The editors received a manuscript from a Far Eastern country ready to accept. The senior author (who has spent a lot of time in the West) was in the US when the editors asked for final signatures to be sent. The senior author instructed his team to collect and fax signatures while he was away and this was sent to the editors.
When the signatures were examined by the editors, it appeared that some of the signatures had been written by the same hand. The editors challenged the senior author who investigated immediately upon his return and a fax was sent:
“…The last copy was signed in my absence and not all signatures were signed by the authors personally but by other colleagues with oral permission from the relevant authors ……Some of the signatures may still look similar in writing style and this was due to the fact that some of the colleagues were not familiar to [sic] signing their names in English, but these were truly their signatures.”
The new batch of signatures show differences from the previous signatures and now appear to be signed by separate individuals.
This highlights a potential issue applicable to anyone not familiar with using non-European scripts.
Should the editors be worried about this? Should the explanation be accepted? If not, what is the next step?
Members of the Forum agreed that the editors should accept the explanation of the authors and believed that the case has probably arisen out of cultural differences. From an educational point of view, the editors could point out to the authors that it is not good practice for anyone to sign on behalf of an author. However, in the absence of any other evidence of misconduct, the Forum believed this was a minor discretion that could be overlooked.
Following the COPE meeting, the editor was greatly reassured and was happy to accept the signatures. The journal still insists on signatures but is now happy to accept signatures in the authors’ mother-tongue script.