Publishing Ethics Guidelines

The strength of a journal is often directly related to the strength of its ethics. One of your most challenging and rewarding jobs as editor is to be the guardian of your journal's ethics. 

We believe that ethical publishing leads to a better science community, where everyone is valued, and everyone is responsible for the work they do. Wiley's Best Practice Guidelines on Publishing Ethics: A Publisher's Perspective, Second Edition, is widely acknowledged as the industry's most comprehensive publishing ethics guidance. We encourage journal editors to make good use of these guidelines and the resources below to help maintain a high standard of ethics for your journal.

Learn about the importance of COPE and ISMTE.
Read our guidelines for managing complaints and handing misconduct issues.

 

COPE and ISMTE: Two Pillars of Ethical Publishing

 

Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)

All Wiley journal editors are members of COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics), which provides the Core Practices guides. COPE offers advice to editors and publishers on all aspects of publication ethics and, in particular how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct. COPE also provides a forum for members to discuss individual cases. For more information contact your Wiley representative.

As the Editor-in-Chief of the journal, you will be set up as the Manager of your Journal Group with COPE. You can then invite up to 50 people to become a ‘user’ associated with your journal. Users have their own login details and can access members-only content. Users can access content, but they don't have editing rights—only Managers have this. Please take care to ensure users no longer associated with the journal are removed from the journal group.

 

International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE)

ISMTE exists ‘to enhance the professionalism of scholarly journals' editorial office staff by providing networking and training infrastructure, establishing and providing resources for best practices, and studying, benchmarking, and reporting on editorial office practices. Visit the ISMTE website for information on resources and training for editorial offices.

 

How to Handle Complaints and Misconduct

One of your responsibilities as a journal editor is to ensure, as far as is possible, that articles accepted for publication adhere to ethical standards in terms of the research conducted and the reporting of the research within the written article.

To find out more about specific types of misconduct, please consult Section 3 of our Best Practice Guidelines on Publishing Ethics, which covers Research Integrity. If you have concerns contact your publisher, who can provide legal support if necessary. Resources for editors, including guidelines and training materials, are also available from the Committee on Publication Ethics.

Misconduct in the article itself comes in two forms:

Reviewer Misconduct: might include such issues as fabricating data, unethical experiments on animals or humans, and failure to protect the confidentiality of subjects.
Author Misconduct: might include such issues as plagiarism, redundant publication, undisclosed conflicts of interest, and guest authorship.

 

Author Complaints

Information for authors regarding making a complaint about a retraction or related issue is available in the Retractions and Expressions of Concern section of our Ethics Guidelines.

 

How to Handle Reviewer Misconduct

Reviewer misconduct can range from minor issues, such as rude or unconstructive reviews, to major issues, such as the appropriation of author's ideas or data. As an editor, you entrust reviewers with a high level of responsibility. They are given access to privileged information (i.e. unpublished research) and their recommendations can sway the publication outcome. Unfortunately, there are rare occasions when that trust is misplaced.

Minor problems are relatively easy to respond to. Delete rude comments, and don't invite reviewers again if they supply poor quality, late, or unconstructive reviews. There may be other instances where editors receive complaints from authors about reviewer misconduct. We outline approaches to these instances below.

 

Appeals

Following the rejection of a paper, the author may appeal to the editor. Your journal should have a clear appeals policy stating under what circumstances an appeal will be considered and how the appeal process will be handled.

 

Conflicts of Interest

One issue authors might raise during an appeal for reviewer misconduct is bias due to conflict of interest. If your journal operates open peer review, the author will know the identity of the reviewer and can specify the potential conflict of interest. For journals operating single- or double-blind peer review, accusations of bias are likely to be suppositional rather than substantiated but should still be given careful consideration. Appeals can often be resolved by getting a second opinion. Engaging a new reviewer will eliminate the potential alleged bias. It is difficult in these cases to evidence malicious intent on behalf of a reviewer, but you retain the right not to use reviewers who you feel are unable to give an objective assessment.

 

Appropriated Data

Another possible complaint of reviewer misconduct concerns the alleged appropriation of data during the review process. An author may raise a complaint if they discover their ideas or data are used in a published paper. They may conclude that these can only have been appropriated during the review process. These issues can be complicated because there is likely to be some time lag between the review process conducted at your journal and the publication of the appropriated data. Because complaints may involve another journal and another editorial team, it's best to make sure you keep them informed. We recommend following the steps outlined in the COPE Flowcharts.

For more information on avoiding reviewer misconduct consult Section 4 of our Best Practice guidelines on Publishing Ethics.

 

How to Handle Author Misconduct

Complaints should be made in confidence to the editor or editorial office, rather than directly to the author or in the public domain and should be managed in confidence until they are resolved.

 

Prior to Publication

Review may raise a concern about a submitted manuscript during the course of the review process:

Where appropriate, the reviewer should be asked for information to substantiate their concern (e.g. suspicious data in the paper).
Contact the author to raise the concern and, if appropriate, ask for clarification. Avoid accusatory or defamatory language; stick to factual statements, presenting any available evidence.
The review process should be put on hold until the matter is resolved.
If the author provides a satisfactory explanation then the review process can proceed, perhaps following changes by the author.
If the author acknowledges misconduct or is unable to provide a satisfactory explanation, then the submission should be rejected.
The reviewer who raised the complaint should be told of the outcome once the matter is resolved.

 

Safeguarding against 'Fake reviewers'

Some journals give authors the option to suggest potential reviewers for the peer review process. This can help to identify qualified reviewers and/or broaden a journal's reviewer pool. Editors should take care to check the qualifications of all reviewers before issuing an invitation to review. But it is especially important to verify the qualifications of potential reviewers who have been recommended by authors.

Editors should request an ORCiD (an online digital identifier that distinguishes researchers from one another) from reviewers whenever possible.
Avoid using reviewers whose background and institutional affiliation cannot be determined by a simple web search.

 

After Publication

A reader may raise a concern about a published manuscript. As above, the reader should be asked for substantiating information and then the author should be contacted to raise the concern. If the complaint proves to be unfounded no further action may be required. If action is required, there are three main options:

You can publish a correction statement to include information that was missing from the published version (e.g. an undisclosed conflict of interest).
Publish an expression of concern alongside the article if there are well-founded suspicions of misconduct, though this is a halfway house and it is usually preferable to fully resolve the issue.
You can retract the published article. This may be appropriate for more serious concerns, such as fabricated data or plagiarized material. See below for more details.

 

As before, you should inform the reader who raised the complaint of the outcome once the matter is resolved.

 

Further Action and Retraction

If you have concerns contact your publisher, who can provide legal support if necessary. Resources for editors, including guidelines and training materials, are also available from the Committee on Publication Ethics.
In instances of severe misconduct, you should consider whether to raise the issue with the author's institution, either to their superior and/or to the person responsible for research governance.
In cases of plagiarism you may also wish to inform the editor of any other journal(s) involved and the victim.
Bear in mind that accusations of misconduct, and subsequent actions such as a retraction, can have serious repercussions for someone's career. Therefore, complaints of author misconduct should always be handled with sensitivity and tact, and in confidence.
If you are considering issuing a retraction, contact your editorial representative/publisher in order to obtain support from Wiley's Intellectual Property Group. This will ensure that there is a legal review of the proposed statements in order to protect all parties from potential litigation.
For more information, please see Wiley's policy for handling retractions.
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