Why this Publishing Ethics Resource Kit?
In the area of scientific publishing, ethics can be considered as either scientific ethics or publishing ethics. Many international, national and governmental institutions worldwide concern themselves with scientific ethics, for example the ethics of human and animal experimentation, data storage regulations and the setting up of ethics committees at universities.
Monitoring publishing ethics is a major aspect of the peer-review process and as such lies within the area of responsibility of the editor-in-chief, or the scientific editor, of each journal. To enforce publishing ethics and detect misconduct, editors rely heavily on the reviews of referees, and post-publication, on comments from the scientific community at large. Fortunately, the area of science publishing is reasonably good at self-correcting, albeit sometimes later rather than earlier. In any case, every reported act of unethical publishing behaviour must be looked into, even if it is discovered years after publication.
Experienced editors may well have dealt with many publishing ethics cases, however the rules and guidelines of the community are constantly being refined and updated. In practice publishers often help guide and support editors with these matters. The Publishing Ethics Resource Kit (PERK) has been assembled and maintained with this in mind. All editors, new and experienced, and all publishing staff are urged to look at and use this resource kit.
How PERK works
The material in this resource kit consists of the following:
- Decision trees – Flow charts for dealing with different forms of publishing ethics abuse
- Form letters - Examples of appropriate letters for various situations
- Case studies
- Q & A - A large resource of useful information structured in the form of Questions and Answers
- General links to related Elsevier policies, documents and initiatives
- More information about and links to industry organisations, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)
- An overview of duties of editors and other parties involved in publishing ethics.
When an editor is confronted with a case (or suspected case) of ethics abuse, he/she should first identify the type of unethical behaviour, using the definitions provided in each of the decision trees. Then the decision trees, and their recommended action, can be followed. Flow charts from COPE, in this kit named ‘COPE charts’, are available for a second opinion. This is often the time for the editor to discuss the case with his/her publishing contact within Elsevier and agree what action, if any, needs to be taken.
Within the decision trees, reference is made to the relevant form letters and Elsevier policies. The form letters and policies can be accessed directly from the decision tree pages, but also from the PERK introduction page, and the menu at the right-hand side.