Publishing ethics

Researchers should conduct their research from research proposal to publication in line with best practices and codes of conduct of relevant professional bodies and/or national and international regulatory bodies. In rare cases it is possible that ethical issues or misconduct could be encountered in your journal when research is submitted for publication.

Ethical responsibilities of authors

This journal is committed to upholding the integrity of the scientific record. As a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) the journal will follow the COPE guidelines on how to deal with potential acts of misconduct.  

Authors should refrain from misrepresenting research results which could damage the trust in the journal, the professionalism of scientific authorship, and ultimately the entire scientific endeavour.  Maintaining integrity of the research and its presentation is helped by following the rules of good scientific practice, which include*:

  • The manuscript should not be submitted to more than one journal for simultaneous consideration.
  • A single study should not be split up into several parts to increase the quantity of submissions and submitted to various journals or to one journal over time (i.e.  ‘salami-slicing/publishing’).
  • Concurrent or secondary publication is sometimes justifiable, provided certain conditions are met. Examples include: translations or a manuscript that is intended for a different group of readers.
  • Results should be presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification or inappropriate data manipulation (including image based manipulation). Authors should adhere to discipline-specific rules for acquiring, selecting and processing data.
  • No data, text, or theories by others are presented as if they were the author’s own (‘plagiarism’). Proper acknowledgements to other works must be given (this includes material that is closely copied (near verbatim), summarized and/or paraphrased), quotation marks (to indicate words taken from another source) are used for verbatim copying of material, and permissions secured for material that is copyrighted.

         Important note: the journal may use software to screen for plagiarism.

  • Authors should make sure they have permissions for the use of software, questionnaires/(web) surveys and scales in their studies (if appropriate).
  • Authors should avoid untrue statements about an entity (who can be an individual person or a company) or descriptions of their behavior or actions that could potentially be seen as personal attacks or allegations about that person.
  • Research that may be misapplied to pose a threat to public health or national security should be clearly identified in the manuscript (e.g. dual use of research). Examples include creation of harmful consequences of biological agents or toxins, disruption of immunity of vaccines, unusual hazards in the use of chemicals, weaponization of research/technology (amongst others).
  • Authors are strongly advised to ensure the author group, the Corresponding Author, and the order of authors are all correct at submission. Adding and/or deleting authors during the revision stages is generally not permitted, but in some cases may be warranted. Reasons for changes in authorship should be explained in detail. Please note that changes to authorship cannot be made after acceptance of a manuscript. [See also Authorship principles.]

*All of the above are guidelines and authors need to make sure to respect third parties rights such as copyright and/or moral rights.

Upon request authors should be prepared to send relevant documentation or data in order to verify the validity of the results presented. This could be in the form of raw data, samples, records, etc. Sensitive information in the form of confidential or proprietary data is excluded.

If there is suspicion of misbehavior or alleged fraud the Journal and/or Publisher will carry out an investigation following COPE guidelines.  If, after investigation, there are valid concerns, the author(s) concerned will be contacted under their given e-mail address and given an opportunity to address the issue. Depending on the situation, this may result in the Journal’s and/or Publisher’s implementation of the following measures, including, but not limited to:

  • If the manuscript is still under consideration, it may be rejected and returned to the author.
  • If the article has already been published online, depending on the nature and severity of the infraction:
  1. an erratum/correction may be placed with the article
  2. an expression of concern may be placed with the article
  3. or in severe cases retraction of the article may occur. 

The reason will be given in the published erratum/correction, expression of concern or retraction note. Please note that retraction means that the article is maintained on the platform, watermarked “retracted” and the explanation for the retraction is provided in a note linked to the watermarked article.

  • The author’s institution may be informed
  • A notice of suspected transgression of ethical standards in the peer review system may be included as part of the author’s and article’s bibliographic record.

Fundamental errors

Authors have an obligation to correct mistakes once they discover a significant error or inaccuracy in their published article. The author(s) is/are requested to contact the journal and explain in what sense the error is impacting the article. A decision on how to correct the literature will depend on the nature of the error. This may be a correction or retraction. The retraction note should provide transparency which parts of the article are impacted by the error.

Suggesting / excluding reviewers

Authors are welcome to suggest suitable reviewers and/or request the exclusion of certain individuals when they submit their manuscripts. When suggesting reviewers, authors should make sure they are totally independent and not connected to the work in any way. It is strongly recommended to suggest a mix of reviewers from different countries and different institutions. When suggesting reviewers, the Corresponding Author must provide an institutional email address for each suggested reviewer, or, if this is not possible to include other means of verifying the identity such as a link to a personal homepage, a link to the publication record or a researcher or author ID in the submission letter. Please note that the Journal may not use the suggestions, but suggestions are appreciated and may help facilitate the peer review process.

Authorship principles

These guidelines describe authorship principles and good authorship practices to which prospective authors should adhere to.

Authorship clarified
The Journal and Publisher assume all authors agreed with the content and that all gave explicit consent to submit and that they obtained consent from the responsible authorities at the institute/organization where the work has been carried out, before the work is submitted.

The Publisher does not prescribe the kinds of contributions that warrant authorship. It is recommended that authors adhere to the guidelines for authorship that are applicable in their specific research field. In absence of specific guidelines it is recommended to adhere to the following guidelines a,b:

All authors whose names appear on the submission

  1. made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data; or the creation of new software used in the work;
  2. drafted the work or revised it critically for important intellectual content;
  3. approved the version to be published; and
  4. agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Based on/adapted from: 

a. ICMJE, Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors, http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html

b. Transparency in authors’ contributions and responsibilities to promote integrity in scientific publication, McNutt at all, PNAS February 27, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1715374115

Disclosures and declarations

All authors are requested to include information regarding sources of funding, financial or non-financial interests, study-specific approval by the appropriate ethics committee for research involving humans and/or animals, informed consent if the research involved human participants,  and a statement on welfare of animals if the research involved animals (as appropriate).

The decision whether such information should be included is not only dependent on the scope of the journal, but also the scope of the article. Work submitted for publication may have implications for public health or general welfare and in those cases it is the responsibility of all authors to include the appropriate disclosures and declarations.

Data transparency

All authors are requested to make sure that all data and materials as well as software application or custom code support their published claims and comply with field standards. Please note that journals may have individual policies on (sharing)research data in concordance with disciplinary norms and expectations. Please check the Instructions for Authors of the Journal that you are submitting to for specific instructions.

Role of the Corresponding Author

One author is assigned as Corresponding Author and acts on behalf of all co-authors and ensures that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately addressed 

The Corresponding Author is responsible for the following requirements:

  • ensuring that all listed authors have approved the manuscript before submission, including the names and order of authors;
  • managing all communication between the Journal and all co-authors, before and after publication*;
  • providing transparency on re-use of material and mention any unpublished material (for example manuscripts in press) included in the manuscript in a cover letter to the Editor;
  • making sure disclosures, declarations and transparency on data statements from all authors are included in the manuscript as appropriate (see above).

*The requirement of managing all communication between the journal and all co-authors during submission and proofing may be delegated to a Contact or Submitting Author. In this case please make sure the Corresponding Author is clearly indicated in the manuscript.

Author contributions

Please check the Instructions for Authors of the Journal that you are submitting to for specific instructions regarding contribution statements.

In absence of specific instructions and in research fields where it is possible to describe discrete efforts, the Publisher recommends authors to include contribution statements in the work that specifies the contribution of every author in order to promote transparency. These contributions should be listed at the end of the submission.

Examples of such statement(s) are shown below:

Free text:

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by [full name], [full name] and [full name]. The first draft of the manuscript was written by [full name] and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Example CRediT taxonomy:

Role

Definition

Conceptualization

Ideas; formulation or evolution of overarching research goals and aims.

Data curation

Management activities to annotate (produce metadata), scrub data and maintain research data (including software code, where it is necessary for interpreting the data itself) for initial use and later re-use.

Formal analysis

Application of statistical, mathematical, computational, or other formal techniques to analyse or synthesize study data.

Funding acquisition

Acquisition of the financial support for the project leading to this publication.

Investigation

Conducting a research and investigation process, specifically performing the experiments, or data/evidence collection.

Methodology

Development or design of methodology; creation of models.

Project administration

Management and coordination responsibility for the research activity planning and execution.

Resources

Provision of study materials, reagents, materials, patients, laboratory samples, animals, instrumentation, computing resources, or other analysis tools.

Software

Programming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components.

Supervision

Oversight and leadership responsibility for the research activity planning and execution, including mentorship external to the core team.

Validation

Verification, whether as a part of the activity or separate, of the overall replication/reproducibility of results/experiments and other research outputs.

Visualization

Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically visualization/data presentation.

Writing – original draft

Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically writing the initial draft (including substantive translation).

Writing – review & editing

Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work by those from the original research group, specifically critical review, commentary or revision – including pre- or post-publication stages.

Conceptualization: [full name], …; Methodology: [full name], …; Formal analysis and investigation: [full name], …; Writing - original draft preparation: [full name, …]; Writing - review and editing: [full name], …; Funding acquisition: [full name], …; Resources: [full name], …; Supervision: [full name],….

For review articles where discrete statements are less applicable a statement should be included who had the idea for the article, who performed the literature search and data analysis, and who drafted and/or critically revised the work. 

For articles that are based primarily on the student’s dissertation or thesis, it is recommended that the student is usually listed as principal author c.

Based on:

c. A Graduate Student’s Guide to Determining Authorship Credit and Authorship Order, APA Science Student Council 2006, https://www.apa.org/science/leadership/students/authorship-paper.pdf

Affiliation

The primary affiliation for each author should be the institution where the majority of their work was done. If an author has subsequently moved, the current address may additionally be stated. Addresses will not be updated or changed after publication of the article.

Changes to authorship

Authors are strongly advised to ensure the correct author group, the Corresponding Author, and the order of authors at submission. Changes of authorship by adding or deleting authors, and/or changes in Corresponding Author, and/or changes in the sequence of authors are not accepted after acceptance of a manuscript.

! Please note that author names will be published exactly as they appear on the accepted submission!

Please make sure that the names of all authors are present and correctly spelled, and that addresses and affiliations are current.

Adding and/or deleting authors at revision stage are generally not permitted, but in some cases it may be warranted. Reasons for these changes in authorship should be explained. Approval of the change during revision is at the discretion of the Editor-in-Chief. Please note that journals may have individual policies on adding and/or deleting authors during revision stage.

Author identification

Authors are recommended to use their ORCID ID when submitting an article for consideration or acquire an ORCID ID via the submission process.

Deceased or incapacitated authors

For cases in which a co-author dies or is incapacitated during the writing, submission, or peer-review process, and the co-authors feel it is appropriate to include the author, co-authors should obtain approval from a (legal) representative which could be a direct relative.

Authorship issues or disputes

In the case of an authorship dispute during peer review or after acceptance and publication, the Journal will not be in a position to investigate or adjudicate. Authors will be asked to resolve the dispute themselves. If they are unable the Journal reserves the right to withdraw a manuscript from the editorial process or in case of a published paper raise the issue with the authors’ institution(s) and abide by its guidelines.

Confidentiality

Authors should treat all communication with the Journal as confidential which includes correspondence with direct representatives from the Journal such as Editors-in-Chief and/or Handling Editors and reviewers’ reports unless explicit consent has been received to share information.

Compliance with ethical standards

To ensure objectivity and transparency in research and to ensure that accepted principles of ethical and professional conduct have been followed, authors should include information regarding sources of funding, potential conflicts of interest (financial or non-financial), informed consent if the research involved human participants, and a statement on welfare of animals if the research involved animals.

Authors should include the following statements (if applicable) in a separate section entitled “Compliance with Ethical Standards” before the References when submitting a paper:

  • Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest
  • Research involving Human Participants and/or Animal
  • Informed consent

Please note that standards could vary slightly per journal dependent on their peer review policies (i.e. double blind peer review) as well as per journal subject discipline. Before submitting your article check the Instructions for Authors carefully.

The corresponding author should be prepared to collect documentation of compliance with ethical standards and send if requested during peer review or after publication.

The Editors reserve the right to reject manuscripts that do not comply with the above-mentioned guidelines. The author will be held responsible for false statements or failure to fulfill the above-mentioned guidelines.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest

Authors must disclose all relationships or interests that could have direct or potential influence or impart bias on the work. Although an author may not feel there is any conflict, disclosure of relationships and interests provides a more complete and transparent process, leading to an accurate and objective assessment of the work.

Awareness of a real or perceived conflicts of interest is a perspective to which the readers are entitled. This is not meant to imply that a financial relationship with an organization that sponsored the research or compensation received for consultancy work is inappropriate.

Examples of potential conflicts of interests that are directly or indirectly related to the research may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Research grants from funding agencies (please give the research funder and the grant number)
  • Honoraria for speaking at symposia
  • Financial support for attending symposia
  • Financial support for educational programs
  • Employment or consultation
  • Support from a project sponsor
  • Position on advisory board or board of directors or other type of management relationships
  • Multiple affiliations
  • Financial relationships, for example equity ownership or investment interest
  • Intellectual property rights (e.g. patents, copyrights and royalties from such rights)
  • Holdings of spouse and/or children that may have financial interest in the work

In addition, interests that go beyond financial interests and compensation (non-financial interests) that may be important to readers should be disclosed. These may include but are not limited to personal relationships or competing interests directly or indirectly tied to this research, or professional interests or personal beliefs that may influence your research.

The corresponding author collects the conflict of interest disclosure forms from all authors. In author collaborations where formal agreements for representation allow it, it is sufficient for the corresponding author to sign the disclosure form on behalf of all authors.

Examples of forms can be found here.

Examples of disclosures

The corresponding author will include a summary statement in the text of the manuscript in a separate section before the reference list, that reflects what is recorded in the potential conflict of interest disclosure form(s).

Topic

Examples of disclosures

Funding

Funding: This study was funded by X (grant number X).

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of Interest: Author A has received research grants from Company A. Author B has received a speaker honorarium from Company X and owns stock in Company Y. Author C is a member of committee Z.

If no conflict exists, the authors should state

Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

1) Statement of Human Rights

When reporting studies that involve human participants, authors should include a statement that the studies have been approved by the appropriate institutional and/or national research ethics committee and have been performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

If doubt exists whether the research was conducted in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration or comparable standards, the authors must explain the reasons for their approach, and demonstrate that the independent ethics committee or institutional review board explicitly approved the doubtful aspects of the study.

The following statements should be included in the text before the References section:

Topic

Statement

Ethical approval

Ethical approval:  All procedures performed were in accordance and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards and ethical approval was obtained from [include name of ethics committee and reference number]. 

2) Statement on the Welfare of Animals

The welfare of animals used for research must be respected. When reporting experiments on animals, authors should indicate whether the international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals have been followed, and that the studies have been approved by a research ethics committee at the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted (where such a committee exists).

For studies with animals, the following statement should be included in the text before the References section:

Topic

Statement

Ethical approval

Ethical approval: All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the studies were conducted and ethical approval was obtained from [include name of ethics committee and relevant permit number].

Example exemption granted

Ethical approval: This study is exempted from ethical approval by ethics committee [include name of ethics committee and reference number (if available)]

If articles do not contain studies with human participants or animals by any of the authors, please select one of the following statement:

Statement

Ethical approval: This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Ethical approval: This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Ethical approval: This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Studies involving human embryos, gametes, and stem cells

Manuscripts that report experiments involving the use of human embryos and gametes, human embryonic stem cells and related materials, and clinical applications of stem cells must include confirmation that all experiments were performed in accordance with relevant guidelines and regulations (See also Research involving human participants and/or animals)

The manuscript should include an ethics statement identifying the institutional and/or national research ethics committee (including the name of the ethics committee) approving the experiments and describing any relevant details. Authors should confirm that informed consent (See also Informed consent) was obtained from all recipients and/or donors of cells or tissues, where necessary, and describe the conditions of donation of materials for research, such as human embryos or gametes. Copies of approval and redacted consent documents may be requested by the Journal.

We encourage authors to follow the principles laid out in the 2016 ISSCR Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation.

In deciding whether to publish papers describing modifications of the human germline, the Journal is guided by safety considerations, compliance with applicable regulations, as well as the status of the societal debate on the implications of such modifications for future generations. In case of concerns regarding a particular type of study the Journal may seek the advice from the Springer Nature Research Integrity Group.

The decision to publish a paper is the responsibility of the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal.

Informed consent

All individuals have individual rights that are not to be infringed. Individual participants in studies have, for example, the right to decide what happens to the (identifiable) personal data gathered, to what they have said during a study or an interview, as well as to any photograph that was taken.

Hence it is important that all participants gave their informed consent in writing prior to inclusion in the study. Identifying details (names, dates of birth, identity numbers and other information) of the participants that were studied should not be published in written descriptions, photographs, and genetic profiles unless the information is essential for scientific purposes and the participant (or parent or guardian if the participant is incapable) gave written informed consent for publication. Complete anonymity is difficult to achieve in some cases, and informed consent should be obtained if there is any doubt.

For example, masking the eye region in photographs of participants is inadequate protection of anonymity. If identifying characteristics are altered to protect anonymity, such as in genetic profiles, authors should provide assurance that alterations do not distort scientific meaning.

The following statement should be included:

Topic

Statement

Informed consent

Informed consent: Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

If identifying information about participants is available in the article

Informed consent: Additional informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for whom identifying information is included in this article.

Springer’s guide on publishing ethics

In order to safeguard the quality of its publications, Springer has updated the policy on Publishing Ethics. In line with the philosophy of the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) we follow the principle that we have a prime duty to maintain the integrity of the scientific record. By providing Springer’s Guide on Publishing Ethics, we aim to optimally assist Springer Publishing Editors as well as Editors-in-Chief, Editors, Reviewers and Authors with this task.

Please find the complete document on Publishing Ethics here.

Appeals and complaints 

The below procedure applies to appeals to editorial decisions, complaints about failure of processes such as long delays in handling papers and complaints about publication ethics. The complaint should in first instance be handled by the Editor-in-Chief(s) responsible for the journal and/or the Editor who handled the paper. If they are the subject of the complaint please approach the in-house publishing contact. (Please check the contacts page on the journal homepage. If no publishing contact is identified send the query to ethics.reporting@springernature.com).  

Complaint about scientific content, e.g. an appeal against rejection
The Editor-in-Chief or Handling Editor considers the authors’ argument, the reviewer reports and decides whether
- The decision to reject should stand;
- Another independent opinion is required
- The appeal should be considered.
The complainant is informed of the decision with an explanation if appropriate. Decisions on appeals are final and new submissions take priority over appeals.

Complaint about processes, e.g. time taken to review 
The Editor-in-Chief together with the Handling Editor (where appropriate) and/or in-house contact (where appropriate) will investigate the matter. The complainant will be given appropriate feedback. Feedback is provided to relevant stakeholders to improve processes and procedures.

Complaint about publication ethics, e.g., researcher's author's, or reviewer's conduct
The Editor-in-Chief or Handling Editor follows guidelines published by the Committee on Publication Ethics. The Editor-in-Chief or Handling Editor may ask the publisher via their in-house contact for advice on difficult or complicated cases. The Editor-in-Chief or Handling Editor decides on a course of action and provides feedback to the complainant. If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the handling of their complaint, he or she can submit the complaint to the Committee on Publication Ethics. More information can be found here.

Predatory journals and references

When using sources for your research, please be aware that material could have been published in questionable, scholarly, usually Open Access journals. These “predatory” journals include the variety that seek to attract potential authors with flattering spam e-mails assuring rapid publication on the basis of the Journal’s highly esteemed reputation in the field. Too often, these journals have exactly the same or very similar names to those of well-established journals. Springer recommends authors to assess carefully whether an article published by a “predatory” journal should be referenced. Please note that several abstracting & indexing services, including Thomson Reuters, are taking ethical publication seriously by examining the content, practices, and websites of these “predatory” journals.

If you would like to learn more about learned (Open Access) publishers and publications please visit the following links:

OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association)

DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals)

COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics)

Interactive course

Take a free COPE e-learning class on how detect, prevent and handle misconduct.