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Our journal has decided that members of the editorial board are allowed to submit manuscripts which will undergo peer-review directed by the present or former editor-in-chief. It can be difficult, and I would like to present one example.
A group of authors (including one member of the editorial board) submitted five manuscripts during a period of 17 days. The handling of some manuscripts was delayed for two reasons. At first, essential forms (such as the conflict of interest statements) were missing and the editor-in-chief received the manuscripts 10–35 days after submission when the administrative checklist was complete. In addition, it was difficult to recruit reviewers who were willing to assess the manuscripts over the summer, and several papers were within a rather narrow research field. The authors were sending numerous e-mails during the review process. The co-author, who was a member of the editorial board, had already contacted the editor-in-chief the day after submission of the first paper where he stated that he would appreciate it if the evaluation (including revision) was completed prior to a specific date since there was a grant application deadline. The same co-author requested a “preliminary verdict” 7–8 weeks after the peer-review process was initiated.
The editor-in-chief apologised that the handling had been delayed and provided information about the current status of the manuscripts. As the research funding deadline was getting closer, the number of e-mails increased and the authors contacted one other member of the editorial board, apparently to influence the handling of their submissions. The authors claimed that “in view of the delay in the handling” they believed that they were “entitled to a positive response about acceptance”. The authors asked if there was anyone on the editorial board who, during the afternoon, could read the manuscript and make a preliminary decision as to whether one specific paper was likely to be accepted, even if a revision was needed afterwards, according to standard procedures. The editor-in-chief felt that such requests were not acceptable for a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
We have the following question for COPE:
Should we specifically state in our author guidelines or editorial policy that authors should not contact the handling editor during the review process? Any information regarding the process can be obtained from the editorial assistant. The role as co-author can be difficult for a member of the editorial board and I wonder if other journals have experienced similar problems?
The Forum agreed that the editor has handled this situation correctly. What is important is to have a specific procedure and clear process for handling papers from editorial board members. The peer review process should be completely transparent. The Forum told the editor to be extremely firm. All agreed that the editorial board member is abusing his position. The editor should keep accurate records and be very firm and not allow himself to be be pushed into making a decision. For the future, new editorial board members should be made aware that they will be treated like any other author. They will not be given special treatment.
Another suggestion was to put in place a procedure stating that a paper must be re-submitted after a certain time limit if all the required documents are not supplied to the journal.
We have clarified the procedure for handling manuscripts from editorial board members. All editorial board members have been informed that all necessary information regarding the progress of the peer review can be obtained from the editorial office. Editors should generally not communicate directly with the authors and that is especially important if a member of the editorial board is among the authors. Thus they will not be given special treatment. Incomplete submissions may now be unsubmitted by our editorial assistant if the required documents are not supplied within 5 days to the journal.
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The rector at author D’s institution contacted the editor of journal A stating that they have found what they evidently consider to be serious misconduct in an article written by author D and the rector requested author D to retract the paper from journal A but author D refused to do so. The institution contacted journal A to say that the institution’s name should not be connected with the article and the institution believes that this misconduct should be known to journal A’s readers immediately. The suspected misconduct by author D was that in figure X each lane was taken from different gels that were combined together, according to the rector.
Journal A investigated the situation by communicating with author D. Journal A confirmed that the ‘representative’ western blot image of figure X in the accepted version is a composite photo comprising band images from different gels. Journal A requested author D to retract the paper. However, author D refused to do so. Instead, author D is proposing to publish an addendum containing a new gel figure with all of the controls. Author D has admitted that figure X was a composite from different gels; however, author D’s apparent view is that the data are not flawed. Journal A knows that the journal has a right to retract the paper at their discretion according to the COPE guidelines but journal A would not like to retract the paper. At the same time, journal A feels that this misconduct also should be known to readers immediately as suggested by the rector at the author’s institution.
Journal A believes this fits the situation where an ‘Expression of concern’ should be published, according to COPE’s guideline as author D’s institution and author D have not reached common ground.
Journal A replied to author D’s institution that they will publish an ‘Expression of concern’ instead of retracting the paper for now, as author D is refusing to retract the paper. Also, journal A told the rector that if author D keeps refusing to retract the paper, journal A will publish an addendum as author D requests. The rector at author D’s institution replied to journal A that they still believe that the paper should be retracted and that the institution’s name could not be associated with the article.
Following communication with the authors and the institution, journal A is now thinking it is time to publish an expression of concern anyway as the authors and institution cannot reach agreement and this should be known to readers as soon as possible.
Our question to COPE is:
Would it be appropriate to publish an expression of concern in this situation?
The Forum was told that the editor has now decided that he would like to retract the article. According to the COPE retraction guidelines, an editor can retract an article even without the author’s consent. In the current situation, it is a question of whether the editor feels that there is a mistake in just this one figure or if there are problems with other aspects of the paper. He must decide if the best way of setting the record straight is to retract or correct. If he feels that only the figure is incorrect, but the rest of the paper is reliable, then he should publish a correction. However, if the editor has more serious concerns, they he should consider retracting the paper.
The Forum suggested that as the institution is involved, the editor should ask the institution if they have conducted a formal investigation. If they have not, the editor should request that the institution conduct an investigation into this matter. The editor could base the wording of the retraction on the results of this investigation. The Forum noted that the retraction notice does not have to accuse the author of deliberate misconduct. It should simply state the facts. The retraction notice can also list which authors have agreed to the retraction and so the editor was advised to contact the other authors and ask them for an explanation and see if they are aware of the situation.
The Forum warned against publishing an expression of concern. An expression of concern should only be published if there is an unresolved, ongoing investigation or if the evidence is inconclusive. Most agreed that the evidence was strong here, but the editor needs to get the institution to investigate. Another suggestion for the future was to publish guidance to authors on how to present images when submitting a paper.
The journal published a retraction. The editor considers the case now closed.
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A manuscript has been accepted for publication in our journal and we would like to publish in the March 2011 issue. The corresponding author (Dr F) is trying to collect copyright forms from all of the authors of the paper to send back to us, but one author will not sign the copyright form due to a disagreement about authorship order.
The author (Dr D) who is refusing to sign the copyright undertook a substantial early literature review for the manuscript but this was taken over by another colleague (Dr E) when Dr D had to leave due to a long term illness. Dr C was the initiator of the subject matter for the study and oversaw the early directions of Dr D’s efforts. The manuscript was ultimately put together by Drs C and E, with the oversight of Dr F as the head of department.
Dr D is adamant that she should be first or second author on the paper (rather than third as she currently is), and said that she intends to block publication if this is not done, even though she has said that she will not work in academia again and is not interested in academic rewards. As head of department, Dr F is not willing to change the order of the authors as he believes the current order accurately reflects the scientific input of the authors. He has discussed with his research institute chair and with his region’s ethics board.
In the meantime, Dr D has not been communicative, despite Dr F’s correspondence requesting cooperation. Dr F has been instructed not to speak to Dr D in person and has to communicate through e-mail or a third party legal representative. So far, our publications office has not communicated with Dr D—we have only been getting updates through Dr F as the corresponding author.
We do not want to proceed with publication until these issues are resolved, at the risk of facing legal action or having to retract the paper. In any case, we would only move forward once we received all copyright forms from the authors.
What should we do?
The Forum raised the question that since Dr F has a conflict of interest (as an author), should he be acting as a mediator? All agreed that the paper cannot be published until this authorship issue is resolved. The advice was to contact the other authors and ask for their opinions. The Forum advised that to avoid a similar situation in the future, after submission, all authors should be copied on all correspondence so that they are aware that the paper has been submitted and informed of the decisions regarding the paper.
The Forum agreed that the editor has done the right thing by taking this back to the institution, even though the head of department has a conflict of interest. The Forum suggested contacting the Dean of the university and asking him to conduct an investigation.
Also, does the editor know if Dr D has seen the final paper? Perhaps the editor should write to Dr D directly and see if he can obtain any more information.
All agreed that it is up to the authors to resolve this issue, not the editor. This is an authorship dispute. If the dispute is not resolved, the paper should not be published.
The editor contacted all of the authors and said that unless a mutual decision could be made, the manuscript would have to be rejected.
The editorial office received a number of very emotional (and not really appropriate) e-mails from Dr D, providing details of grievances about her previous department which had arisen following her period of sickness, which went well beyond the scope of the paper submitted, and what the editorial office would expect or want to deal with.
The editor spoke with Dr F, who had said that an independent mediation meeting had been set. The journal subsequently got in touch with Dr F to find that the mediation meeting would not be happening as Dr D had instigated legal discussions (which were about more than just the paper).
Following discussions with our chief editor, the decision was made to rescind the decision of acceptance, which was communicated to all of the authors.
Dr F has enquired about the possibility of submitting a new manuscript with his coauthors. The Chief Editor has stated that this will only be considered if it can be shown that the contribution made by Dr D has been omitted and that the manuscript can be seen to be substantially different.
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An author submitted a paper which went through the review process and was rejected. He is now sending abusive emails to me, the editor, and spamming an enormous number of people in his research area and the government (he even tried to contact the royal office) as a protest. He continues to submit his paper (over 20 times so far), changing his author name.
We have rejected the paper, expired his account, etc, but can't do anything to stop him from submitting again. He just creates another account and submits under a new name. All of the accounts are @yahoo.fr or @yahoo.in or @yahoo.cn. He has not given the name of an institution so we don't even know who he really is or where he is from. He is rude and threatening. We are now ignoring him, but he is sending out these emails to the community which are untrue. He has edited my email responses and then forwarded them on to people. He attached a copy of an email from me which said his paper was unsuitable for publication in our journal. However, he had removed that text and typed in "If all Chinese authors are as impolite and narrow-minded as you, any contribution from China will be automatically rejected. So please stop this."
I can assure you I did not send this email, or indeed anything like it. He has sent it out to a very large number of people however. A number of these people have contacted me to either ask what is going on or to let me know he has done this. Some have responded to him and asked to be removed from his mailing list—they then receive rude replies and he forwards on their emails which have again been tampered with. In fact I wonder whether the email he is sending out as mine is perhaps an edited version of a response from someone else as the English is not the same style as his.
While I can continue to ignore this person and his submissions (although this is messing with our journal statistics!), I am very concerned that he is traducing our reputation and is spamming such a large number of people. I would be grateful for any help or advice.
The advice from the Forum was that the editor could consider publishing an editorial on this issue, explaining what has happened and putting the journal’s side of the story. This is especially relevant if the editor feels that the reputation of his journal has been damaged. To avoid a similar incident in the future, the advice was to consider asking authors to name their institution on submission of their paper. Also, it was suggested that the editor use the manuscript submission systems to reply to the author so that there will then be an audit trail for the correspondence and also a permanent record.
Most participants believed that this is now a legal rather than an editorial issue and the editor should perhaps contact the publisher/owner of the journal and request a letter from a lawyer. A formal, legal note should be sent to the author (by email if this is the only known means of contact). Another practical suggestion was to contact Yahoo (as all of the author’s accounts are @yahoo.fr, @yahoo.in or @yahoo.cn) as they take such abuse issues very seriously and may investigate.
The editor completely ignored the author. The editor did not even reject the last batch of papers that the author submitted to the journal but just left them on the electronic system. This, of course, messed up the submission statistics and processing times a little, but the author eventually got bored and stopped harassing the journal in the end. It was all very sudden so perhaps something happened at his end. The editor has since quietly removed his duplicate submissions from the system.
This case concerns a submitted review article that proposes a new theory in a field of research where there are two polarised positions.
The original manuscript (R0) underwent peer review and was returned with reports indicating a major revision, which took several months. On submission of the revision, one of the reviewers from the previous round was asked to re-review. That reviewer (reviewer A) declined but provided a suggestion for an alternative reviewer (reviewer B). The editor invited reviewer B, who agreed to review the revised manuscript (R1).
Reviewer B delayed reviewing the paper, but finally submitted the review after a reminder from the editor. That review was one of two that were returned for manuscript R1. The other review was complimentary and suggested a very minor revision.
The editor included the reviews with a decision letter to the author explaining that it appeared that certain important aspects of the paper were not yet in order, or representative of a genuine division of opinion in the community, and asking for clarification. The contact author recognised one of the reviewer reports (reviewer B) as identical to that from reviewer A from the R0 round of peer review. Clearly, at this point, the author and editor could only assume that the confidentiality of peer review had been broken between reviewer A and reviewer B, but also that further misconduct/incompetence had occurred between the two.
The editor put this point to reviewer B for clarification, and the reviewer replied (after a delay of 3 days) that he/she did not know what the editor was talking about. With that email reply, reviewer B included a different report with the words of explanation "THIS is my report on the manuscript".
In good faith, and preserving anonymity, the editor forwarded that "second" report from reviewer B to the contact author whereupon the author replied that even that report referred to concepts that were no longer present, or no longer presented in such terms, in the revised manuscript. That observation further added to the author's and editor's concern that the revised manuscript had not been judged properly, or even at all, by reviewer B, and that the process of peer review had been compromised in several ways.
An inevitable conclusion is that the peer review of this manuscript was compromised in respect of the confidentiality and proper conduct that is expected of peer reviewers. Although it is often possible for a second round reviewer to see—verbatim—the report of a previous reviewer included with the author’s response letter, this was not the case with the above manuscript. The editor double checked the manuscript submission system: the verbatim version of reviewer A's report was not included with the author’s response that reviewer B was able to see, although the author did address reviewer A's points in that response. Therefore, the editor can only assume that the first report that reviewer B submitted actually came from, or by way of, reviewer A. Furthermore, the second report from reviewer B refers to concepts that were in the R0 version of the manuscript, but not in the R1 version, hence indicating that reviewer B had reported on the wrong manuscript, which he/she could only have obtained via reviewer A.
On receiving feedback on the second reviewer B report from the author (ie, that it must refer to the R0 manuscript instead of the R1), the editor emailed reviewer B, laying out the events and concerns, as described above. The email ended with the following observation: “Both the contact author and the editor have important concerns about the peer review of this manuscript: ie, that it has been compromised in serious ways that might even have influenced the careers of the younger authors. Clearly, the proper review of manuscripts in a journal that maintains confidential peer review is of paramount importance, given the lack of knowledge that the author has as to who has reviewed his/her paper. I trust that you appreciate my concerns”.
The editor received no reply but has marked both reviewer A and reviewer B as excluded reviewers in the manuscript submission system, and has made the case and identity of the reviewers known to his publishing department. From the course of events, it is highly likely (although not provable), that reviewers A and B conspired to get the manuscript rejected. What further action is necessary/advisable?
The Forum agreed that breach of confidentiality is a serious matter and should be investigated. As the editor confirmed that the instructions to reviewers in his journal stress the confidentiality of reports, it does appear very likely that reviewer A did breach confidentiality. The editor should contact reviewer A and ask for an explanation. It may be that this was an honest mistake and reviewer A thought s/he was being helpful in forwarding the report to reviewer B. However, if the editor has clear evidence that the reviewers behaved inappropriately, he should contact their institution and request an investigation. He should also tell the reviewers that they have been excluded from the journal’s manuscript submission system. The editor should also contact the authors and assure them that he is investigating the case and that the journal takes reviewer confidentiality seriously.
The Forum also suggested that the editor may like to write an editorial on this issue in general, after the case has been resolved.
The editor tried to contact the other reviewer but received no reply. He has continued to exclude the reviewers from the journal’s manuscript submission system (both as potential reviewers and as potential authors). The editor also communicated the problem to the rest of his department.
Our journal received a manuscript describing a comparison of two different techniques for patients in the intensive care unit. There was no information on ethics committee approval and so we asked the authors if approval was obtained. They replied that they had not applied for ethics committee approval “as it was a clinical comparison of two existing methods, none of them experimental. All patients had an indication for the technique, and the technique was introduced in our intensive care units before the beginning of the study period”.
The study is described in the manuscript as a “prospective, comparative clinical study” conducted in 2009 and that “every other patient” who received the technique during the study period was assigned to “the technique of choice at our institution” or to a technique introduced in 2005. It is not clear whether informed consent was obtained.
We believe that this study was not conducted in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration where it is specified that “The research protocol must be submitted for consideration, comment, guidance and approval to a research ethics committee before the study begins".
Regarding informed consent, it is stated that “Research involving subjects who are physically or mentally incapable of giving consent, for example, unconscious patients, may be done only if the physical or mental condition that prevents giving informed consent is a necessary characteristic of the research population. In such circumstances the physician should seek informed consent from the legally authorised representative. If no such representative is available and if the research cannot be delayed, the study may proceed without informed consent provided that the specific reasons for involving subjects with a condition that renders them unable to give informed consent have been stated in the research protocol and the study has been approved by a research ethics committee. Consent to remain in the research should be obtained as soon as possible from the subject or a legally authorised representative.”
We have the following question for COPE: should we wait for the authors to apply for approval from the ethics committee at this stage or should we reject the manuscript and forward our concerns to the person responsible for research governance at the institution?
The Forum agreed that the described project was clearly research and not a service audit. It appeared, in fact, to be a prospective randomised trial and so it should have been registered and ethics approval obtained. Retrospective approval would not be appropriate. In addition, all participants should have given their informed consent. The lack of consent suggests a breach of the Helsinki declaration. All agreed that the editor should contact the author’s institution and inform them of the situation and ask them to investigate.
The editor contacted the professor who is responsible for research governance at the authors' institution. He agreed that this case raised significant concerns and an investigation has been initiated. Based on this, he has arranged a teaching programme in the department focusing on research principles and legislation. He has promised to keep us informed about other "whatever measures” that he deems necessary.
Follow Up (March 2011):
A departmental medical ethics programme has been organised in collaboration with the regional ethics board. The need for ethics committee approval has been emphasised and all clinical study protocols must be assessed by the person responsible for research. Violations of the department’s medical ethics program will lead to local manuscript retraction and freezing of intramural research funding and other support. A department publication and manuscript database system will be used for monitoring purposes.
An article was submitted to my journal and was sent for peer review. An editorial board member realised that a number of the references were incorrect: publication dates had been changed to make them more current.
The author was contacted by email and telephone who said he/she had a number of students working for him (who were not listed as authors or in the acknowledgment) and they must have changed the dates because it was well known that faculty preferred current research. He was sorry and was happy to correct the references so the peer review process could move forward.
I told him the manuscript was rejected based on the grievous errors in the reference list. This author also had an accepted manuscript in the production queue. I reviewed that manuscript again after realising the issues above and found the same problems.
Because I had already accepted that manuscript, I gave the author the opportunity to correct the references and add the student's names who worked on the paper to the acknowledgment section. The managing editor and I had to review and further correct the references following his attempt, and this manuscript will be published.
Have other editors experienced similar problems and how does COPE recommend handling them?
The Forum agreed that this is serious misconduct and almost amounts to falsification of data. The Forum questioned the motivation of the author and nobody present had seen a similar case. The author’s behaviour seems extremely odd and it seems strange that the author did not realise that the incorrect dates would be spotted, either because of well-known papers or through reference checking and automatic linking. The Forum suggested that the editor should send a firm letter to the author, explaining that this type of conduct is unacceptable and that she will be contacting the author’s institution and informing them of the situation.
The Forum also suggested that in light of the misconduct and extremely unusual behaviour regarding the references, the editor should perhaps question the scientific veracity of the studies and perhaps this too needed to be investigated, not only in terms of the current paper, but also in relation to previous papers published by this author. The editor told the Forum that other journals had published papers by this author and the Forum advised the editor to contact these editors and share her findings. It may be that all of the editors could write to the institution if similar problems are found in other papers by this author.
The publisher is working with their legal department to determine the contents of a letter that will be sent to the author’s dean and will be signed by the editor and a representative from the publisher. The editor also decided not to publish a manuscript by the same author that had previously been accepted.
Follow Up (March 2011):
The editor discovered that there were also plagiarism issues in three other journals by the same publisher and the plagiarism involved both submitted and published manuscripts. There were also coauthors for several of these papers. The editor contacted the author's dean, as did another editor. The editor received an email from the dean thanking the editor for her efforts. The research compliance officer for the university became involved, the author admitted guilt for the plagiarism and he tendered his resignation in February 2011. The publisher’s legal department is reviewing the extent of the ethical issues and will decide what further action to take. It appears that the author has been involved in ethical violations of manuscripts for a long time.
Dr R submitted a paper to our journal and has since expressed unhappiness about the way in which our journal has dealt with the issue.
The manuscript was submitted to our journal according to the usual accepted procedures. Our journal requires that only a single author (the corresponding author) sign the copyright assignment form (on behalf of all the authors). We require that the author also affirms that all authors have seen and agreed to the submitted manuscript. Dr R was the corresponding author for this paper and she provided the requested assurances.
The paper was reviewed, revised and accepted without any unusual comment. It was published online and was scheduled for print publication. We received a protest letter from Dr M in July (several months after online publication) claiming that he was not consulted about the paper and did not want to be a coauthor. We then removed the article from our website and from the upcoming print issue, pending resolution of the protest.
We wrote to the corresponding author (Dr R) asking for an explanation, which she provided. The gist of the explanation was that Dr M objected to publication as a means of retribution, for her spurning his romantic advances. According to the appendix provided by Dr R, there was no communication between her and Dr M at the time of manuscript submission (because of the split caused by this personal issue). Dr R therefore relied entirely on Dr V (who was her Head of Department) for her determining that Dr M was happy with the submission (assurance that was apparently provided by Dr V).
We have requested a confirmatory letter from Dr V (Dr R’s advisor—the senior member of the authorship team). Dr V has responded with a letter indicating the scientific excellence of Dr R’s work but not clearly addressing the issue of whether Dr M did indeed see and approve the submitted manuscript. Dr M has written to reiterate his objection, and to clarify that he opposes publication per se. Dr R wrote again indicating her unhappiness with the way this issue was being handled by our journal.
What does COPE advise?
The advice from the Forum was that the editor should act as if the paper has been published, as it was published online. Hence the first thing the editor must do is reinstate the paper on the website, as taking it down amounts to retraction, and there are no grounds for retraction of this paper. The editor needs to decide if there is anything wrong with the data of the study. What are the objections of Dr M? Are they justified? The editor could suggest to the authors that he publish a correction with the correct list of authors. If all of the authors do not agree, then the editor should contact the institution and ask them to investigate the case and decide whether there are grounds for retraction.
Another suggestion was to contact Dr M and ask him if he wished to submit a letter to the journal for publication stating his objections to the paper. This would give him an opportunity to have his comments aired.
The Forum suggested that in the future, and to avoid similar cases, the journal should request that all authors, and not just the corresponding author, sign the copyright forms, and the journal should communicate with all of the authors at some stage.
The Forum does not recommend imposing sanctions on authors because of the risk of litigation.
After hearing the opinions of the COPE Forum, we determined to proceed with publication of the paper in question. We first wrote to the one unhappy author, telling him that we were going ahead with publication but asking him if he wanted to have his name removed from the paper. We did not hear back from him and have proceeded with publication of the initial manuscript.
Professor X claims that he should have been a coauthor on one of two peer reviewed publications and the senior author on the other. The situation is unusual in that Professor X is now retired and his name was omitted from coauthorship of both papers. Professor X argues that he should have been the senior author of the first manuscript since the funds to initiate the project were directly derived from a grant awarded to him.
Professor Y does not dispute this assertion but argues that the direction of the project and the data generated for the paper do not reflect the work proposed in the original grant and that Professor X made no contribution to the final product. Professor X claims that the second publication arose from his initial contact with Professor Z, the eventual senior author on the second publication, and from his proposal for a collaboration. Again, Professor Y argues that Professor X had made no contribution to the final manuscript. There appears to be personal animus between Professor X and Y which complicated resolution.
In telephone conversations with Professor Z, I learned that Professor X had been included as a coauthor until the final version, at which time he was excluded from authorship. Professor Z did know this action had been taken, apparently by Professor Y, but did not question it.
The final resolution involved compromise on both sides, and neither party was happy with my final decision. The resolution involved a corrigendum stating:
“This corrigendum is to note that Dr X should have been acknowledged as an author on the paper entitled, ‘XXXX’ for having contributed to the initiation of the program. Dr X should also be acknowledged as an author on the paper entitled, ‘YYYY’ for his participation and contributions in the early stages of this project.”
Although this issue has been resolved, it took an inordinate amount of my time as editor, requiring multiple emails, telephone calls and involvement of the provost of the institution in which the two investigators worked. The question is whether, for future reference, there is an alternative approach that is equally equitable and effectively more time efficient.
Although this case has been resolved, the editor told the Forum that he would like to know what to do in the future if a similar case arose. In the case of authorship disputes, it is almost impossible for the editor to adjudicate and this matter should be investigated by the author’s institution. Alternatively, the editor could ask the authors to choose an independent arbiter who they both accept and whose decision they agree to abide by: this could be the head of the institution. The Forum warned that if a journal publishes a paper with a known authorship dispute, it can put the journal at risk of litigation
The Forum also suggested that the editor put processes in place that would prevent this from happening in the future. The journal could publish contributorship statements so that there is no confusion as to the contributions of each author. The instructions to authors should make clear that the journal expects authors to follow the ICJME criteria for authorship. In addition, the journal could also require that authors state that they have contacted any person who has been acknowledged on their paper and that those acknowledged have given their permission for inclusion.