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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 109-110

Understanding 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 Publication11-Oct-2017

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_104_17

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How to cite this article:
Nayak BK. Understanding the various misconducts in the process of publication in biomedical journals. J Clin Ophthalmol Res 2017;5:109-10

How to cite this URL:
Nayak BK. Understanding the various misconducts in the process of publication in biomedical journals. J Clin Ophthalmol Res [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Jul 4];5:109-10. Available from: https://www.jcor.in/text.asp?2017/5/3/109/216426

In the era of evidence-based medicine, a scientific publication has become the need of the hour. All doctors have an intense desire to publish which becomes a necessity for those working in teaching institutions for promotions. Very little do they realize that it is not a cakewalk. Starting with a concept and going through the process of research which ends in publication can help in furthering science. It is necessary that every step must be taken within the framework of certain accepted guidelines and ethical values.[1] Any deviation which violates these values is termed as “misconduct” and usually involves the authors (researchers), editors, reviewers, or editorial board members.[2] This editorial is written with the aim of apprising the readers of the possible misconducts committed by various stakeholders so that appropriate preventive measures can be taken at different levels. The guidelines provided by the committee for publication ethics (COPE) form the basis of this editorial.[1]

  Study Design Top

Research should be executed after thorough justification, a proper plan, and design. The approval of the Ethics Committee after submission of a detailed protocol is the best way to begin with. It should be mentioned here that any intended negligence or ignoring any aspect which could lead to substandard research may also be construed as “misconduct.” Some of the important guidelines to avoid misconduct include the formation of relevant research question, preparation of protocol in agreement with all the investigators and collaborators, seeking approval of ethics committee, and deciding the exact role of each investigator and collaborator. A detailed description of the collection of data, statistical issues including sample size calculation, and statistical tests should also be listed. Other necessities such as obtaining informed consent and adherence to guidelines involving the humans or animals are also important. One has to provide details regarding the quality control and supervision of the research throughout the entire period. It is advisable to consider the authorship and publication issues at this stage itself.

  Data Analysis Top

It should be as per the protocol and deviation, if any, should be mentioned with a proper justification. Falsification, fabrication, or alteration of data is considered as a gross misconduct and should be avoided at all cost. One should not try to hide part of data even if it is not suiting the proposed hypothesis. Post hoc analysis is permitted provided it is disclosed, or else it will be considered as misconduct. Any element of bias should also be disclosed honestly. In other words, the authors should provide the entire data without any distortion or deviation.

  Authorship Top

There have been times when issues related to authorship has also been considered as a misconduct. The various contributors should be included as per their intellectual contribution in conducting the research. All authors should have contributed significantly in the planning and conducting of the research and anyone who has contributed significantly should not be missed out. Their contribution toward manuscript writing is also necessary. Care should be taken to see that all of them have read and accepted the final draft of the manuscript. All authors should own and be ready to take the responsibility regarding the authenticity of each and every part of the research and content of the paper. The four criteria mentioned by the International Council of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) to qualify for authorship are being reproduced below.[2]

  1. "Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content
  3. Final approval of the version to be published, and
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.”

Anyone who has contributed significantly but do not qualify to become an author must be included at the end as an acknowledgment.

  Conflict of Interest Top

It is described as something which can produce bias in the conclusion or decision-making. It can involve researchers (authors), editors, or reviewers. It can be personal, commercial, financial, academic, or political. If the authors are assured of some personal financial support, employment, or own shares of the company, a financial bias is obvious. Personal conflict of interest may lead to rejection of paper by editor, whereas reviewers can give adverse/favorable comments based on academic bias about the subject of the research. It is always advisable to disclose any conflict of interest. All financial support should be mentioned at the end of the article so that the readers can incorporate that information in evaluating the value of the article. Nondisclosure of conflict of interest will be considered as a gross misconduct if detected later. The reviewers are supposed to disclose their conflict of interest to the editors. They can even refuse to review a paper if they feel that it will influence the overall assessment of the paper. The editor should keep himself/herself away from the review process if his/her major conflict of interest exists.

  Peer-Review Top

Though peer-review process expects adherence of high ethical standard, it is not free from occurrence of misconduct. All information about the article and research gained by editors and reviewers is supposed to be privileged and confidential. The content and subject of the article should not be used or disclosed by the reviewers till publication of the article. Destroying the hard copy or deleting the soft copy of the reviewed manuscript is a good option to avoid this misconduct. The reviewers cannot even assign the article to anyone else, without the permission of the editor. Reviewers should perform timely and speedy reviews to the best of their ability. The editors are not obliged to honor any suggested reviewers by the authors. However, if the author has provided some negative list of reviewers, it is usually accepted by the editors. Any misconduct suspected by reviewers should be informed to the editor in confidence.

  Redundant Publication Top

In this competitive era, doctors want more publication in their name. In this enthusiasm, the same content and data are likely to be published in different papers with slight modification without even cross referencing them. This constitutes redundant or duplicate publication. Salami publication is termed when one work is unnecessarily divided into more than one publication. These tendencies should be avoided unless there is a valid reason such as publishing in another language. In any case, necessary permissions and disclosures must be done. Published abstract of paper presented in conferences is permitted to be submitted as full paper in medical journal, but this fact has to be disclosed at the time of submission.

  Plagiarism Top

It is a common misconduct due to cut-n-paste tendency in this internet era. One should also be aware of the easy detection of plagiarism due to availability of plagiarism detection software. Authors should refrain from copying others' work or ideas. If it is important and fits in your idea, then you should paraphrase it in your own words and also cite the reference. If an important line is copied, you should put it in inverted comma with the relevant reference. Even copying sentences/ideas from your own previous work should be avoided as this constitutes “self-plagiarism.”[3]

  Media Report Top

The media is always in a habit of blowing news out of proportion. Researchers should refrain from going to press for premature publication in mass media. The presenters should be informed if the media is present during scientific presentation. Certain restrictions are applicable while going to the press before publication of any article in biomedical journals; hence, it is better to find out the policies of the journal in this regard. Editorial decision based on financial considerations, such as procurement of advertisements or orders for reprint if published, amounts to misconduct by the journal. Even misleading advertisements should not find place in biomedical journals.

With the ensuing discussion, it is obvious that honesty and clarity have to be maintained at all levels of the research and publication process by everybody involved at different levels. An intentional “misconduct” would definitely lead to a dire consequence. Sometimes, certain mistakes are committed inadvertently, which may be pardonable in rare circumstances. The perpetrators always plead ignorance, but remember ignorance is no excuse. This editorial is written to prime the authors and reviewers about their responsibility so that the “misconduct” can be avoided. The consequences will be discussed in the next editorial.

  References Top

COPE. Available from: https://www.publicationethics.org/about/guide/authors. [Last accessed on 2017 Sep 20].  Back to cited text no. 1
Nayak BK, Maniar R. The scourge of plagiarism. Indian J Ophthalmol 2006;54:75-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
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