Biomedical authors’ awareness of publication ethics: an international survey

Authors : Sara Schroter, Jason Roberts, Elizabeth Loder, Donald B Penzien, Sarah Mahadeo, Timothy T Houle


The extent to which biomedical authors have received training in publication ethics, and their attitudes and opinions about the ethical aspects of specific behaviours, have been understudied. We sought to characterise the knowledge and attitudes of biomedical authors about common issues in publication ethics.


Cross-sectional online survey.

Setting and participants

Corresponding authors of research submissions to 20 journals.

Main outcome measure(s)

Perceived level of unethical behaviour (rated 0 to 10) presented in five vignettes containing key variables that were experimentally manipulated on entry to the survey and perceived level of knowledge of seven ethical topics related to publishing (prior publication, author omission, self-plagiarism, honorary authorship, conflicts of interest, image manipulation and plagiarism).


4043/10 582 (38%) researchers responded. Respondents worked in 100 countries and reported varying levels of publishing experience. 67% (n=2700) had received some publication ethics training from a mentor, 41% (n=1677) a partial course, 28% (n=1130) a full course and 55% (n=2206) an online course; only a small proportion rated training received as excellent.

There was a full range (0 to 10 points) in ratings of the extent of unethical behaviour within each vignette, illustrating a broad range of opinion about the ethical acceptability of the behaviours evaluated, but these opinions were little altered by the context in which it occurred.

Participants reported substantial variability in their perceived knowledge of seven publication ethics topics; one-third perceived their knowledge to be less than ‘some knowledge’ for the sum of the seven ethical topics and only 9% perceived ‘substantial knowledge’ of all topics.


We found a large degree of variability in espoused training and perceived knowledge, and variability in views about how ethical or unethical scenarios were. Ethical standards need to be better articulated and taught to improve consistency of training across institutions and countries.

URL : Biomedical authors’ awareness of publication ethics: an international survey


Returning Individual Research Results to Participants

Authors : National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Committee on the Return of Individual-Specific Research Results Generated in Research Laboratories. Editors: Autumn S. Downey, Emily R. Busta, Michelle Mancher, and Jeffrey R. Botkin

When is it appropriate to return individual research results to participants? The immense interest in this question has been fostered by the growing movement toward greater transparency and participant engagement in the research enterprise.

Yet, the risks of returning individual research results—such as results with unknown validity—and the associated burdens on the research enterprise are competing considerations.

Returning Individual Research Results to Participants reviews the current evidence on the benefits, harms, and costs of returning individual research results, while also considering the ethical, social, operational, and regulatory aspects of the practice.

This report includes 12 recommendations directed to various stakeholders—investigators, sponsors, research institutions, institutional review boards (IRBs), regulators, and participants—and are designed to help (1) support decision making regarding the return of results on a study-by-study basis, (2) promote high-quality individual research results, (3) foster participant understanding of individual research results, and (4) revise and harmonize current regulations.


La tension entre la pratique de recherche et l’intégrité scientifique : l’exemple de l’activité bibliographique

Auteurs/Authors : Sophie Kennel, Elsa Poupardin

L’activité bibliographique des chercheurs va de la constitution d’une culture savante à l’enrichissement de la connaissance scientifique par la publication. Notre étude interroge le lien entre l’intégrité scientifique et les constituants de cette production scientifique.

Elle permet de situer les connaissances et les positionnements des chercheurs sur la question de l’intégrité scientifique et montre les tensions entre l’activité prescrite, induite et l’activité réelle de lecture et de citation des chercheurs souvent déterminée par les normes d’évaluation.


Ethical Concerns in the Rise of Co-Authorship and Its Role as a Proxy of Research Collaborations

Author : Sameer Kumar

Increasing specialization, changes in the institutional incentives for publication, and a host of other reasons have brought about a marked trend towards co-authored articles among researchers.

These changes have impacted Science and Technology (S&T) policies worldwide. Co-authorship is often considered to be a reliable proxy for assessing research collaborations at micro, meso, and macro levels.

Although co-authorship in a scholarly publication brings numerous benefits to the participating authors, it has also given rise to issues of publication integrity, such as ghost authorships and honorary authorships.

The code of conduct of bodies such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) make it clear that only those who have significantly contributed to the study should be on the authorship list.

Those who have contributed little have to be appropriately “acknowledged” in footnotes or in the acknowledgement section. However, these principles are sometimes transgressed, and a complete solution still remains elusive.

URL : Ethical Concerns in the Rise of Co-Authorship and Its Role as a Proxy of Research Collaborations


How to counter undeserving authorship

Authors: Stefan Eriksson, Tove Godskesen, Lars Andersson, Gert Helgesson

The average number of authors listed on contributions to scientific journals has increased considerably over time. While this may be accounted for by the increased complexity of much research and a corresponding need for extended collaboration, several studies suggest that the prevalence of non-deserving authors on research papers is alarming.

In this paper a combined qualitative and quantitative approach is suggested to reduce the number of undeserving authors on academic papers: 1) ask scholars who apply for positions to explain the basics of a random selection of their co-authored papers, and 2) in bibliometric measurements, divide publications and citations by the number of authors.

URL : How to counter undeserving authorship


A Framework for the Assessment of Research and Its Impacts

Author : Cinzia Daraio

This paper proposes a holistic framework for the development of models for the assessment of research activities and their impacts. It distinguishes three dimensions, including in an original way, data as a main dimension, together with theory and methodology.

Each dimension of the framework is further characterized by three main building blocks: education, research, and innovation (theory); efficiency, effectiveness, and impact (methodology); and availability, interoperability, and “unit-free” property (data).

The different dimensions and their nine constituent building blocks are attributes of an overarching concept, denoted as “quality.” Three additional quality attributes are identified as implementation factors (tailorability, transparency, and openness) and three “enabling” conditions (convergence, mixed methods, and knowledge infrastructures) complete the framework.

A framework is required to develop models of metrics. Models of metrics are necessary to assess the meaning, validity, and robustness of metrics. The proposed framework can be a useful reference for the development of the ethics of research evaluation.

It can act as a common denominator for different analytical levels and relevant aspects and is able to embrace many different and heterogeneous streams of literature. Directions for future research are provided.

URL : A Framework for the Assessment of Research and Its Impacts



Advancing Scientific Knowledge: Ethical Issues in the Journal Publication Process

Author : Richard H. McCuen

The goal of this paper is to assess the journal publication process from value and ethical perspectives.

The specific objectives are: (1) To define fundamental values relevant to scientific journal publication; (2) To identify stakeholders involved in professional journals and their value rights and responsibilities; (3) To discuss the steps of the journal publication process where ethical dilemmas arise and the potential influences of such dilemmas on the advancement of knowledge; and (4) To summarize actions that can minimize unethical practices throughout the steps of the publication process.

Values such as honesty, efficiency, accountability, and fairness will be discussed. Issues related to the various stakeholders such as self-citation, plagiarism, dual publication, a lack of timeliness, and issues related to authorship will be a primary focus.

URL : Advancing Scientific Knowledge: Ethical Issues in the Journal Publication Process