Ethics in Research & Publication

The ethics in researches and publications consists of the following issues:

1. Authorship

An “author” is generally considered to be an individual who has made a significant intellectual contribution to the study. All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship, and all those who qualify should be listed.

Naming authors on a scientific paper ensures that the appropriate individuals get credit, and are accountable, for the research. Deliberately misrepresenting a scientist's relationship to their work is considered to be a form of misconduct that undermines confidence in the reporting of the work itself.

Four criteria must all be met to be credited as an author:

■ Substantial contribution to the study conception and design, data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation.

■ Drafting or revising the article for intellectual content.

■ Approval of the final version.

■ Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work.

The following are some general guidelines:

■ The order of authorship should be "a joint decision of the coauthors".

■ Individuals who are involved in a study but don't satisfy the journal's criteria for authorship, should be listed as "Contributors" or "Acknowledged Individuals". Examples include: assisting the research by providing advice, providing research space, departmental oversight, and obtaining financial support.


2. Competing Interests (Conflict of Interest)

Transparency and objectivity are essential in scientific research and the peer review process.

When an investigator, author, editor, or reviewer has a financial/personal interest or belief that could affect his/her objectivity, or inappropriately influence his/her actions, a potential competing interest exists. Such relationships are also known as conflict of interest, dual commitments, competing interests, or competing loyalties. Undeclared financial interests may seriously undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and the science itself.

The most obvious competing interests are financial relationships such as:

■ Direct: employment, stock ownership, grants, patents.

■ Indirect: honoraria, consultancies to sponsoring organizations, mutual fund ownership, paid expert testimony.

Competing interests can also exist as a result of personal relationships, academic competition, and intellectual passion. An example might be a researcher who has:

■ A relative who works at the company whose product the researcher is evaluating.

■ A self-serving stake in the research results (e.g. potential promotion/ career advancement based on outcomes).

■ Personal beliefs that are in direct conflict with the topic he/she is researching.


3. Plagiarism

One of the most common types of publication misconduct is plagiarism–when one author deliberately uses another's work without permission, credit, or acknowledgment. Plagiarism takes different forms, from literal copying to paraphrasing some else's work and can include:

■ Data

■ Words and Phrases

■ Ideas and Concepts

Plagiarism has varying different levels of severity, such as:

■ How much of someone's work was taken–a few lines, paragraphs, pages, the full article?

■ What was copied–results, methods, or introduction section?

When it comes to your work, always remember that crediting the work of others (including your advisor’s or your own previous work) is a critical part of the process. You should always place your work in the context of the advancement of the field, and acknowledge the findings of others on which you have built your research.


4. Simultaneous Submission

Authors have an obligation to make sure their paper is based on original–never before published–research. Intentionally submitting or re-submitting work for duplicate publication is considered a breach of publishing ethics.

■ Simultaneous submission occurs when a person submits a paper to different publications at the same time, which can result in more than one journal publishing that particular paper.

■ Duplicate/multiple publication occurs when two or more papers, without full cross-reference, share essentially the same hypotheses, data, discussion points, and/or conclusions. This can occur in varying degrees: literal duplication, partial but substantial duplication, or even duplication by paraphrasing.

The main rule of thumb: articles submitted for publication must be original and must not have been submitted to any other publication. At the time of submission, authors must disclose any details of related papers (also when in a different language), similar papers in press, and translations.


5. Research Fraud

Research fraud is publishing data or conclusions that were not generated by experiments or observations, but by invention or data manipulation. There are two kinds in research and scientific publishing:

■ Fabrication: Making up research data and results, and recording or reporting them.

■ Falsification: Manipulating research materials, images, data, equipment, or processes. Falsification includes changing or omitting data or results in such a way that the research is not accurately represented. A person might falsify data to make it fit with the desired end result of a study.

Both fabrication and falsification are serious forms of misconduct because they result in a scientific record that does not accurately reflect observed truth.

Certain instances of fraud can be easy to spot–for example if a referee knows for a fact that a particular laboratory does not have the facilities to conduct the research that was published.


6. Salami Slicing

The “slicing” of research that would form one meaningful paper into several different papers is called "salami publication" or "salami slicing".

Unlike duplicate publication, which involves reporting the exact same data in two or more publications, salami slicing involves breaking up or segmenting a large study into two or more publications. These segments are referred to as "slices" of a study.

As a general rule, as long as the "slices" of a broken up study share the same hypotheses, population, and methods, this is not acceptable practice. The same "slice" should never be published more than once.

Most journals request that authors who either know or suspect a manuscript submitted for publication represents fragmented data should disclose this information, as well as enclose any other papers (published or unpublished) that might be part of the paper under consideration.