Research misconduct is defined in the US Federal Policy on Research Misconduct:
"Research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results."
The international models for responding to misconduct are discussed by the Council of Science Editors in their recommendations for identification of misconduct and guidelines for action. The World Association of Medical Editors makes suggestions about responding to allegations of misconduct. 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."
Members of journal publishing teams have an important role to play in addressing potential cases of data fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, image manipulation, unethical research, biased reporting, authorship abuse, redundant or duplicate publication, and undeclared conflicts of interest.
In most instances journals should request investigations by research institutions, employers, funders, or the relevant national statutory body (for example, the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity) rather than conducting investigations themselves. However, it can be appropriate for some cases of misconduct (for example, plagiarism or image manipulation) to be investigated and acted upon by a journal publishing team, but even then the journal publishing team should inform the relevant parties.
Editors should work with their publisher to consider relevant regulations, and to decide whether and how to refer cases of suspected misconduct, and what action to take.
Editors looking for advice about suspected misconduct should first speak with their publisher, and revisit the relevant employer and funder policies regarding the reporting and investigation of research misconduct.
There are many sources of high-quality information available to support investigations. For example COPE provides editors with independent advice from other editors about difficult cases via the COPE Forum. Through its case archive COPE enables editors to learn from previous cases. 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" which are available from EuCheMS publications.
Allegations of suspected misconduct that have specific, detailed evidence to support the claim should be investigated appropriately, whether they are raised anonymously or by named "whistle-blowers."
Changes to images can create misleading results when research data are collected as images. Thus 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 quick examination of scientific 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 suggest that journals explain in their instructions for authors that:
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."
A discussion of plagiarism is provided by the US Office of Research Integrity 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."
Editors can help educate about and prevent plagiarism (as well as redundant or duplicate publication) by screening submitted manuscripts. Journals should explain in their instructions to authors how submitted manuscripts are screened for duplicated text and possible plagiarism. CrossCheck is one of the screening services available for this purpose. Journals may consider the following text, adapted from the CrossCheck website:
"CrossCheck is a multi-publisher initiative to screen published and submitted content for originality. This journal uses the iThenticate software to detect instances of overlapping and similar text in submitted manuscripts. The 'CrossCheck Deposited' or 'CrossCheck Depositor' logos indicate that this journal has committed to actively combating plagiarism. To find out more about CrossCheck, visit http://www.crossref.org/crosscheck.html." Sample copy is 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."
Journals should establish processes to help them avoid duplicate and redundant publication. The Copyright Transfer Agreement, Exclusive License Agreement or the Open Access Agreement, one of which must be submitted before publication in any Wiley journal, requires signature from the corresponding author to warrant that the article is an original work, has not been published before, and is not being considered for publication elsewhere in its final form.
Journals from different disciplines vary in their approach to pre-print servers. Many biomedical journals would consider posting an article to a pre-print server to render any subsequent journal publication redundant. Thus an article submitted for consideration after having been posted to a pre-print server would be rejected. However, many researchers working in physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance and statistics post their articles to arXiv before submitting an article successfully to a journal for peer review and publication. Journals should establish a policy about pre-print servers and declare this in their instructions for authors. Any previous publication should be disclosed in the paper.
The following types of "prior publication" do not present cause for concerns about duplicate or redundant publication:
If a paper is published and later found to be redundant, the editor should refer to the COPE Flowcharts and should consider working with their publisher to retract the duplicate paper.
COPE hosted a discussion about text recycling. The US Office of Research Integrity has also published on this topic in its document "Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing."
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 articles. 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 might be recycled for legitimate reasons, although the discussion and conclusions would be different.
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 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 publication in a submitted manuscript.
Duplicate information published in translations
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 republished, and should identify the original source of the material.
Wiley has published advice about sanctions in which we refer to the COPE guidelines. Journals may, for example, publish a retraction, may inform the author's institution, and may refuse for a time to consider future work from the authors.