Aims and scope
Commercial considerations and editorial independence
Conflicts of interest
Copyright and intellectual property
Corrections, expressions of concern, retractions, and withdrawals
Data and reporting guidelines
Fabrication, falsification, and image manipulation
Hazardous materials, risks, and biosecurity
Investigation of questionable research practices
Plagiarism, duplicate/redundant publication, text recycling, and translations
These guidelines present a further update to the Wiley publishing ethics guidelines first published in 2006 and revised in 2014. Our aim for these guidelines remains to support all those involved in scholarly publishing with a summary of best practice guidance with respect to research integrity and publishing ethics from leading organizations around the world. Our guidelines are written for researchers, in their various roles as editors, authors and peer reviewers; societies; librarians; funders; corporations; publishers; and journalists.
In updating and expanding the guidelines, we worked with members of Wiley’s Integrity and Publishing Group (IPG) with expertise in handling issues in research integrity and publishing ethics. We recognize that different disciplines have different practices and that one size does not necessarily fit all. Where guidelines have particular application to one discipline or group of disciplines, we have aimed to identify this clearly in the text. This update was published on April 17, 2020.
COPE is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting integrity in research and its publication. Wiley offers membership to COPE for all of its journal editors. COPE serves more than 12,000 members around the world with practical guidelines, resources, e-learning, seminars, and much more. An overview of COPE’s activities is provided here. COPE have defined a set of recommended core practices that are applicable to all involved in publishing scholarly literature: editors and journal teams, publishers and institutions. The rationale for the development of the core practices is explained here. We have also referred to specific COPE resources, amongst the many ethics resources that are available, where relevant throughout these guidelines. COPE also provides editors with independent advice from other editors about difficult cases via the COPE Forum. Through its case archive, a searchable database of cases from 1997 onwards, COPE enables editors to learn from similar cases. In addition, there are other resources available for use. The US Office of Research Integrity has published “Managing Allegations of Scientific Misconduct: A Guidance Document for Editors”. The European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) has published “Ethical Guidelines for Publications in Journals and Reviews.”
If you are a Wiley editor, peer reviewer or author seeking advice, please contact the relevant Wiley publisher or Journals Publishing Manager. Otherwise, and if your query relates to matters addressed by or related to these guidelines with respect to a Wiley journal, please contact our Publication Ethics team at: email@example.com. Queries received via this email address will be directed to the IPG or relevant Journals Publishing Manager at Wiley, as appropriate.
Wiley’s IPG exists to review and approve any amendments to published articles (retractions, withdrawals, Expressions of Concern) advise on publication ethics issues, establish and implement ethical policies, and support investigations of ethical concerns affecting journals in Wiley’s Research organization. The IPG’s structure consists of several advice teams who are responsible for supporting the investigation and resolution of ethical issues in assigned areas; a team of specialist advisors who support the advice teams on issues which require input from other areas of the business (e.g. Legal and Corporate Communications); and finally, the escalation team who consist of senior colleagues at Wiley who are able to provide support in handling particularly difficult issues and ultimately approve any requests for retractions, withdrawals and Expressions of Concern.
Journal publishing is always a team effort. Handling research integrity and publishing ethics issues relating to journals is no exception. These issues also may give rise to or involve legal issues. We suggest that journals refer to these guidelines when establishing policies and procedures, and as an initial point of reference when issues arise.
As a first step to addressing any issue we suggest that editors, publishers, and other journal team members discuss the concerns raised. We suggest that these discussions happen before taking any further action, and that legal advice is sought where needed and in particular where issues involve potential defamation, breach of contract, privacy, or copyright infringement.
Initial conversations may indicate the need to carry out further investigation or to widen discussions to:
Journals should facilitate post-publication academic debate either on their site, through letters to the editor, or on an external moderated site. They must have mechanisms for correcting, revising and retracting articles after publication. Journals should encourage correspondence and constructive criticism of the work they publish. If an item of correspondence discusses a specific article, the journal should invite the authors of the work to respond before the correspondence is published. When possible, the correspondence and the authors’ response should be published at the same time. Authors may choose not to respond to this invitation. They do not have a right to veto comments about their work that the editor judges to be constructive. They may advise editors accordingly about unconstructive comments.
Journals should consider establishing and publishing a mechanism for authors to appeal editorial decisions, to facilitate genuine appeals, and to discourage repeated or unfounded appeals.
Journals should consider establishing a mechanism for authors and others to comment on aspects of the journal’s editorial management, perhaps via the publisher or a third-party.
Authorship gives recognition and credit for work done, accountability for reported research, confers moral and legal rights (copyright) and plays an important role in shaping academic careers. However, authorship issues remain a common concern faced by editors. COPE’s discussion document on authorship explores the issues in detail and provides practical advice.
Many journals require authors to confirm, on submission, that they and their co-authors meet the requirements for authorship and typically provide an ORCID.
COPE recommends that journals and publishers should have clear guidance in place to allow for transparency about who contributed to the work and in what capacity for authorship and contributorship as well as processes for managing potential disputes.
There is no universal definition of authorship, and practices vary by discipline and communities especially when individuals collaborate across subject areas. Different disciplines adopt their own criteria, for example, the ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) guidelines are well-known in the biomedical fields, the APA (American Psychological Association) guidelines are used in Psychology, the EuChemS (European Chemical Society) guidelines are adopted in Chemistry, whereas in the arts, humanities and social sciences, publications by single authors are more common. However, the minimum recognized requirements for authorship are making a substantial contribution to the research and being accountable for the work undertaken (COPE Discussion document: authorship).
Many journals require authors to confirm, on submission, that they and their co-authors meet the requirements for authorship and typically provide an ORCID (Open Researcher Contributor ID). An ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier to distinguish individuals from others with similar names and links individuals to their research outputs.
Journals should notify all authors that they have received a submission and confirm that emails are not invalid. To increase transparency, it is helpful for journals to publish “author contribution statements” that explain how each author contributed to a piece of work. This approach has been recently extended by the CRediT “Contributor Roles Taxonomy” an open standard of 14 item terms that allows for a standardized description of each author’s individual contribution to an manuscript. This information can be captured in author metadata and linked to authors’ ORCID profiles for full transparency of authors’ contributions. See discussion by McNutt et al. (2018).
An individual who does not meet authorship criteria for a specific piece of work but has contributed in some capacity should be acknowledged, with their approval. Minors who have been involved in a piece of research (for example, children using technology) are typically acknowledged as they cannot be fully accountable for all aspects of the research. Journals should encourage authors of intercultural research to consider appropriate attribution for traditional knowledge, to the extent that this attribution does not compromise any agreed assurances of anonymity. This may include “traditional knowledge” notices, or citation of indigenous sources (such as people or community groups) or other cultural sources of knowledge by name within the text. In some fields, such as anthropology, appropriate attribution may require sharing authorship with intercultural collaborators and this may differ from the approach recommended by the ICMJE. More information is at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website.
If a manuscript is submitted with a deceased author listed, or an author passes away while the manuscript is being peer reviewed, then a footnote or similar should be added to the published article to indicate this. Often journals use a dagger symbol (†) with a footnote explaining the situation. A co-author should vouch for the contribution made by the deceased author and their potential conflicts of interest. If the deceased author was a corresponding author then another co-author should be nominated. Note that copyright is considered personal property under the law. If the author had not yet signed a copyright transfer agreement or license, or granted a co-author the right to do so on his/her behalf in writing, permission would need to be obtained from the author’s inheritor.
In cases where authors wish to change their names following publication, journals should consider such requests if reasonable. If any changes are made, then these should be transparently recorded and accompanied by a correction alongside the article. All authors should be informed about any changes made that may have an impact for them and be consulted on the wording of the correction where appropriate. Editorial teams should use discretion and recognize that name changes may be sensitive issues for authors and respect author wishes while also maintaining a transparent and reliable record of the research published.
To manage authorship disputes, editors should refer to the flowcharts from COPE and “How to spot authorship problems.” Authorship disputes will often need to be referred to institutions if the authors cannot resolve the dispute themselves.
Editors or board members should not be involved in editorial decisions about their own scholarly work. Journals should establish and publish mechanisms and clearly defined policies for handling submissions from editors, members of their editorial boards, and employees. We recommend that:
While some journals will not consider original research papers from editors or employees of the journal, others have procedures in place for ensuring fair peer review in these instances.
Citation and reference to appropriate and relevant literature is an essential part of scholarly publishing and is a shared responsibility among all involved (authors, editors, peer reviewers). Authors should not engage in excessive self-citation of their own work. Editors and peer reviewers should not ask authors to add citations to their papers when there is no strong scholarly rationale for doing so. The issue of inappropriate citation (including citation stacking and citation cartels) has been discussed by COPE, and COPE have produced a discussion document on citation manipulation with recommendations for best practice.
It is impossible to completely insulate editorial decisions from issues that may influence them, such as commercial considerations. For example, editors will know which articles are likely to attract offprint or reprint sales. Even so, we suggest that editors, journal owners, and publishers establish processes that minimize the risk of editorial decisions being influenced by commercial, personal, or political factors.
Journals may choose to publish supplements, special issues, or similar publications that are funded by a third party (for example, a company, society, or charity). Journals should present readers with the names of the organizations that provided funding, and any conflict of interest statements.
Journals should not permit funding organizations to make decisions beyond which publications they choose to fund. Decisions about the selection and editing of contents to be published should be made by the editor (or co-editors) of the funded publication.
A journal editor may elect to use “guest” or external editors to support the publishing of supplements, special issues, or similar publications. In this case, it is the journal editor’s responsibility to disclose the journal policy and ensure it is implemented by those external editors. Journals should reserve the right not to publish any funded publication that does not comply with their requirements.
Wiley sales teams are not permitted to become involved with peer review and the editorial decision-making process. Our sales teams use editorial information only after editorial decisions are finalized. The extent of editorial information available and the timing of its disclosure are agreed for each journal in consultation with the journal owner and editor. Decisions about what can be sold are also agreed in consultation with the journal owner and editor (for example, the positions available for journal advertising within or adjacent to an article, collected in specific positions within the journal, and online, and whether it is permissible to sell reprints of papers published online prior to print).
The Council of Science Editors presents discussion of editorial independence in its White Paper on “Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications.”
The relationship between the editor and the journal owner and publisher should be set out in a formal contract. It may be useful to establish a mechanism to resolve disputes before one is needed in order to help resolve any disagreements speedily.
Journal owners (whether learned societies or publishers) should avoid influencing editorial decisions.
Editors, authors, and peer reviewers should disclose interests that might appear to affect their ability to present or review work objectively. These might include relevant financial interests (for example, patent ownership, stock ownership, consultancies, or speaker’s fees), or personal, political, or religious interests.
Strict policies preventing people with conflicts of interest from publishing might encourage authors to conceal relevant interests and might therefore be counterproductive.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ definition of conflicts of interest is as follows: “A conflict of interest exists when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Perceptions of conflict of interest are as important as actual conflicts of interest.”
Strict policies preventing people with conflicts of interest from publishing might encourage authors to conceal relevant interests and might therefore be counterproductive.
COPE has published flowcharts that illustrate a suitable process for investigations of suspected undisclosed conflicts of interest.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has created a uniform disclosure form for conflicts of interest.
It is a legal requirement for an author to sign a copyright agreement of some kind before publication. Some journals ask authors to transfer their copyright to the journal. Others accept an exclusive license from authors. Authors wishing to make their article open access must sign an Open Access Agreement. Wiley has published separate guidance about copyright.
Publishers are legally required to have explicit authority from an author to publish any article. The societies Wiley partners with decide which copyright arrangement they require from the range of options we provide, a brief and abridged description of which is provided below:
Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA). Under this form of agreement, the author retains certain re-use rights in their article, but transfers copyright to the society or publisher.
Exclusive License Agreement (ELA). This form of copyright agreement grants exclusive rights to the journal owner, but the authors retain copyright in their article.
Open Access Agreement: Wiley requires authors wishing to make their article open access to sign an Open Access Agreement providing for the article to be made available under one of the Creative Commons Licenses in order to meet the terms of open access publication and ensure the widest possible dissemination. The Creative Commons website explains how these licenses work. At the time of writing these guidelines, Wiley uses three Creative Commons Licenses: CC-BY, CC-BY-NC, and CC-BY-NC-ND.
Journals should encourage readers and authors to notify them if they find errors, especially errors that could affect the interpretation of data or information presented in an article. When an error is identified:
The format the correction will take can depend on the article’s stage of publication. For example, for those articles which have been published on an Early View service (or equivalent), which is the online Version of Record before inclusion in an issue, corrections may be made directly to the article online. In these cases, an audit trail must be added to highlight what changes have been made to the online version of the article since its initial publication and the date these changes were made.
For those articles which have been published in an issue, a corresponding correction statement should be published and linked to the original article. In these cases, the changes should usually not be made directly to the article.
Expressions of Concern may be published if editors have well-founded concerns or suspicions and feel that readers should be made aware of potentially misleading information. See this COPE Forum discussion. Editors should use caution: an Expression of Concern carries the same risks to a researcher’s reputation as a retraction, and it is often preferable to wait to publish a retraction when a definitive judgment has been made by an independent investigation. The full Wiley policy for Expressions of Concern is available online.
The title of an Expression of Concern should include the words “Expression of Concern” as well as information to identify the article that it refers to. It should be published on a numbered page (electronic and print if print versions available) and should be listed in the journal’s table of contents. It should cite the original article and link electronically with the original electronic publication wherever possible. It should explain the editor’s concerns about the contents of the article. It should be in a form that enables indexing and abstracting services to identify and link to original publications and be free to access.
Journals should be committed to playing their part in maintaining the integrity of the scholarly record, therefore on occasion, it may be necessary to retract articles. COPE has published guidelines for retracting articles which suggest that journals should consider publishing retractions for articles when:
Wiley’s policy for handling retractions and circumstances under which these options will be considered, is available online. All retractions are reviewed and approved by Wiley’s Integrity in Publishing Group.
The title of a Retraction should include the words “Retraction” as well as information to identify the article that it refers to. It should be published on a numbered page (electronic and print if print versions available) and should be listed in the journal’s table of contents. It should cite the original article and link electronically with the original electronic publication wherever possible. It should enable the reader to identify and understand why the article is being retracted. It should be in a form that enables indexing and abstracting services to identify and link to original publications and be free to access.
There may be circumstances under which an article may be withdrawn following publication. It is Wiley's policy to strongly discourage withdrawal of the Version of Record in line with the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers guidelines on retractions and preservation of the objective record of science. The full Wiley policy for withdrawals is available online.
Open research initiatives, such as sharing “FAIR” data (data that is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable), bring many benefits, including increased transparency and reproducibility of research outputs. Journals should therefore include explicit policies on data availability statements and any requirements for sharing data. Wiley’s four polices on data sharing are explained here.
Editors, working with peer reviewers, should ensure that authors provide the information readers need to evaluate the methods and results, so that readers can reach their own conclusions.
Wiley endorses the FORCE11 Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles, a set of guiding principles for data within scholarly literature, another dataset, or any other research object. We recommend the format for data citation proposed in this Joint Declaration, and that data held within institutional, subject-focused, or more general data repositories should be cited.
Accurate and complete reporting enables readers to fully appraise research, replicate it, and use it. Editors should encourage authors to follow their discipline’s guidelines for accurate and complete reporting of research. Editors, working with peer reviewers, should ensure that authors provide the information readers need to evaluate the methods and results, so that readers can reach their own conclusions.
Data fabrication is the intentional misrepresentation of research data by making-up findings, recording, or reporting of results. Data falsification is the manipulation of research materials, equipment, or processes, including omitting and changing data, with the intention of giving a false impression. Changes to images can create misleading results when research data are collected as images. Inappropriate image manipulation is one form of fabrication or falsification that journals can identify. It may, however, be legitimate and even necessary to edit images. For example, the selective enlargement of part of an artwork may be needed to reveal features that would not otherwise be visible and editing of video data may be needed to protect the privacy of participants.
The six CLIP (Clinical and Laboratory Images in Publications) principles present guidance for documenting and publishing clinical and laboratory images. The Council of Science Editors discusses image manipulation in its white paper on research integrity. The Office of Research Integrity provides forensic tools for examination of images and samples.
Journals can help educate about image manipulation and, where appropriate, might check images. We suggest that journals ask authors to declare where manipulations have been made; we also suggest that journals ask authors to supply original images or be able and ready to supply them on request. We suggest that journals explain the following information in their author guidelines:
These recommendations are based on guidance developed at the Journal of Cell Biology and Rossner and Yamada’s discussion. Cromey discusses image manipulation in “Avoiding twisted pixels: ethical guidelines for the appropriate use and manipulation of scientific digital images”.
Authors are responsible to identify any unusual inherent hazards or risks in a manuscript, include appropriate warnings, and refer to relevant safety precautions. This could be products, chemicals, operations, or technologies posing a threat to public health and safety, the environment, plants, animals, or equipment.
Journals should ask authors to inform them at the time of manuscript submission if their study has potential for both benevolent and malevolent application. This is often referred to as “dual use research.”
Journals should ask these authors for example to conform to the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) guidelines for Dual Use Life Sciences Research. The NSABB report presents a useful description and discussion of “dual use research of concern.”
Concerns about questionable research practices may be raised through the use of screening software or by editors, peer reviewers, or third parties. COPE has flowcharts for responding to concerns that have been raised by third parties directly or indirectly. Sometimes further investigation may require disclosing the third party’s identity. If so, the individual should be informed and give approval before their identity is disclosed.
Journal publishing teams, which include the publisher, the editorial team and/or the society, have an important role to play in addressing potential cases of questionable research practices.
Regardless of whether the concern arose from screening, editors, peer reviewers, or third parties, potentially questionable research practices that have specific, detailed evidence to support the claim or concern should be investigated appropriately, whether they are raised anonymously or otherwise. The international models for responding to allegations of questionable research practices are discussed by the Council of Science Editors in its recommendations for identification of such practices and guidelines for action. The Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, written during the Second World Congress on Research Integrity, presents “principles and professional responsibilities that are fundamental to the integrity of research wherever it is undertaken”.
Journal publishing teams, which include the publisher, the editorial team and/or the society, have an important role to play in addressing potential cases of data fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, image manipulation, unethical research, biased reporting, authorship issues, redundant or duplicate publication, and potential conflicts of interest, each of which is discussed in more detail in other sections.
In instances where an investigation cannot be conducted by a journal’s publishing team, for example, if it relates to issues that may have occurred which would be difficult for the journal to source the necessary information to investigate (i.e. data fabrication, authorship issues, unethical research, etc.), journals should request investigations by research institutions, employers, funders, or the relevant national statutory body. However, for some cases of questionable research practices (for example, plagiarism or image manipulation), which can be assessed by the journal, it is appropriate for these cases to be investigated and acted upon by a journal’s publishing team. However, the journal should ensure that the relevant parties are kept informed; this includes the authors and their institutions and/or funders.
Editors should work with their publisher to consider relevant regulations, and to decide whether and how to refer cases of suspected questionable research practices, and what action to take.
Editors seeking advice about suspected questionable research practices should first speak with their publisher.
The merits of different peer-review models (for example, revealing peer reviewers’ identities to authors and/or attempting to mask authors’ identities from peer reviewers) have been the subject of considerable debate and study, for example, as conducted by the Publishing Research Consortium and Sense About Science. However, there is no clear evidence of the superiority of any one peer review model over another. The benefits and feasibility of different models vary between disciplines. Editors should choose a peer-review model that best suits their journal and community.
COPE has developed Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers, to which editors and their editorial board can refer for guidance.
Further guidance on the ethics of peer review is available from many sources. For example, Rockwell presents guidance for reviewers and EuCheMS provides guidelines for journals. Hames’s book “Peer Review and Manuscript Management in Scientific Journals: Guidelines for Good Practice” presents useful recommendations and checklists.
Peer reviewers can play an important role in identifying potential questionable research practices.
To create an efficient, effective peer-review process, editors should:
Peer reviewers can play an important role in identifying potential questionable research practices such as possible data fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, redundant or duplicate publication, image manipulation, unethical research, biased reporting, authorship abuse, and undeclared conflicts of interest.
Editors should remind peer reviewers of this role, and of their requirement to:
A discussion of plagiarism is provided by the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in its policy on plagiarism. Included in this discussion is the general working definition: “ORI considers plagiarism to include both the theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work. It does not include authorship or credit disputes.”
Journals should explain in their instructions to authors how submitted manuscripts are screened for duplicated text and possible plagiarism.
Editors can help educate about and prevent plagiarism by screening submitted manuscripts for duplicated text. Journals should explain in their instructions to authors how submitted manuscripts are screened for duplicated text and possible plagiarism. Crossref Similarity Check is one of the screening services available for this purpose. COPE have flowcharts for how to handle cases of potential plagiarism in a submitted manuscript or a published article. A primer for editors handling cases of plagiarism is available here.
The Council of Science Editors incorporates a definition of duplicate or redundant publication into its White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications:
“[A]uthors must avoid duplicate publication, which is reproducing verbatim content from their other publications.”
Wiley has also published information about duplicate publication.
Journals should establish processes to avoid duplicate and redundant publication, including:
The following types of “prior publication” do not present cause for concerns about duplicate or redundant publication (see also the information in these guidelines on preprints):
If a manuscript is published and later found to be redundant, the editor should refer to the COPE Flowcharts and work with the publisher to retract the duplicate paper.
Journals should consider how they might detect concurrent or multiple submissions. For example, in cases where journals are part of an editorial group or portfolio with legitimate access to internal information for the whole journal family, detection aids or mechanisms should be put in place for editors to use as part of their editorial office system.
If concurrent or multiple submissions are detected, the editor should work with their publisher and refer to the COPE flowchart on redundant (duplicate) publication.
COPE hosted a discussion about text recycling and has shared Text Recycling Guidelines. Journals may find it useful to establish a policy about how much, if any, and under what circumstances, they consider it acceptable to recycle text and results between manuscripts. This may be important, for example, for authors who wish to communicate results from a research project to multiple audiences. In this instance, full or partial results – with appropriate citation of prior publication(s) – might be recycled for legitimate reasons, although the discussion and conclusions would be different.
Journals may choose to publish materials that have been accurately translated from an original publication in a different language. Journals that translate and publish material that has been published elsewhere should ensure that they have appropriate permission. They should indicate clearly that the material has been translated and re-published and should identify the original source of the material.
A preprint is a manuscript that is made publicly available via a preprint server usually prior to or simultaneous with submission to a journal. For further information on preprints, see COPE discussion document here.
Wiley believes journals should allow for the submission of manuscripts that have already been made available on preprint servers (for further information see here). Allowing submission does not, of course, guarantee that a manuscript will be considered for peer review; it simply reflects the belief that availability on a preprint server should not disqualify a manuscript from submission. Journals should establish a policy about preprint servers and declare this in their author guidelines. Any previous publication as a preprint should be disclosed in the paper.
For Wiley authors, you can view an individual journal’s policy on preprints via the Author Compliance Tool available on Wiley’s Author Services site.
It is essential practice for journals to adopt publication policies to ensure that ethical and responsible research is published, and that all necessary consents and approvals have been obtained from authors to publish their work.
Research involving animals should be conducted with the same rigor as research in humans. Journals should encourage authors to implement the 3Rs principles of replacement (approaches which avoid or replace the use of animals), reduction (methods which minimize the number of animals used) and refinement (methods which minimize animal suffering and improve welfare).
The International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS) has published ethical guidelines for researchers, editors, and reviewers.
Journals should encourage authors to adhere to animal research reporting standards, for example the ARRIVE reporting guidelines, which describe the details journals should require from authors regarding:
Journals should ask authors to confirm that ethical and legal approval was obtained prior to the start of the study and state the name of the body giving the approval. Authors also should state whether experiments were performed in accordance with relevant institutional and national guidelines and regulations. For example:
Editors may ask authors to describe in their manuscript how discomfort, distress, and pain were avoided and minimized, and to confirm that animals did not suffer unnecessarily at any stage of an experiment.
Editors may request that reviewers comment on the standard of experimental reporting, experimental design, or any other aspects of the study reported that may cause concern. If concerns are raised or clarifications are needed, they may need to request evidence of ethical research approval or question authors.
For research which includes, or refers to, human participants, it is necessary to detail the study population which requires the use of descriptors. It is important that the language and descriptors used to describe research populations are bias-free. The sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2009) provides recommendations for eliminating bias in language in relation to gender, age, racial and ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability status, and socioeconomic status.
For research related to gender, age, racial and ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability status, and socioeconomic status, there may occasionally be qualitative data from participants (i.e. direct quotes or transcribed interviews) which may include derogatory demographic descriptors. Wherever possible, authors should avoid using derogatory demographic descriptors or offensive language unless it is essential to the research in question. For example, offensive language may be appropriate to include if it is a direct quote (and noted as such) from a participant reporting their own personal experiences of the use of such language.
Potential disputes over borders and territories may have direct relevance for authors when describing their research in a submitted manuscript, or in the address they use for correspondence. The choices made by authors should be respected, but should a perceived dispute or complaint be raised, then editorial teams should attempt to find a resolution that works for all parties. Ultimately, the final decision on content is an editorial matter and will rest with the journal editors which, where necessary, will be in consultation with the relevant society and publisher.
The US Office for Human Research Protection has a searchable database of independent community institutional review boards that approve research and publication of culturally sensitive materials. More information is provided in “Principles and Procedures: Conducting Research in a Maori Context” from Waikato Institute of Technology and “Community IRBs and Research Review Boards: Shaping the Future of Community-Engaged Research” from Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
There is recognition of increasing innovation in the management of joint copyright in relation to intercultural research, to enable appropriate legal acknowledgment of intellectual property in attribution and acknowledgment.
Editors should consider any sensitivities when publishing images of objects that might have cultural significance or cause offence (for example, religious texts or historical events). In addition:
When detailing demographic information about a study population, it is advisable to use terms to designate ethnicity (e.g. African American and South Asian) rather than race. The British Sociological Association (BSA) have devised some language guidelines for when referring to ethnicity and race.
Journals should only consider publishing research which includes individual participants’ information and images where the authors’ have obtained the prior informed consent to publish from all participants.
For manuscripts reporting studies involving human participants, including but extending beyond medical research, journals should require a statement from authors to confirm that the appropriate ethical approval has been received, along with details of the approving ethics committee, and that the study conforms to recognized standards, see for example, Declaration of Helsinki; US Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects; European Medicines Agency Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice or the Ethical Review Methods for Biomedical Research involving Humans adopted by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China.
Journals should only consider publishing research which includes individual participants’ information and images where the authors’ have obtained the prior informed consent from all participants. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidance states:
“Non-essential identifying details should be omitted. Informed consent should be obtained if there is any doubt that anonymity can be maintained. For example, masking the eye region in photographs of patients is inadequate protection of anonymity.”
In cases where manuscripts may involve potentially vulnerable groups and, therefore, where informed consent may have required particular attention from the study authors and the institution where the work took place, we recommend particular care from journal teams to ensure expected standards have both been met and are described in the articles they publish. The Icelandic Human Rights Center presents a list containing twelve examples of vulnerable groups: “1) women and girls; 2) children; 3) refugees; 4) internally displaced persons; 5) stateless persons; 6) national minorities; 7) indigenous peoples 8) migrant workers; 9) disabled persons; 10) older adults; 11) HIV positive persons and AIDS victims; 12) Roma/Gypsies/Sinti; and 13) lesbian, gay and transgender people.” The Economic and Social Research Council in the UK provides further advice about research with potentially vulnerable people.
To ensure that informed consent has been obtained, journals should require authors to confirm this upon submission, and require that this information be included in a statement to this effect within their manuscript. Note that consent to participate in research is separate from consent to publish. It is necessary to obtain consent to publish if there is any possibility that information shared may identify an individual person, and document that this has been given within the manuscript. Consent forms do not need to be submitted with the manuscript, but researchers should provide necessary details if requested to do so by the journal. Many journals provide their authors with templated consent forms which they can use to seek informed consent from participants. Wiley has a standard patient consent form available if required.
In the case of technical images (for example, radiographs or micrographs), editors should ensure that all information that could identify the subject has been removed from the image. For voices or images of any human subject, permission according to applicable national laws must be sought from research participants before recording or distributing. In many jurisdictions, it is a requirement that formal copyright clearance is obtained to publish any video or audio recordings. When publishing genetic sequences or family genograms editors may need consent from more than just the index case. The CARE guidelines are useful for editors who publish case reports.
The World Health Organization and Declaration of Helsinki both recommend that clinical trials should be registered prospectively, before participants are enrolled. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations also requires its members to register trials. Legislation varies. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 does not require registration for Phase 1 studies.
Journals that publish clinical trials should make prospective registration in suitable recommended registries (e.g. ClinicalTrials.gov) a requirement for publication of such trials. They should also follow the CONSORT (CONsolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) guidelines. Clinical trial registration numbers should be included in all papers that report their results. A suitable statement about this in journal instructions for authors might read: “We require that clinical trials are prospectively registered in a publicly accessible database. Please include the name of the trial register and your clinical trial registration number at the end of your abstract. If your trial is not registered, or was registered retrospectively, please explain the reasons for this.”
Journals should request that authors list all funding sources in their manuscript, for example, in the Acknowledgments section. If there is no specific funding this should be stated. The role of the research funder beyond providing funding itself should also be described. It may be important to disclose, for example, if a commercial organization funded the study, designed the study, and also recruited the investigators.
Other sources of support should be clearly identified in the Acknowledgments section of the manuscript. For example, these might include funding for open access publication derived from a grant or from an author’s institution, or funding for writing or editorial assistance, or provision of experimental materials.
The purpose of making amendments to a published article (for example a correction or a retraction) is to maintain the integrity of the published literature. Amendments are not to be construed as punitive in any way or to be used as a sanction towards the authors involved. In cases of potentially questionable research practices it is the role of the institution to investigate and provide resolution.
However, on rare occasions it may be necessary for a journal to impose sanctions on researchers who have engaged in questionable research practices or publishing ethics malpractice: for example, a time-bound ban against publishing any further articles in the journal when doing so puts the journal’s reputation demonstrably at risk; or refraining from allowing a researcher to serve as a reviewer or editor. We suggest that any bans of this nature should be reviewed at the end of the allotted time period and revoked or extended if necessary. There should also be a means for any sanctions to be appealed by writing to the journal and/or publisher.
While journal editors should welcome contributions from all over the world, they must follow sanction laws and regulations. As of the date of this update, sanctions measures imposed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Australia are currently in place against Cuba, Crimea, Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Journal editors should treat with caution any submission from a sanctioned country with regard to the subject matter and seek legal advice if necessary.
Author Contributions: Lindsey Mathews, Elizabeth Moylan, Ulf Scheffler, Michael Streeter, Leah Webster updated the second edition of these guidelines that was written by Lisa Deakin, Martine Docking, Chris Graf, Jackie Jones, Sue Joshua, Tiffany McKerahan, Martin Ottmar, Allen Stevens, Edward Wates and Deb Wyatt in 2014.
Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge those who contributed to the first edition of the ethics guidelines in 2006: Lise Baltzer, Caroline Black, Alyson Bowman, Suzan Fiack, Andrew Robinson, Diane Scott-Lichter and Elizabeth Wager. We are also grateful to David Hewes, Chris Graf, Joyce Griffin, Tamaryin Godinho, Helen McLean, Deidre Silver and Michael Willis for all their suggestions and input for the 2020 revision.