A number or organizations have been established to ensure that ethical guidelines are developed and being followed in research and academic publishing. Being familiar with these organizations can help authors better understand these ethical expectations. These organizations also provide a variety of useful information on their websites to assist authors in publishing their studies.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) is a small, self-funded group of medical journal editors that developed the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, formerly known as the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals, first published in 1978.
This set of recommendations is intended mainly for use by authors who wish to submit manuscripts for publication in ICMJE journals. The recommendations include a comprehensive review of the best publication practices and ethical standards to help authors produce accurate, scientifically sound, well-balanced, reproducible, and clear journal articles.
Many journals advocate the implementation of these recommendations and include them as part of their instructions for authors.
The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), established in 1997, is formed by over 12,000 editors of academic journals and other individuals interested in publication ethics. Most reputable journals are COPE members. All COPE members are expected to follow the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors and Publishers.
In addition to providing editors and publishers with advice on all aspects of publication ethics, COPE specializes in providing advice related to research and publication misconduct. COPE also provides its members with a number of resources, such as the COPE Forum where they can discuss any particular cases, the Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors and Publishers, e-learning courses, grants and funding for research, annual seminars, and ethical audit tools.
To detect and avoid cases of intentional publication misconduct, CrossCheck was created by the publisher association CrossRef. CrossCheck provides a service allowing editors, publishers, and researchers to screen submitted content for plagiarism before publication. iThenticate is the plagiarism detection software that serves as the tool for CrossCheck services. This tool can be used by authors, researchers, and students to ensure or demonstrate that their work is free of infringement and to make sure that all the sources of the content have been appropriately and sufficiently cited.
For institutional purposes, a license has to be bought to use CrossCheck and iThenticate. For individual use, the user must create a free account and then purchase “credits” to be able to submit a file for review. The software supports the use of several different kinds of files, including Microsoft Word, Word XML, WordPerfect, PostScript, PDF, HTML, RTF, OpenOffice (ODT) and plain text. But there are limits in terms of file size and number of pages: < 400 pages, < 40 MB, or 2 MB of raw text. A related service, Turnitin, that checks for text similarity is available for universities.
GPP3 (Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company Sponsored Medical Research: The GPP2 Guidelines) is an update of the original guidelines on Good Publication Practice (GPP) published in 2003. These guidelines are aimed at encouraging pharmaceutical companies to publish sponsored clinical trials in a responsible and ethical manner. GPP3 is targeted toward authors and investigators participating in research funded by pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies, and also involves professional medical writers who help produce publications for peer-reviewed medical journals and scientific meetings.
Declaration of Helsinki
The World Medical Association issued the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964 to establish international regulations for medical research involving human experimentation. The original version was subsequently amended seven times, and the current version was published in 2013.
The Declaration of Helsinki includes 37 principles that regulate all aspects of research conduct. Two of the main considerations are that all participants in trials should understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the experiment; and, following this, that all patients should enroll in the trial under their own free will, by giving informed consent. A third party that is unconnected with the trial—such as an ethics committee or institutional review board—should have approved the experimental protocol after checking its design. The Declaration of Helsinki principle B-15 emphasizes that a research study should be submitted for consideration, comment, guidance, and approval of an ethics committee. The Declaration of Helsinki principle B-30 mentions that the author is responsible for the completeness and accuracy of reports of their research. The guidelines also mention that studies not conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki should not be accepted for publication.