundant) publications refer to previously published articles which are nearly identical in content. Duplication can take several forms: identical papers published in multiple journals, partial but substantial duplication by introducing small amounts of new data to a previously published article (salami slicing), etc. Editors and Editorial Board members of IEC publications will take responsibility to assess such incidents on a case-to-case basis and the course of action that is taken will be in accordance with COPE guidelines. Note that IEC uses an automated similarity checking tool to screen all submitted manuscripts for textual overlap with previous publications.
Other forms of unethical submission behaviour related to multiple, redundant or concurrent submissions:
Note that Authors are entitled to re-publish their articles in different languages, to increase visibility and emphasize on an important topic to a wider audience, given that permission is sought from the publication where the original article was published and this is properly acknowledged in the translated version.
Fraudulent practices to disseminate data or conclusions that were not generated by experimentation or observations, but by making up or manipulating data are unacceptable forms of misconduct. There are two types of research data manipulation:
Further information on what to do when editor suspects fabricated data can be found on the COPE website: Suspected Fabricated Data in a Submitted Manuscript and Suspected Fabricated Data in a Published Article.
The Editor of a learned journal or proceedings is solely and independently responsible for deciding which of the articles submitted should be published. The validation of the work in question and its importance to researchers and readers must always underwrite such decisions. An Editor may be guided by the policies of a publication’s Editorial Board and constrained by such legal requirements as shall then be in force regarding issues such as libel, copyright infringement and plagiarism. The Editor may confer with other Editors or Reviewers in making these decisions.
The Editor shall ensure that the peer review process is fair, unbiased and timely. Research articles must typically be reviewed by at least two external and independent Reviewers, and where necessary the Editor should seek additional opinions. The Editor shall select Reviewers who have suitable expertise in the relevant field and shall follow best practice in avoiding the selection of fraudulent peer reviewers. The Editor shall review all disclosures of potential conflicts of interest and suggestions for self-citation made by Reviewers in order to determine whether there is any potential for bias.
The Editor shall evaluate manuscripts for their intellectual content without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship or political philosophy of the Authors. The editorial policies of a journal or proceedings series should encourage transparency and complete, honest reporting, and the Editor shall ensure that Authors and Reviewers have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The Editor shall use a journal’s electronic submission system for all communications and shall establish, along with the Publisher, a transparent mechanism for appeal against editorial decisions.
Journal or Series Metrics
The Editor shall not attempt to influence the ranking of a journal or proceedings series by artificially increasing any metric. In particular, the Editor shall not require that references to that (or any other) journal’s or series’ articles be included except for genuine scholarly reasons and Authors should not be required to include references to the Editor’s own articles or products and services in which the Editor has an interest.
The Editor shall protect the confidentiality of all material submitted to a journal or proceedings as well as all communications with Reviewers unless otherwise agreed with the relevant Authors and Reviewers. In exceptional circumstances and in consultation with the Publisher, the Editor may share limited information with Editors of other journals where deemed necessary to investigate suspected research misconduct. For more information, refer to the COPE guidelines on Sharing of Information among Editors-in-Chief Regarding Possible Misconduct. Unless a journal or proceedings uses an open peer review system and/or Reviewers have agreed to disclose their names, the Editor must protect Reviewers’ identities. Unpublished materials disclosed in a submitted manuscript shall not be used in an Editor’s own research without the express written consent of the Author. Privileged information or ideas obtained through peer review shall be kept confidential and shall not be used for personal advantage.
Declaration of Competing Interests
Any potential editorial conflicts of interest shall be declared to the Publisher in writing prior to the appointment of an Editor, and shall then be updated if and when new conflicts arise. The Publisher may publish such declarations in the journal or proceedings series. The Editor shall not be involved in decisions about articles which he/she has written himself/herself or which have been written by family members or colleagues, or which relate to products or services in which the Editor has an interest. Furthermore, any such submissions shall be subject to all of the publication’s usual procedures, peer review shall be handled independently of the relevant Author/Editor and their research groups, and there must be a clear statement to this effect on any such article that is published. Finally, the Editor shall apply the IEC policy relating to the disclosure of potential conflicts of interest by Authors and Reviewers.
Vigilance over the Published Record
The Editor shall work to safeguard the integrity of the published record by reviewing and assessing reported or suspected misconduct in conjunction with the Publisher. Such measures will generally include contacting the Author of a manuscript and giving due consideration to the respective complaint or claims made, but may also include further communications to the relevant institutions and research bodies. The Editor shall further make appropriate use of the Publisher’s systems for the detection of misconduct such as plagiarism. An Editor presented with convincing evidence of misconduct shall coordinate with the Publisher to arrange the prompt publication of a correction, retraction, expression of concern, or other correction to the published record as may be relevant.
Contribution to Editorial Decisions
Peer review assists the Editor in making editorial decisions and through editorial communications with the Author may also assist the Author to improve an article. Peer review is an essential component of formal scholarly communication and lies at the heart of the scientific method. In addition to the specific ethics-related responsibilities described below, Reviewers are requested generally to treat Authors and their work as they would like to be treated themselves and to observe good reviewing etiquette. Any selected Reviewer who feels unqualified to review the research reported in a manuscript or knows that its prompt review will be impossible shall notify the Editor and decline to participate in the review process.
Any manuscripts received for review shall be treated as confidential documents. Reviewers shall not share the review or information about the article with anyone or contact the Authors directly without permission from the Editor. Some Editors encourage discussion with colleagues or co-reviewing exercises, but Reviewers must first discuss this with the Editor in order to ensure that confidentiality is observed and that participants receive suitable credit. Unpublished materials which are disclosed in a submitted manuscript shall not be used in a Reviewer’s own research without the express written consent of the Author. Privileged information or ideas obtained though peer review shall be kept confidential and shall not be used for personal advantage.
Alertness to Ethical Issues
Reviewers must be alert to potential ethical issues in a paper and, if observed, shall bring these to the attention of the Editor, including any substantial similarity or overlap between the manuscript under consideration and any other published article of which the Reviewer has personal knowledge. Any statement that an observation, derivation or argument has been previously reported must be accompanied by the relevant citation.
Standards of Objectivity and Competing Interests
Reviews of submitted manuscripts shall be conducted objectively. Reviewers must be aware of any personal bias that they may have and are expected to take this into account when reviewing a paper. Personal criticism of any Author is inappropriate. Reviewers shall express their views clearly and with supporting arguments. Reviewers must consult the Editor before agreeing to review a paper for which they have potential conflicts of interest resulting from competitive, collaborative, or other relationships or connections with any of the Authors, companies or institutions connected to this paper. If a Reviewer suggests that an Author includes citations to the Reviewer’s (or their associates’) work, this shall be for genuine scientific reasons and not with the intention to increase the Reviewer’s citation count or to enhance the visibility of their work (or that of their associates).
Authors of reports of original research shall present an accurate account of the work performed as well as an objective discussion of its significance. Underlying data shall be represented accurately in the paper which shall also contain sufficient detail and references to permit others to replicate the work. Fraudulent or knowingly inaccurate statements constitute unethical behavior and are unacceptable. Review and professional publication articles shall also be accurate and objective. Editorial ‘opinion’ works shall be clearly identified as such.
Data Access and Retention
Authors may be asked to provide research data supporting their submission for editorial review and/or to comply with the open data requirements of a journal or proceedings. Authors must be prepared to provide public access to such data, if practicable, and must be prepared to retain such data for a reasonable number of years after publication. Authors may refer to a publication’s Author Guidelines for further details.
Originality and Acknowledgement of Sources
Authors shall ensure that their submitted manuscripts are entirely original and that proper attribution is given, and permission has been obtained where necessary, if they have used the work and/or words of others. Authors shall cite publications that have influenced the reported work and that give the work appropriate context within the wider scholarly record. Information obtained privately, as in conversation, correspondence, or discussion with third parties, must not be used or reported without explicit written permission from the source. Plagiarism can take many forms, from claiming another’s paper as the Author’s own paper, to copying or paraphrasing substantial parts of another’s paper (without proper acknowledgement), to claiming results from research conducted by others. Plagiarism in all of its forms constitutes unethical behavior and is unacceptable.
Multiple, Redundant or Concurrent Publication
Authors shall not publish manuscripts describing essentially the same research in more than one journal. Submitting the same manuscript to more than one journal at the same time constitutes unethical behavior and is unacceptable. The rationale for this standard is the potential for disagreement when two (or more) journals claim the right to publish a manuscript that has been submitted simultaneously to more than one journal, and the possibility that two or more journals will unknowingly and unnecessarily undertake the work of peer review, edit the same manuscript, and publish the same article. In general, an Author must not submit a paper that has been published previously for consideration in another journal, except in the form of an abstract or as part of a published lecture or academic thesis or as an electronic preprint. Publication of some kinds of articles (e.g. clinical guidelines, translations, etc.) in more than one journal can sometimes be justifiable provided that certain conditions are met. The Authors and Editors of the journals concerned must agree to the secondary publication, which must reflect the same data and interpretation of the primary document. Moreover, the primary reference must be cited in the secondary publication. Further details on acceptable forms of secondary publication can be found on the ICMJE website here.
Information obtained in the course of confidential services, such as reviewing manuscripts or grant applications, shall not be used without the explicit written permission of the Author of the work involved in these services.
Authorship of an Article
Authorship shall be limited to those who have made a significant contribution to the conception, design, execution or interpretation of the reported study. All those who have made substantial contributions must be listed as co-Authors. Where there are others who have participated in certain substantive aspects of a paper (e.g. language editing or medical writing) they must be recognized in the acknowledgements section. The corresponding Author shall ensure that all appropriate co-Authors and no inappropriate co-Authors are included on the paper, and that all co-Authors have seen and approved the final version of the paper and have agreed to its submission for publication. Authors are expected to carefully consider the list and order of Authors before submitting their manuscript and to provide the definitive list of Authors at the time of the original submission. Only in exceptional circumstances will the Editor consider (at the Editor’s discretion) the addition, deletion or rearrangement of Authors after the manuscript has been submitted and the Author shall clearly flag any such request to the Editor. All Authors must agree with any such addition, removal or rearrangement. Authors take collective responsibility for the work and each individual Author is accountable for ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. Individual journals or proceedings may have particular definitions of authorship and Authors shall ensure that they comply with the policies of the relevant publication.
Hazards and Human or Animal Subjects
If the work involves chemicals, procedures or equipment that have any unusual hazards inherent in their use, the authors must clearly identify these in the manuscript. If the work involves the use of animals or human participants, the authors should ensure that all procedures were performed in compliance with relevant laws and institutional guidelines and that the appropriate institutional committee(s) has approved them; the manuscript should contain a statement to this effect. Authors should also include a statement in the manuscript that informed consent was obtained for experimentation with human participants. The privacy rights of human participants must always be observed.
Declaration of Competing Interests
Authors should—at the earliest stage possible (generally by submitting a disclosure form at the time of submission and including a statement in the manuscript)—disclose any conflicts of interest that might be construed to influence the results or their interpretation in the manuscript. Examples of potential conflicts of interest that should be disclosed include financial ones such as honoraria, educational grants or other funding, participation in speakers’ bureaus, membership, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, or other equity interest, and paid expert testimony or patent-licensing arrangements, as well as non-financial ones such as personal or professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge or beliefs in the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript. All sources of financial support for the work should be disclosed (including the grant number or other reference number if any).
Notification of Fundamental Errors
When an Author discovers a significant error or inaccuracy in their own published work, it is the Author’s obligation to promptly notify the Editor or Publisher and cooperate with the Editor to retract or correct the paper if this is deemed necessary by the Editor. If the Editor or the Publisher learn from a third party that a published work contains an error, it is the obligation of the Author to cooperate with the Editor, including providing evidence to the Editor where requested.
It is not acceptable to enhance, obscure, move, remove or introduce a specific feature within an image. Adjustments of brightness, contrast or color balance are acceptable if and as long as they do not obscure or eliminate any information present in the original. Manipulating images for improved clarity is accepted, but manipulation for other purposes could be regarded as scientific misconduct and shall be dealt with accordingly. Authors shall comply with any specific policy for graphical images applied by the relevant publication, e.g. providing the original images as supplementary material with the article or depositing these in a suitable repository.
Clinical Trial Transparency
IEC supports clinical trial transparency. For relevant journals or proceedings, Authors are expected to conform to industry best practices in clinical trial registration and presentation, such as the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) guidelines, as further set out in the policies of the relevant publication.