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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Dealing with the various misconducts in the process of publication in biomedical journals

Department of Ophthalmology, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication18-Jan-2018

Correspondence Address:
Barun K Nayak
Department of Ophthalmology, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jcor.jcor_127_17

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How to cite this article:
Nayak BK. Dealing with the various misconducts in the process of publication in biomedical journals. J Clin Ophthalmol Res 2018;6:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Nayak BK. Dealing with the various misconducts in the process of publication in biomedical journals. J Clin Ophthalmol Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Feb 19];6:1-2. Available from: http://www.jcor.in/text.asp?2018/6/1/1/223563

The previous editorial covered the various possible misconducts committed by persons involved at various stages of publication.[1] It also advised the various precautions to be taken to avoid them from occurring. These are important issues and cannot be taken lightly as the consequences can be quite serious. This editorial will take you briefly through the steps suggested by the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE) in their guidelines on good publication practice.[2]

The basic principle of confirming misconduct evolves around “the confirmation of intention of proving or projecting something” which is not true. Hence, the process of investigation should not only involve the finding of facts but also the intention of the researcher, author, reviewer, editor, and publisher. The misconduct could have occurred due to negligence or intention or may have been because of complete disregard or total ignorance of the possible consequences. It can never be forgotten that complete honesty and full disclosure are mandatory.

An editor is ethically bound to investigate the cases of misconduct, so simply rejecting the paper with doubts of misconduct is not sufficient. However, the editors of Indian journals lack proper training of dealing with such situations and its occurrence is also a rarity at present. It is heartening to note that COPE is open to providing advice; however, they advise only on anonymized cases due to legal reasons.

Although editors are supposed to deal with all the misconducts, they should keep in mind that neither do they have the legal legitimacy nor do they have the means to investigate. Editors are supposed to handle the case with utmost care and with full confidentiality. “Timing” is crucial and a wise editor will know exactly when to alert the employer of the accused. The next few lines can provide some guidelines to the editors. If the reviewers have provided convincing evidence of serious misconduct, it must be passed on to the employer of the accused. In cases where reviewers have not provided the complete evidence and the employers have a facility to investigate, the information should be passed on to the employers. If some doubts have been raised about serious misconduct but are not supported by convincing evidence, the editor should seek expert advice confidentially. Based on the expert's advice, the editor can either inform the employer or proceed further with the normal editorial processes as the case may be. In a situation wherein the editor has strong convincing evidence of a serious misconduct, but there is no employer, the editor should refer it to the medical council. In cases where there is no legitimate organization or even the means to investigate, but the misconduct occurred is of a serious nature, the editor can get it published in the journal itself after taking legal advice. Another situation which calls for notification in the journal after taking legal advice is when the editor is convinced that a serious misconduct has taken place, but either the employer has not conducted a serious investigation or he has tried to cover it up. However, in all the cases, the authors must be given chance to respond to the accusation of a serious misconduct.

In cases of less serious misconduct such as redundant publication, authorship issue, or failure to disclose conflict of interest, the editor may not involve the employer. An independent expert's opinion should always be asked for. Authors must be given the opportunity to respond in all cases, even if it is small in nature. When the editor is convinced of a wrongdoing, he/she should adopt appropriate sanctions as outlined in COPE, which is reproduced below.[2]

“Sanctions may be applied separately or combined. The following are ranked in approximate order of severity:

  1. A letter of explanation (and education) to the authors, where there appears to be a genuine misunderstanding of principles
  2. A letter of reprimand and warning as to future conduct
  3. A formal letter to the relevant head of institution or funding body
  4. Publication of a notice of redundant publication or plagiarism
  5. An editorial giving full details of the misconduct
  6. Refusal to accept future submissions from the individual, unit, or institution responsible for the misconduct, for a stated period
  7. Formal withdrawal or retraction of the paper from the scientific literature, informing other editors and the indexing authorities
  8. Reporting the case to the General Medical Council or other such authority or organization which can investigate and act with due process.”

The purpose of the editorial is to educate authors and provide some guidelines to the editors to deal with this rare but tough situation. I only hope and wish that no editor ever gets any chance to handle situation of misconduct.

  References Top

Nayak BK. Understanding the various misconducts in the process of publication in biomedical journals. J Clin Ophthalmol Res 2017;5:109-10.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) GUIDELINES ON GOOD PUBLICATION PRACTICE. Available from: https://www.publicationethics.org/files/u7141/1999pdf13.pdf. [Last accessed on 2017 Oct 26].  Back to cited text no. 2


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