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Allegations of misconduct

Journals should have a clearly described process for handling allegations, however they are brought to the journal's or publisher’s attention. Journals must take seriously allegations of misconduct pre-publication and post-publication. Policies should include how to handle allegations from whistleblowers.

Our core practices

Core practices are the policies and practices journals and publishers need, to reach the highest standards in publication ethics. We include cases with advice, guidance for day-to-day practice, education modules and events on topical issues, to support journals and publishers fulfil their policies.

The cheating medical students


An editorial was published on cheating at medical school. The medical school concerned had allowed a cheating student to graduate. The article attracted over 100 responses, many of them in support of the decision. But an anonymous email response from two students claimed that an exam paper had been seen in the dean’s office prior to an examination and that some 60 per cent of the students had seen this by the time they came to sit the exam.


Who ensures the integrity of the editor?


An editor came across a letter from the editor-in-chief of his journal to a reviewer that asserted he had recommended the acceptance of a manuscript. He had in fact recommended the opposite, both verbally and in writing. The paper in question was a guideline on the therapeutic choices for a relatively common medical condition. The authors had claimed their conclusions and therapeutic recommendations were “evidencebased” and recommended a new, expensive medication as first-line treatment.


The discontented and abandoned contributor


A paper was rejected after peer review. Some time later a researcher wrote to say that he had been involved at the beginning of the study, but had withdrawn his name because he felt the study was defective. He had heard that the study had been submitted for publication, and thought it better that the editors were made aware of his doubts before publication rather than afterwards. As the paper had already been rejected, these questions didn’t arise.


The anonymous critic


A letter containing details of a case report was submitted in February 1999. The authors were from Japan. After peer review and revision, the case report was accepted and a proof was sent to the authors. Two anonymous letters were then received, one on April 29 and another on 12 May, both from Japan.


Duplicate publication and now fraud?


Two articles were published in two different journals. The articles had been submitted within days of each other, and were subsequently peer reviewed, revised, and published within a month of each other. The authors failed to reference the closely related article as submitted or in press, and the editors of the two journals were unaware of the other article.