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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 349-351

Ethics in research and publication

Ashish Hospital and Research Centre, Pediatric Surgery Unit, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India

Date of Submission16-Dec-2019
Date of Decision18-Mar-2020
Date of Acceptance29-May-2020
Date of Web Publication27-Oct-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Pradyumna Pan
Ashish Hospital and Research Centre, Pediatric Surgery Unit, Jabalpur - 482 001, Madhya Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaps.JIAPS_219_19

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Published articles in scientific journals are a key method for knowledge-sharing. Researchers can face the pressures to publish and this can sometimes lead to a breach of ethical values, whether consciously or unconsciously. The prevention of such practices is achieved by the application of strict ethical guidelines applicable to experiments involving human subjects or biological tissues. Editors too are faced with ethical problems, including how best to handle peer-review bias, and find reviewers with experience, probity, and professionalism. This article emphasizes that authors and their sponsoring organizations need to be informed of the importance of upholding the guidelines in research and ethical rules when disclosing scientific work.

Keywords: Ethics, guidelines, medical research, scientific misconduct

How to cite this article:
Pan P. Ethics in research and publication. J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg 2020;25:349-51

How to cite this URL:
Pan P. Ethics in research and publication. J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jan 25];25:349-51. Available from: https://www.jiaps.com/text.asp?2020/25/6/349/299203

   Introduction Top

Accurate reporting of results of research depends on the integrity of the authors, their application of and compliance with guidelines relating to the assurance of an ethical approach throughout and also on robust institutional research governance protocols ensuring that study design, conduct, and analysis of research and the publishing process all comply to an ethical framework. There is a growing concern that research misconduct over the past two decades has become more common.[1] It is challenging to determine whether this apparent increase is a true increase in the number of misconducts committed or detection has increased during this period.[2]

   What is Publication Ethics? Top

It is important that persons involved in the research must be compliant with the ethical framework in which they should function. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) published guidelines on Good Publication Practice in 1999[3] and continues to update these regularly.[4]

Study design

The design of the study is a collection of methods and procedures used to gather and analyze the data on variables defined in a research. A poorly designed study can never be recovered, whereas an inadequately analyzed study can be re-analyzed to reach a meaningful conclusion.[5] The study design should be clearly expressed in a written protocol. In clinical studies, the number of participants to be included in the analysis should be sufficiently large to give a definitive result. Local ethical research committees should hold back approval until the deficiencies in the design of the study have been corrected. All investigators should agree on the final protocol, and their contributions should be clearly defined.

Ethical approval

For all studies involving individuals or medical records, approval from a duly appointed research ethics committee is necessary. The research protocol should adhere strictly to the international standards such as those of the Council for International Medical Science Organizations.[6]

When human tissues or body fluids have been collected for one project for which ethical authorization and consent has been obtained, these preserved specimens cannot be used again without further permission. It should be presumed that no author can publish research of humans or animals that do not follow the ethical standards of the country where the article is published.[2]

Data analysis

The data analysis methodology should be clearly stated in the protocol. The variations such as post hoc analysis or data omission should be agreed upon and reported in the paper by all investigators.[7] The capacity for manipulating data electronically now is enormous. Original images should always be retained and any alteration should be revealed.


The International Committee of Medical Editors (the Vancouver Group) has developed authorship guidelines that allow each writer to make a substantial contribution throughout the process.[8] In the past honorary authorship had been employed widely. However, the concept that the professor or department head should inevitably find his/her way to a paper is no longer acceptable. Each contributor should be able to mention clearly how they took part in the study. Each author must take public responsibility for the work published in the journal, and it is desirable to have one senior author, to serve as a guarantor. Participation in fundraising, data collection, or general supervision of the research is insufficient for authorship. Authorship acknowledgment should be based on substantial contributions to: (1) concept and design, (2) interpretation of data, (3) drafts and critical revisions of intellectual content, and (4) final approval of the version to be published.[2]

There is a possible conflict of interest when an investigator, writer, publisher, or reviewer has a financial, personal interest, or opinion that may impair their objectivity, or improperly influence their behavior. Financial ties are the most visible competing interests. As a result of personal relationships, academic rivalry, and intellectual zeal, competing interests can also exist. Competing interests are not unethical as long as they are revealed. They should be disclosed to the ethics committee and to the editor of the journal to which a article is submitted.

   Peer Review Top

Peer review is the method used to evaluate the quality of articles submitted to a journal. COPE has developed ethical guidelines for peer reviewers.[9] The affiliation between the author, the editor, and the peer reviewer is a confidential collaboration. It is only with the editor's permission the manuscript should be passed on to a colleague or other individuals. A reviewer or editor should not use the information contained in the paper for their benefit.[2] Journals should have clearly defined and communicated policies on the type of peer review used, for example, single-blinded, double-blinded, open, or postpublication.[10] Peer reviewers can play a vital function in figuring out data fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, image manipulation, unethical research, biased reporting, authorship abuse, redundant or duplicate publication, and undeclared conflicts of interest.[11]

   Duties of Editors Top

Editors are the wardens of the scientific literature and are responsible for maintaining high research and publishing ethics standards. There may be competing interests among participants, and it is the responsibility of the editor to ensure that they do not affect the journal. They should not be hesitant to publish work that challenges previously published studies in their journal, and they should not reject studies with negative results.[2] Editors must act promptly if a published paper is found to have publication misconduct.[12]

   Research and Publication Misconduct Top

Research misconduct represents a spectrum ranging from the errors of judgment (mistakes made in good faith) to deliberate fraud, usually categorized as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.[13]

Falsification is the changing or omission of research results (data) or manipulation of images or representations in a manner that distorts the data to support claims or hypotheses.[13]

Fabrication is the construction or addition of data, observations, or characterizations that never occurred in the gathering of data or running of experiments.[13]

Plagiarism is the use of another individual or group's published work or unpublished ideas, language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions and makes the representation of them as one's original work.[14] The advent of digital material and its ease of accessibility have accelerated the use of plagiarism.[15] In some instances, plagiarism is used as a tool to cover up language problems for those whom English is not their first language. Where language is a problem, the authors should always be encouraged to obtain help in preparing their manuscript and not resort to using other people's words. It is unacceptable to republish a paper with minor changes, without referring to the primary publication, and to present it to the readership as a new source.[16]

   Redundant Publication Top

Redundant publication (sometimes referred to as duplicate or triplicate publication) is the term used when two or more papers that overlap in a significant way are published in different journals without cross-reference.[17] It is not uncommon for two or more papers involving the same or similar patient database to be published in sequence. The authors should disclose this to the editor and make a cross-reference to previous papers. It is permissible to publish a paper in another language as long as this is disclosed.

Motives for misconduct

The motives why investigators fabricate records are not understood. Improving understanding of why researchers commit misconduct and detrimental research practices (DRPs) is essential. A range of possible reasons are: (1) career and funding pressures, (2) institutional failures of oversight, (3) commercial conflicts of interest, (4) inadequate training, (5) erosion of standards of mentoring, and (6) part of a larger pattern of social deviance.[18]

Prevention of misconduct

The widespread nature of research and publication misconduct indicates that existing control measures are inadequate. Enhanced methods for detecting misconduct are required. Even if research policing were made more effective, the fundamental question of why certain individuals violate their duties as a scientist or medical researcher intentionally or unintentionally would not be addressed. Clear guidance on ethics should be emphasized during research training in all institutions actively involved in research.[19] Training is a crucial step in avoiding publication misconduct. All researchers should be presented with organizational guidance and publishing ethics when they join a new organization. Misconduct in the study may be more common when investigators are alone with an inadequate review of data by a project supervisor. Research integrity depends on excellent communication between contributors, with frequent discussion of project progress and openness to any difficulties in adhering to the research protocol. Everyone should agree with the changes to the protocol. Maintaining documents must be of the highest quality. The law requires data and photographic record of experimental results to be maintained for 15 years. The records of laboratory experiments should be held in the department where the study is carried out and should be available for review for at least 15 years.

Strategies to support research integrity

  • Ensure policies governing academic research not only are in place but are followed
  • Enforce expectations for process rigor
  • Communicate expectations for accurate accounting of time spent on research activities
  • Evaluate the grant accounting function
  • Establish an office of research integrity.[20]

   Conclusion Top

Accurate and ethical reporting is crucial to the quality of scientific research that is published. Unethical practices such as falsification of data and plagiarism cause long-term damage to the dependability of published literature. Whilst such practices do still exist, these can be prevented by having robust institutional ethical processes in place, regular training, and editorial vigilance.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Sarwar U, Nicolaou M. Fraud and deceit in medical research. J Res Med Sci 2012;17:1077-81.  Back to cited text no. 1
Hall GM. Ethics of publication. In: Book Farthing MJG. How to Write a Paper. UK Blackwell Publishing; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 2
White C, editors. The Cope Report 1999. Annual Report of the Committee on Publication Ethics. London: BMJ Books; 1999.  Back to cited text no. 3
Available from: http://www.publicationethics.org.uk.[Last accessed on 2019 Nov].  Back to cited text no. 4
Campbell MJ, Machin D. Medical Statistics: A Common-Sense Approach. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley; 1999.  Back to cited text no. 5
The Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences. International Ethical Guidelines for Health-related Research Involving Humans. Geneva: The Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences; 2016.  Back to cited text no. 6
Resnik D. Statistics, ethics, and research: An agenda for educations and reform. Accountability Res 2000;8:163-88.  Back to cited text no. 7
International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Uniform requirements for Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals. Ann Intern Med 1997;126:36-47.  Back to cited text no. 8
Lo B, Fields MJ, editors. Institute of Medicine. Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education and Practice. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 9
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) Guidelines on Good Publication Practice. Available from: https://publicationethics.org. [Last accessed on 2019 Oct].  Back to cited text no. 10
Best Practice Guidelines on Publishing Ethics. A Publisher's Perspective. 2nd ed. John Wiley; 2014.  Back to cited text no. 11
Budd JM, Sievert M, Schultz TR. Phenomena of retraction: Reasons for retraction and citations to the publications. JAMA 1998;280:296-7.  Back to cited text no. 12
Available from: https://www.e-education.psu.edu/bioet533/node/654. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov].  Back to cited text no. 13
Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism.[Last accessed on 2019 Dec].  Back to cited text no. 14
Hassan N, Khan NH. Internet and increasing issues of plagiarism. Shrinkhla EK Shodhparak Vaicharik Patrika 2018;5:125-31.  Back to cited text no. 15
Masic I. How to search, write, prepare and publish the scientific papers in the biomedical journals. Acta Inform Med 2011;19:68-79.  Back to cited text no. 16
Doherty M. The misconduct of redundant publication. Ann Rheum Dis 1996;55:783-5, 83-5.  Back to cited text no. 17
NAS-NAE-IOM. Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1992.  Back to cited text no. 18
Medical Research Council. Good Research Practice. London: MRC; 2000.  Back to cited text no. 19
Ford B. Strategies for Preventing Research Misconduct; 2018. Available from: https://ankura.com. [Last accessed on 2020 Jan].  Back to cited text no. 20


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