The Publication Integrity & Ethics Guidelines

Introduction

With the established PIE Guidelines, the organisation plans to define and promote the best practices in the ethics of publishing sector; the designated aim is to assist all the parties involved to achieve optimum standards by promoting best practice within the industry. This applies to personnel across the board, whether they are editors, authors, peer-reviewers, publishers or owners of journals. The methodology implemented by the organisation to fulfil its mission is by guiding individuals involved in the publishing sector, encouraging them to register with PIE and to follow the guidelines that define the best practices in this branch of activity.

By asserting highest possible standards of ethical editorial conduct, PIE sets the benchmark in the publishing industry.  All individuals who are registered with PIE are expected to defer to the guidelines and formulate complaints against any other party that fail to follow and comply with the code. This in the mutual interest of all parties in order that best practice is followed, maintained and, where possible, improved upon to the respect of all concerned. Individuals are expected, therefore, to assume the role of guardians of the publishing sector; they should summarily take action against breaches in the guidelines or misconduct of individuals related to this branch.

General PIE Guidelines summary

1.    Publications and the individuals involved in the publication process should collectively take reasonable steps and actions to ensure that all the reports are informative, fair, balanced and accurate. To this effect, they will not deliberately try to misinform their readers whether they are doing it by ordinance or omission. Whereupon no formal complaints or suspected cases of misconduct have been filed against them, if team members of the publishing sector signal errors and inaccuracies in the published materials, the editorial staff must correct the problem with due and proper prominence. The amendments should be done in an expedient manner.

2.    Any unconfirmed report or rumour should be identified as such and news, comments and other types of data should be presented honestly to the readers. In accordance with the agenda set out in the PIE guidelines for code of conduct, this should be done with due respect for the privacy of individuals. The personnel involved should be afforded the opportunity for a balanced response if necessary, with their own views and interpretations listened to and noted in an amicable way. The journalistic investigations must also be conducted in a fair and balanced way; any information that has been obtained by unfair means or by breach of confidence should not be released to the public.

3.    Publications are free to present or advocate their own views and opinions within their journals regarding any fact or event; however this must be done in the knowledge that relevant data will not be misrepresented or suppressed. In such cases, the readers will be systematically informed about what constitutes fact, what is deemed opinion and what is fiction. Readers should be advised of potential conflicts of interest and manipulations of data such as image modification.

4.    Editors and publishers must balance the public interest and the informative aspect of the publishing materials with the readers’ sensibilities. They should fully abstain from publishing articles or images that may cause offence. Offensive and seriously deleterious materials are considered to be the articles or images that place inequitable emphasis on religion, race, colour, gender, disability, illness, age, sexual orientation or place of origin of individuals or groups of individuals. However, if such errors are reported and the PIE’s Council issues adjudications on the matter, the culpable journal should immediately correct the editorial errors and publish the adjudication with prominence.

5.    Publishers and editors are required to respect personal privacy of individuals. Personal information should only be sought when it is in the public’s interest to do so and report on a matter. Whilst undertaking research for their materials, editors and authors should not intrude upon the privacy of individuals whether or not they are public figures. Public figures knowingly sacrifice part of their privacy but intrusions should only be related to their public activities and not impinge on their personal life. Personal information should only be used for the purpose of which they were collected and any individual who provides such information is entitled to seek anonymity. In the case of a request for anonymity, the publisher will not disclose the identity of the individual.

Duty to follow best practice

1.    Publishers and editorial board members who support the PIE membership and the code of conduct should adhere to the guidelines implemented in the document.

2.    Members of the editorial staff should follow the recommendations in an equally exemplary fashion, with full support.

3.    Individuals working in the publishing industry should be informed about the benefits of PIE membership, together with the principles defined by the organisation, including conflicts of interest between editors, publishers, authors, reviewers and other individuals.

Privacy and copyright protection

1.    Privacy of individuals and their right to seek anonymity must be respected; this applies whether or not they are connected with the publishing sector.

2.    Copyright and intellectual property must be respected and protected and action sought immediately against breaches of plagiarism rules or other similar issues. Support and advice must be accorded to colleagues whose copyright has been breached or who have been the victims of plagiarism, whether their cases were analysed internally or by the PIE’s Sub-Committee.

3.    An ethical working environment should be maintained by defining and protecting the policy of the journal.

4.    Confidentiality, consent for publication, authorship, integrity, transparency and the peer-review process should be respected in the same way, following strict guidelines.

5.    Individual data must be protected. All members of the editorial staff and publishers should protect the confidentiality of individual information and the right to privacy of every human being.

Duties of the publisher

1.    All publishers who are adherent to PIE membership should act according to the PIE’s guidelines of ethical editorial conduct. They must advise the staff under them to support and follow the guidelines and register with the organisation.

2.    Publishers are required to provide support for editors and authors so that they can follow the proper code of conduct, respect privacy, protect intellectual property, copyright and editorial independence.

Responsibilities and duties of the editors

1.    According to the ethical principles and the PIE Guidelines for the publishing sector, all editors are responsible for all material published in their journals or other types of media with which they work.

2.    The primary duty of an editor is to constantly seek to improve their publication, to ensure that all the published materials are of optimum quality, balanced and grammatically and politically correct.

3.    An editor should seek to meet the needs of the readers and of the contributing authors and other individuals directly involved in the production of the journal.

4.    Editors must comply with the designated ethical standards and be willing to take action when errors are signalled by publishing corrections, retractions or even apologies if needed. These must be done in an expedient manner to achieve an accepted level of satisfaction to all injured or potentially injured parties.

Editors and authors

1.    As direct managers of the editorial team, editors must guarantee quality of the materials accepted for publishing is informative in nature.

2.    They should evaluate the texts with emphasis on originality, transparency and relevance and not by personal means.

3.    Objectivity is one of the required qualities of an editor. Therefore, if peer-reviews were conducted and editors decide there must be deviations from their recommendations, the changes have to be balanced and justified.

4.    Editors should consistently guide the authors and offer them regular training for the purpose of improving the quality of the publication. However, the guidance offered to the authors must be regularly and consistently updated; it should be in accordance with the accepted PIE code of conduct. Authors must also be advised of the correct and acceptable ways in which they can appeal against the editorial decisions.

Authors, editors and peer-reviewers

1.    Editors are required to guide the staff serving under them in the methodology for best practice. They should also advise the individual reviewers too, by constantly updating them about the desired level of expectation of their work and ethics.

2.    Unless the publication has an open review system, the identity of the reviewers must be protected. While under review, all the materials submitted to peer-reviewers must remain confidential. The guides for peer-reviewers must also be linked to the code of conduct presented in the PIE guidelines.

Dealing with complaints

1.    When dealing with complaints from third parties, editors must follow the  proper channels of communication as certified by PIE;  reasonable expediency in response to complainants should be ensured and immediate action taken to rectify the highlighted errors.

2.    Editors have a duty of responsibility to take swift action if they suspect misconduct or ethical uncertainties relating to the publishing sector; this applies whether they appear on published or unpublished papers. Editors must endeavour to ensure proper investigations are conducted in such cases and, if possible, to obtain immediate resolutions to the problems.

3.    Whereby editors are required to publish retractions, they must be clearly formulated and easily identifiable to readers. Retractions and corrections should be published as soon as an inaccuracy, error or misleading information is recognised.

Journal owners and publishers

1.    Editors’ relationship with their publishers or journal owners must be always based on the principles of editorial independence.

2.    The decision on what subjects are of interest for the readers and which articles should be published has to be based on quality, accuracy and informative character and not on political, financial or other immediate gains that are in contradiction to the professional ethics.

3.    Misleading advertisements must be refused and the policies regarding advertising in relation to the content of the publication must also be declared public.

4.    Editors and publishers must take prompt action when they detect conflicts of interest. These conflicts have to be managed professionally whether they are by the authors, editors, publishers, the editorial team or the peer-reviewers.

Complaints referred to PIE

1.    Whereby an individual carries concerns about breaching of the ethical editorial guidelines, a complaint may be formulated by submission of PIE’s complaint forms. A complaint may be raised by editors, authors, publishers, readers or peer-reviewers.

2.    Before asking the sub-committee of the PIE council for a proper investigation and resolution, the problem must, in the first instance, be presented to the author, publisher or the editor in written form.

3.    Whereupon the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she may pass the complaint to the overseeing body of the individual to whom they have initially sent the form.

4.    If an overseeing body does not exist, complaints must be sent to PIE along with all the relevant correspondence that was exchanged during the first step of the process

5.    When the complaint is referred to PIE’s council sub-committee, an administrator will verify whether it is formulated against a member of the organisation.

6.    It must be authenticated that the complaint has passed through the proper initial steps before being addressed to the council and its sub-committee that will deal directly with it.

7.    Furthermore, it will be ascertained if the problem is within the remit of the guidelines provided by PIE. 

8.    The complainant must provide all the documents and evidence related to the problem, including the correspondence exchanged with the publisher or the editor of the journal.

9.    PIE will immediately inform the author/reviewer/editor/publisher that there is a complaint against him or her.

10.    There are two possible outcomes when disputing a complaint: 1) the council sub-committee decides that the editor or publisher has dealt with the complaint and the complainant was satisfied. In this case both the complainant and the editor will be notified there is a resolution to the problem. 2) the council sub-committee may decide that there is a need for further investigation, in which case they will advise the complainant and the publisher or editor accordingly.

Duties

Publisher

The publisher of a journal is ultimately responsible for the ethical conduct of the editorial team as they have the ability to take action whenever it is required in order to maintain the standards of best practice. At first, the publisher defines the main doctrine, what the journal is about and makes sure that it will be a success. They manage staff, deal with editors and authors, appoint and delegate duties and determine the main organisational values, ideas and purpose. Some of the publishers prefer to have editorial control while others delegate the duties to editors and editors-in-chief. Irrespective of the preferred strategy, some of the most important publisher’s duties may include:

A. Initial duties

1. Defining the mission of the journal they manage and publish.

The first step in the management of a publication is to define the main mission and editorial particularities of the journal in question. For instance, if the publisher aims at launching a Law journal, the editorial staff would be mainly composed of legal specialists and editors while a news journal will require analysts and professional journalists for every field the newspaper will cover.

2. Managing the budget

Starting a business, whether it is a factory, a shop or a journal, requires a budget and a plan that will ensure the organisation is financially viable. The budget must be balanced and the amount of money invested in production, staff and distribution must be less than the amount of the expected revenue from advertisers, subscribers and other sources of income.

3. Selecting and hiring the staff and editorial team

The vision of a journal is not enough for the publication to become real. The publisher needs to hire the professional staff that will shape the publication: authors, editors, designers and photographers, as well as administrative and production personnel.

 

B. General duties

4. Overseeing the editorial content

Besides the usual organisational and managerial duties, publishers work closely with the editors and the editors-in-chief in selecting and defining the content that will be finally published within the pages of the journal. Publishers approve or deny texts, images and types of layouts that are provided by the authors and the editors. While ethical issues are usually reviewed by the authors themselves and then overseen by the editors, publishers have the final word on whether a text or an image will or will not be published.

5. Supervising the production

While there are publishers who choose not to be involved in the production process, there are many who choose to oversee the entire process, making sure that every single employee and editor-in-chief is undertaking the duties assigned to them; if problems arise, they will be able to quickly resolve them. Usually, the publisher reviews the content of the journal they manage before clearing it for printing or on-line publishing.

6. Representing the publication they manage

While editors and authors are public figures, the publisher is the main public face of the journal, representing the publication on major public events. Some publishers prefer not to get involved when issues and ethical problems appear while others choose to take actions and face the public rather than delegate the apologising task to the editor-in-chief or the author who were involved in the problem.

 

C. The PIE membership

While there are certain duties publishers are able to delegate to the staff, they are responsible for the content of the publications they manage as well as for the ethical conduct of their employees and the publication conduct in general. By adhering to PIE, they have access to all the information they need in order to ensure their publication’s ethics and resolve the complaints regarding the matter as soon as they are expressed.

The publishers should support the editorial staff so they can follow the PIE guidelines, respect the privacy and protect intellectual property and copyrights. The publishers ensure there is an editorial independence, research ethics, transparency and integrity and finally, they assist the parties involved in the investigation of misconduct or unethical practices, facilitating the resolution if it is possible.

The Publication Integrity and Ethics does not provide publisher’s membership but welcomes publishers who choose to adhere to its guidelines.  The Publication Integrity and Ethics believes in and supports editorial freedom supported by the publisher. The publishers can choose to submit their journals for PIE membership free of charge through an application made by the editor-in-chief of the journal. When accepted, the journal will be given a PIE journal status and the organisation logo can be cited on the front page of that journal.

Editor

Whether the publisher assumes editing responsibilities or not, they are usually the main duties of the editor-in-chief. He or she oversees the editing procedures and controls the authenticity, quality, language and aesthetics of the content being published within the pages of the journal they manage.

Based on various grounds, the editor-in-chief approves or rejects the materials provided by the authors; he will modify or paraphrase the content in order to enhance its quality. They are also responsible for the authenticity of the article released for the public as well as dealing with complaints on copyright, infringements or plagiarism.

The duty of the editor-in-chief is the most challenging one as they have to deal with various authors, writing qualities and styles and all the topics their publication discusses. They also need excellent communication skills and the ability to build a good relationship with each author whether or not they reject or accept the articles or news provided. Listed below, are the main editor-in-chief responsibilities:

Cross checking the articles and other editorial matters

Prior to publishing the content, the editor-in-chief checks all the materials provided by the authors and editors in order to approve or reject them. Usually, the articles have already gone through the peer-review and editing process but they must be cleared in order to be of sufficient standard to be published. It’s the editor-in-chief that has the final say. He is accountable for any editorial problems and must check the content thoroughly before releasing it to the public. Finally, the editor-in-chief may be required to provide his or her own pieces of editorial content.

 

Checking for plagiarism and responsibility

Whether the content has been previously checked by other members of the editorial staff for ghost writing or plagiarism, the editor-in-chief should check the articles again and ensure that the particular article or image has not been published elsewhere, or plagiarised. As this can be very difficult to achieve today, many authorities believe that if such an issue is identified, then the authors should take full responsibilities for these actions and not the reviewers, editorial board members or editor-in-chief.

The editor-in-chief is the main person to be made accountable for the ethical and moral integrity of the editorial staff and the articles published. Usually, the publication’s standard of performance and quality depend on the qualifications and capabilities of the editor-in-chief. Hence, they have the responsibility to ensure that no piece of work should pass their supervising and correction without being accurate and free of plagiarism.

Light and heavy edits to the content

The editor-in-chief usually supervises the editing process and makes the final edits to the content in order to ensure it is according to the line, style, ethical and professional concept of the journal they lead. There are two forms of editing, light and heavy. While the heavy editing duty requires maximum attention and significant changes to be made, the light editing job requires minor theme or structure changes that are being made on the spot and do not involve the entire editing staff.

 

Managerial skills and duties

Whether the publisher is involved in the editorial process or not, the editor-in-chief must act like a manager for the editorial team under him or her, constantly working on motivating, developing and improving them. He shapes the authors and the other editors according to his own ethical image and publishing skills. Sometimes, the editor-in-chief has also strategic planning and marketing duties that cannot be delegated to other editorial board members.

Managerial duties also include the formation of regular team meetings and updates provided to each individual involved in the editorial process. The editor-in-chief assigns all the responsibilities to the team members and ensures the tasks are completed in due time and without problems.

Ethical standards

The editor-in-chief has the main duty of setting and implementing the ethical standards. As a member of PIE, he or she must comply with the main ethical rules and guidelines; he must certify that any complaints from the readers or authors and/or the institutes or publishers are handled and accounted for as soon as possible and with the utmost proficiency and professionalism.

The editor-in-chief has the responsibility not only to oversee the editorial process in its entirety but also to check the content is technically sound and of high quality. An editor-in-chief that works for a technical journal must therefore have the technical skills required in order to be able to check the accuracy of the materials published.

 

Reviewer

What is a peer reviewer?

Usually, science and biomedical manuscripts are examined by specialists before being released to the public. They are the critical minds that read the manuscripts and suggest that it should be accepted, rejected or submitted for further revisions in order to be published in academic journals. These third-party readers are called peer-reviewers.

However, the peer-reviewing activity is not practiced solely in the science and biomedical fields. It is quite common among editors and publishers and it is a form of quality assurance in the publishing sector. As scientists and physicians would consider their results as preliminary before being reviewed by peers, publishers are getting peer approval before accepting articles from the editors too. This kind of feedback is important as it provides impartial feedback on the subjects reviewed and objective decisions on whether the pieces should be published or not.

Types of reviews given by peers

There are several types of peer-reviews for submitted manuscripts. The most common include the open review, the blind review and the double blind review. As the name suggests, the open review is conducted when the identities of the author and the reviewer are made known to each other or they already know each other in person. In the blind review the author does not know the identity of the reviewer. Hence, the double blind review is conducted when neither the reviewer nor the author knows each other.

 

What are peer-reviewers looking for? What are their duties?

Peer-reviewers are usually the ones that are giving the arguments on whether a submitted manuscript should be published or not. They evaluate the technical and historical accuracy of the written text if it is required but they are also analysing the presentation, the writing style and the grammatical correctness of the text.

Reviewers are required to assess whether the manuscript suits the style and the orientation of the publication. However, editors must previously review the work sent to peers in order to stop them wasting their time on manuscripts and texts that are not suitable for the publication in question.

When the peers review a submitted manuscript, they must answer a few questions regarding the content of the written text. First, they have to assess who will be interested in reading the article and why, what are the main claims of the author and whether they are appropriately discussed and if the context is real or not. If the submitted manuscript is not a study such as an editorial or meeting report, the reviewers will assess if it fits the line of the publication; they will examine the ethical issues that may arise such as plagiarism or ghost writing, if the piece is clearly written and accessible to the target readers as well as being grammatically correct. The peers consider the possibility of improving the text, how difficult this task would be and the duration of doing so.

Peer reviewers and PIE

As previously mentioned, PIE offers tools and information to publishers, editors, authors and peer-reviewers. Such individuals are able to register their interest on PIE’s website and become members when accepted. They can collect the information and data they need in order to give the best reviews to the manuscripts they read. Issues on problems relating to editorial ethics, plagiarism and other illegal activities may be presented and addressed through the PIE site.

 

Ethical standards

While the editor-in-chief has the duty of setting and implementing the ethical standards, the peer-reviewers are those who will assess if the articles are accurate, and according to the PIE standards and recommendations. As members of PIE, peer-reviewers must also comply with the main ethical rules and guidelines and if problems appear, to signal and dispute them with the utmost proficiency and professionalism.

In addition to checking the content’s technical soundness and quality, peer reviewers are also required to check the texts for plagiarism and other ethical related issues that may occur. Again, this can be very difficult to achieve in this day and age and now many authorities believe that if such an issue is identified, then the authors should take full responsibilities for these actions and not the reviewers, editorial board members or editor-in-chief.

The need for peer-reviews

In the last few years the need for peer-reviewing has been questioned; however many editors, authors and publishers consider peer-reviewing as accurate and superior to other alternatives. The latest technological developments have changed the way authors interact with their readers through social media channels; many objectors are considering the peer-reviewing system obsolete, stating that the readers are free to select what to read. Therefore anybody should be able to write freely about anything they want to.

In many areas of expertise however, peer reviewers are still necessary as there is a constant need for specialists who are able to review the scientific and biomedical papers and ensure there is accuracy and quality in the articles they clear for publishing. While peer review is not without flaws, the reviewers must be at least specialists in their field of knowledge, and able to understand and correct the texts being sent to them. It is also the job of the editor to select the peers that are most likely to comprehend the articles they are reviewing.

Benefits of peer-reviewing

If simple manuscripts and news does not always need peer-reviews, there is an entirely different problem regarding the scientific specialised publications and the manuscripts they publish. While the newspapers are reviewed by proof readers and linguists, the science journals may need a more specialised and professional feedback, especially when new ideas or breakthroughs are presented or debated within their pages. Last but not least, the peer-reviewers are the best way of self-monitoring the authors work.

Author

Who are the authors?

Authors are the main actors in the editorial activity as they are the creators of the texts being published within the pages of journals. Every author knows there are implications and responsibilities that cannot be separated from the writing activity. There’s a certain amount of power and influence behind written words and the writers bear the responsibility of what they say.

An author may work as an individual or as a member of a team. Apart from the classic writing style, collaborative writing allows the author to constantly improve their work, develop new ideas and attenuate the occurrence of errors and editorial mistakes. As each author has different points of view and personalities, collaborative writing challenges the authors to be more open and analyse their work from different perspectives.

An author's primary role may include:

•    creating original content, whether they have to write scientific articles, books, poetry, reviews or news-related texts
•    whilst working for journals, authors may be required to propose their own topics as well as to comply with the editor’s assignments
•    the author studies the subject he/she is writing about, gathers information necessary in order to complete the task and organises the materials before effectively writing the article
•    uses the written words to inform the readers on a subject or to express ideas regarding one topic or another
•    revises, corrects and rewrites the material if necessary.

 

Duties of the authors

1. Criticism. The most effective authors have learned to cope with criticism and they are able to write content that readers can relate to and easily understand. In order to do that, they must collaborate with other peers and accept criticism while constantly improving their writing style.

2. Plausibility. While criticism may help the author to improve their style, the author must also keep the readers interested and focused on the subjects being debated through written words.

3. Research. The author conducts research and analyses the topic from multiple points of view, thinking outside the main discipline of expertise, linking the text with other fields. Cross disciplinary approaches are a great way of attracting a wider interest in the written and published article.

4. Novelty. Whether the article is a science paper or just a simple message to the readers, the author must do their best to deliver something new, to captivate reader attention and challenge them to think on the subject.

5. Examples. There are countless topics and subjects of interest for the readers. However, if the ideas passed to the readers are abstract in nature, the author should give real life examples to illustrate their points and opinions.

6. Language. The language and the writing style used by the authors are vital for the effectiveness of the content being published. Usually, the style depends mostly on what kind of publications they are writing for, on whether there must be a formal or an informal style, the targeted audience, the topics discussed and so on. Knowing this basic knowledge is important because it helps the author adapt and strike the right tone.
-    Vocabulary: if the article is not a science paper, the writer must adapt the vocabulary to their readers’ interests and avoid the use of technical terms insofar as possible. If technical terms cannot be avoided, they must be explained properly.
-    Simple language: this must be utilised in order to maintain clarity and to make the text easy to read and comprehend.
-    Formal vs. Informal: while technical terms must be avoided if unnecessary, language that is too informal may not be appropriate. Chatty language and colloquialisms must be avoided.
-    Grammar: this is important whether there are proofreaders or not. Writers must write in short, easy to read sentences, especially if their work is being published online or if the journal has a website that publishes some of the printed work. By using long and heavily punctuated sentences it may be harder to make a clear point on the subject.
-    References and footnotes: these must be also kept to a minimum if the writer wants the readers to focus on the research or the article being published.

 

Ethical standards

The editor-in-chief sets and implements the ethical standards while the peer reviewers are those who ascertain whether the articles are accurate, and according to PIE standards and recommendations. Authors also have the duty to comply to the rules and obligations that come with the job, to ensure their work is original and if there are references to other works, they are marked and highlighted, according to the editorial standards. As members of PIE, the authors must also comply with the main ethical rules and guidelines and if problems arise, to signal and dispute them with the peers.

Other typical duties of the authors:

-    selecting the subjects they write about according to the publisher requirements or public interest
-    constantly developing and improving their technical skills of writing as well as the general knowledge of the subjects being debated within the pages of the journal they work for
-    maintaining the originality of the texts being published
-    complying with the organisational rules, ethical restraints and values as well as with the deadlines
-    verifying the accuracy of their ideas and the factual content of the written articles before being published or sent for peer-review
-    maintaining an active interest in the field of knowledge they write about
-    encouraging active and critical feedback from readers and peers.

 

Version 1 1st Aug 2013

Contributors
Colin Hopper - Waseem Jerjes - Hiang Boon Tan - Zaed Z R Hamady

© The Publication Integrity and Ethics
www.integrity-ethics.com