Journal Ethics and Malpractice
A practical guide for Editorial Board & publishing partners of NAJE for possible issues arising from publishing work which may breach NAHJE code of conduct.
Researchers are required to conduct their research – from research proposal to publication -in line with practices and codes of conduct of professional national and international regulatory bodies. Precautions against possible occurrences of misconduct or ethical issues encountered in the journal are paramount.
NAHJE encourage responsible and clear publication practices. Our publication and research integrity demand our absolute commitment to investigate any allegations and/or suspicions of misconduct and malpractice.
Statements of ethical descriptions help manage possible situations of authors who fail to adhere to our code of ethical principles. Please contact the managing editorial members immediately if a potential case of publishing misconduct or malpractice of the situations below arises.
Steps to follow when ethical issues and possible misconduct are encountered
There are two possible situations in scientific research; scientific fraud or errors. For the latter, negligence is a possible cause, such as statistical or miscalculations errors, which are normal in the course of conducting research. Therefore, treating such cases with care is essential as scientific careers could be jeopardized.
Following these steps could help managing possible misconduct cases:
- To avoid conducting misjudgments, all involved parties must maintain confidentiality and remain neutral in treating potential misconduct cases.
- All communications, written or electronic must be recorded, including the evidence, complaint, and allegations.
- Issues with the involved author/s must be raised with care and in a timely manner.
- Fact must be investigated thoroughly, transparent assessments conducted of what occurred, and decisions must be final.
- All legal questioning and cases must be handled in coordination with the legal dept. of the College of Engineering in Al-Nahrain University as the official legal advisor office of NAHJE.
Possible Ethical Issues
The following are some of the ethical issues that be encountered during the processing of scientific research. Legal advice could be sought by either or both parties involved (the accused and the accusing) if the matter demands such interventions. NAHJE uses Turnitin Plagiarism detection software to help discover plagiarism and fraud cases.
Fabrication of Data
This means manipulation of data intentionally to provide false impressions, including removing outlier or inconvenient results, adding, changing, or omitting data, …etc.
It is common practice to improve images, such as. samples, micrographs, gels, radiological images, for readability purposes. Proper technical image improvement includes adjustments of contrast, brightness, or color balance applied to a complete digital image, not parts of it, to enhance readability. However, obscuring, deleting or addition of new elements into an image is considered unethical and malpractice. Therefore, any conducted manipulation must be reported to the Journal Editor upon submission. If the editor board suspect any questionable manipulation of data, images, or any other part of the manuscript, we suggest requesting the original data from the author/s to investigate.
Duplicate Submissions and Redundant Publication
Duplicate Submission: The case of submitting the same manuscript or study to more than one journal at the same time to be published, whether the submission is made simultaneously of years apart.
Redundant Publication: The case of submitting a manuscript that has been split into several parts and submitted to more or more journals, also described as ‘Salami Publishing’. This could refer to the findings of a previously published manuscript mentioned in a submitted manuscript without proper cross-referencing, permission, or justification. Recycling or borrowing content from previous work is considered “self-plagiarism”, even if conducted unintentionally. Authors must be transparent when asked to provide any necessary information to assess whether the case is unintentional or deliberate. Translation of articles and resubmission of previously published Open Access articles without permission or notification are considered duplication as well.
Duplication of text and/or figures (plagiarism)
Plagiarism occurs when the work of others such as data, text, theories, diagrams, images, …etc. is submitted as the work of someone else without permission or proper citation or acknowledgment. The degree of plagiarism depends on several factors: extent of copied material, originality of copied material, position/context/type of material and referencing/attribution of the material used.
Since every case is different, investigation is necessary to make the right decision to be certain of whether the case is an honest mistake or an intentional one. Please take into consideration the author/s history and seniority. In the case of author/s being juniors and/or unexperienced, they could be asked to paraphrase the copied text if they were not aware that copying phrases and data is inappropriate. In the case of senior author/s, they are expected to know better. Mother language and cultural background could be factors as well of certain behaviors and the amount of copied data being viewed as plagiarism.
The following points are possible plagiarism occurrences:
- Author/s Literal copying of another author/s work and submitting it as their own.
- Author/s Literal copying of considerable portions of text from a single source.
- Mixing literal copied materials from multiple sources, or what is referred to as “patchwork copying”, which could range from copying 1-2 paragraphs to considerable portions of several paragraphs.
- Copying materials while changing key words and phrases but keeping a crusial proportions of framework of the original text.
- Submitting another author/s work as one’s own after rephrasing the text’s original wording and/or structure.
- Rephrasing materials from multiple published sources, mix them, then present the final version as new work.
- Mentioned work is cited unproperly which make them unclearly identified, which can be combined with copied parts of texts that have not been cited.
Please note that for review papers and manuscripts, the above-mentioned points do not apply in the same manner since they are expected to provide a summery of already published literature. However, authors should use their own words and interpretations of cited texts with exceptions to quotations and cited texts.
Conflict of Interests
When a situation arises in which financial or personal considerations between authors or reviewers that could compromise or bias objectivity or professional judgment. NAHJE requires authors to present and sign a Conflict of Interest form which lists all parties involved or relevant to the manuscript prior to submitting their work to our journal. This is taken into consideration to avoid potential bias or future conflicts between authors and reviewers.
To maintain the integrity of research literature, sometimes it is necessary to correct the literature within acceptable, and established boundaries. Editorial board could request corrections of typos, for instance, that proves to be an honest mistake and could be misleading to reliable publication. If the author/s or contributors’ lists are found to be questionable and needs further investigation, or if the findings have been previously published without proper referencing or permission, if evidence of plagiarism was found, or if the research was found unethical, then the editorial board retain the right to send the author/s a retraction note and document the incident.
If the evidence found of the research or publication conduct was inconclusive, or was found to be biased, or if the is still in progress and the verdict may take a while to be issued, then the journal editor should issue an expression of concern.
Publishers are expected to correct the literature according to the instructions of the editorial board and assigned reviewers. Authors with no history of offences or lack of experience should be notified and their condition taken into consideration. However, in the case of repeated offences or authors being unprofessional (e.g. using offensive or abusive language), the editorial board retains the right to refuse the manuscript and/or accepting future submission from these authors.
As for cases of severe plagiarism such as multiple authors committing multiple serious unethical practices, notification should be issued to the legal advisors of the journal to consider legal actions where necessary.
In cases such as data fabrication or falsification, stolen data, and/or author disputes, when investigating a misconduct could be beyond the means of the Editorial board of the journal, the author’s institution or employment institution should be notified and included, especially in integrity cases, to help with the investigation and evidence acquirement.
Turnitin for Plagiarism Detection
Detection of plagiarism at an early stage helps the editorial board as well as reviewers to maintain the ethics of publishing and reduce the workload when such cases are detected. NAHJE uses Turnitin to check all submitted manuscripts before passing it on to editorial specialists’ boards and reviewers. This web-based tool checks an authored work against millions of other published scholarly articles, books, conference papers, dissertations, other academic content, and billions of web pages to ensure its originality and is used in the editorial process to identify matching text but it cannot, on its own, identify plagiarism. Although manual examination is conducted as well to determine the extent of the plagiarism and how serious is the case.
NAHJE strongly advise all contributing partners, editorial board members, reviewers and authors to report any suspicion/ potential of misconduct or breach of publishing ethics as soon as they are discovered to avoid legal complications and/or persecution.
Please contact us if you have any suggestion/comments/or found any suspicious content regarding this topic on the emails below: