The pressure to publish is increasing in recent years and journals are one of the most powerful tools for publication of articles. The publication process has evolved a code of conduct known as publication ethics. It can be defined as a self-regulatory mechanism insisting on morality on the part of peer reviewers, authors, and publishers to establish higher standards of editorial processing developed for the publication process of scholarly journals. A duplicate publication such as self-plagiarism and inappropriate authorship are the major issues responsible for the violation of publication ethics. Tackling such issues can lead to a waste of time and human resources. Publication ethics violations can corrode the integrity of science (10.4103/0976-500X.155487). It is a global problem that also includes gift authorship, fabrication and falsification, pressured authorship, ghost authorship, and fake affiliation. The scientific publication process is generally built on trust. Therefore, self-regulation on the part of the authors and journals should encourage them to follow the code of conduct.
A manuscript should contain adequate detail and references to permit others for replicating the work. All manuscripts are subject to peer review and are expected to meet standards of academic excellence. They are reviewed by the editor and if approved, submissions will be considered by peer reviewers, whose identities will remain anonymous to the authors. Authors reporting original research should present an accurate amount of the work performed as well as an objective discussion of its significance. Underlying data should be represented accurately in the paper, it should not be fabricated. Fraudulent or knowingly inaccurate statements constitute unethical behavior and are unacceptable.
Science and Innovation (SNI) consult experts and the academic editor before deciding on appropriate actions, including but not limited to recruiting reviewers with specific expertise, assessment by additional editors, and declining to further consider a submission.
Copying even one sentence, without proper citation is referred to as plagiarism. The use of previously published work by another author in one’s manuscript without attribution and fraudulently passing it as one’s work is plagiarism. Plagiarism can be of two types depending on the extent of the content reproduced which are clear plagiarism and minor copying of short phrases only without any misattribution of data. Taking the ideas and work of other scientists without giving them credit is unfair and dishonest. This is the most common form of scientific misconduct in manuscript writing. Plagiarism in all its forms constitutes unethical behavior and is unacceptable to use your own words instead. Authors must not use the words, figures, or ideas of others without consent, credit, or acknowledgment. All sources whether from someone else’s manuscript, or even one of your own that has previously been published must be cited at the point they are used, and reuse of wording must be limited and be attributed or quoted in the text. Science and Innovation (SNI) deploy software to detect submissions that overlap with published and submitted manuscripts. Manuscripts that are found to have been plagiarized from a manuscript by other authors, whether published or unpublished will be rejected immediately. If any case of plagiarism is found in published articles, they may need to be corrected or retracted.
Duplicate Submission and Redundant Publication
Manuscripts submitted to the journal must not be submitted elsewhere while under consideration and must be withdrawn before submitting to another journal. Submitting a new manuscript containing the same hypotheses, methodology, results, and conclusions as a previously published manuscript is called a duplicate or redundant publication. It is unethical to submit the same manuscript to more than one journal at the same time. Duplicate publications can be classified into major and minor offenses. A major offense is based on the same dataset with identical findings that authors have sought to hide redundancy either by changing the title or author order or not referring to previous papers. A minor offense is known as “salami-slicing” is either redundancy with some element or legitimate repetition or reanalysis (e.g., subgroup/extended follow-up/repeated methods). Authors should notify the editor if they wish to withdraw their work before the review, or if they choose not to respond to reviewer comments after receiving editors’ communication asking for revisions. All co-authors must agree to the request for withdrawal and this agreement must be made clear to the editor of the journal with which the study is under consideration. Authors must refrain from such misconduct as this is unacceptable and unethical behavior. After receiving the receipt of notification regarding the withdrawal from the journal, authors may submit their manuscript elsewhere.
Science and Innovation (SNI) consider only original content, i.e. articles that have not been previously published, including in a language other than English. Articles based on content previously made public only as abstract, as part of a published lecture, as an academic thesis or as an electronic preprint will be considered. This journal will consider extended versions of articles published at conferences provided this is declared in the cover letter, the previous articles are cited and indicated, the difference of their submitted manuscript from previous work, and further any necessary permissions are obtained.
Citing one’s published work in upcoming papers and introducing concepts that are outside the scope in the study is referred to as self-citation. If authors are found to include citations in the submitted manuscripts just to increase the number of citations to a given author’s work, or articles published in a particular journal, may incur sanctions. Asking authors to include references by editors and reviewers merely to increase citations to their own or an associate’s work, to the journal, or to another journal they are associated with is identified as unethical by most of the scientific community and looked down upon by peers. However, sometimes, authors may have published a large amount of literature within the scope of their research interest and the subsequent paper is a continuation of previous papers, making self-citations mandatory. However, authors should not report the work which is out of context in the research being reported.
Fabrication and Falsification
Fabrication and falsification are extremely serious forms of research misconduct. Both of these practices make people distrust scientists. Data falsification means the researcher did the experiment, but then modified some of the data, and data fabrication means the researcher did not do the study but create the data. If the authors of submitted manuscripts or published articles are found to have fabricated or falsified the results, including the manipulation of images, may incur sanctions, and published articles may be retracted. If editors or reviewers are suspicious at the time of the review process, they should inform the journal and may ask the authors to disclose the raw datasheets to confirm or alleviate the suspicion. Editors may request the authors for the datasheets even after a few years of publication if sufficient doubt is raised.
Authorship and Acknowledgments
The authors should ensure the novelty of their work If the authors have used the work of others, that this has been appropriately cited or quoted in the reference section of their manuscript and permission has been obtained where necessary. Proper acknowledgment of the work of others must always be given. Authors should cite publications that have influenced the reported work and that give the work appropriate context within the larger scholarly record. Authorship should be limited to those who have made a significant scientific contribution to the research in the manuscript, approved its claims, and agreed to be an author. The three major types of misconduct with authorship are ghost authorship, gifted authorship, and guest authorship. Ghost authors are usually paid authors who contribute substantially to the development of the paper. Gifted authors are typically the heads of institutions or departments even without significant contribution to a particular study. All those who have made substantial contributions should be listed as co-authors. Guest authors are those whose presence as a co-author significantly improves the chances of acceptance of the manuscript. Author contributions may be recognized in the acknowledgments section. The corresponding author should ensure that all appropriate co-authors and no inappropriate co-authors are included on the paper, changes in authorship must be declared to the journal and all co-authors agree to this amendment and have individually signed the requisition sent to the editor of the journal.
Anyone who contributed to the research or manuscript preparation, but is not an author, including ghost, gifted, and guest authors should be acknowledged with their permission. Submissions by anyone other than one of the authors will not be considered. The extent of involvement decides the order of authors. Authors are expected to consider carefully the list and order of authors before submitting their manuscript. Editors/Journal co-ordinator should be informed about the relative contribution of each author to the study at an early stage. They may request that authors of a study whether sponsored by a funder or not to sign a statement, such as “I had full access to all of the data in this study and I take complete responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.”
Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts of interest COIs, also known as ‘competing interests’ directly or indirectly influence the conduct of the author concerning the particular manuscript. COI can be defined as financial, personal, social, or other interests that occur when issues outside research could be reasonably perceived to affect the neutrality or objectivity of the work or its assessment. This can happen at any stage of the publication process, including during the experimentation phase, while a manuscript is being written, or during the process of making a manuscript online. Submissions with undeclared conflicts that are later revealed may be rejected as this may be embarrassing for the authors, editor, and the journal. It may be necessary to publish a corrigendum or reassess the review process. COI does not stop work from being published or prevent someone from being involved in the review process. However, they must be declared as it allows others to make informed decisions about the work and its review process.
Conflicts include the following-
Financial — All sources of financial support for the conduct of the research and preparation of the article should be disclosed. The role of the sponsor, if any, in study design, in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report should be disclosed. If there is no funding source(s) then this should be stated. All funding, whether a conflict or not, must be declared in the ‘Funding Statement’.
- Affiliations — being employed/member/advisory board of an organization with an interest in the outcome of the work.
- Intellectual property — patents or trademarks owned by someone or their organization.
- Personal — friends, family, relationships, and other close personal connections.
- Ideology — beliefs or activism, for example, political or religious, relevant to the work.
- Academic — competitors or someone whose work is critiqued.
The authors must declare all potential interests in a ‘Conflicts of interest’ section. If there are no COIs, the authors should state “The author(s) declare(s) that there are no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.” Submitting authors are responsible for co-authors declaring their interests.
Editors and Reviewers
Editors and reviewers should decline the invitation from the journal when they have a recent or current publication with any author. If editors have a close personal connection to any author that poses potential conflicts related to articles under consideration should recuse themselves from editorial decisions. Editors and reviewers must inform the journal if they have previously discussed the manuscript with the authors. Any reviewer who feels that the research reported in a manuscript is outside his research interests should notify the editor and decline to participate in the review process. Editors and reviewers should recuse themselves from participating in the review process if they have a financial interest in the subject of the work.
Editors must not share information of the manuscript including whether it has been received and is under review, its content and status in the review process, criticism by reviewers, and its final decision to anyone other than the authors and reviewers. If any or all of the manuscript details submitted to a journal are shared before publication, then authors may be harmed by their premature disclosure.
Reviewers must declare any remaining interests which they don’t want to reveal to the authors in the ‘Confidential’ section of the review form, which will be only considered by the editor. They should respond promptly to the requests to review and submit reviews within the time agreed. The reviewer’s comments should be polite, constructive, and honest. Reviewers must not use knowledge of the work they are reviewing before its publication to further their own interests.
Corrections and Retractions
When any case of unethical practices is identified in published articles, the publisher will consider what action is required and may bring this thing into the notice of the editor who then has to initiate a proper inquiry, which would also involve seeking clarifications from the author. If it was a case of an inadvertent error in data collection or analysis or interpretation of data, all authors for a multi-authored publication should be informed. Errors by the authors may be corrected by a corrigendum and errors by the publisher by an erratum which may be published to rectify the previous error in the same journal. It is unethical to submit the same manuscript to more than one journal at the same time. This can damage the reputation of the authors and the journals if published in more than one journal as the later publication will have to be withdrawn or retracted. Such acts of misconduct, when established, are to be dealt with by the responsible institution following the regulations and laws in force at the time.