Authors’ awareness of publication ethics: An international survey

This is a collaborative project between Sara Schroter, Gary Bryan, Elizabeth Loder (BMJ); Jason Roberts (International Society of Managing and Technical Editors), Tim Houle (Wake Forest University, North Carolina), and Don Penzien (University of Mississippi, Jackson, MS).

Considerable time is expended by journals investigating ethical transgressions and misconduct that may be caused by ignorance rather than wilful deceit. Publication ethics are rarely taught. We are conducting an international survey to measure the level of awareness of key ethical issues in publishing amongst a large sample of currently active researchers submitting articles to several BMJ journals. We intend this study to be one of the largest undertaken involving a variety of ethical issues on authorship, conflicts of interest, access to data, redundant publication, non-publication, dual submission, salami publishing, plagiarism, image manipulation, informed consent, fabrication, and falsification. We will use short vignettes rather than posing direct questions about awareness to avoid leading questions. To reduce respondent burden but at the same time including vignettes to cover all the important issues, we will randomise authors to one of a series of groups and this will determine which subset of vignettes they will receive. We will use the results generated by the survey to help inform the content of a comprehensive and readily accessible resource for all authors offering guidance on all aspects of the submission process.