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Publishing ethics for books

Scholarly books published across science, technology, and medicine serve as important and authoritative collections or curations of established doctrines and accepted scientific theories; they primarily serve as authoritative general references or academic course materials and the content is generally used for long-term reference 1opens in new tab/window.

Although books and book chapters serve as important historical markers, they are distinct from scientific journal articles which disseminate novel research findings and serve as “a permanent, historic record of the transactions of scholarship” (see Elsevier Journal Policy: While published journal articles “shall remain extant, exact and unaltered as far as is possible,” in order to preserve the ‘blockchain’ of historical scholarship, published books and book chapters do not always follow suit.  Occasionally, circumstances may arise where a book chapter is published that must later be removed. Such actions are not undertaken lightly and occur only under the exceptional circumstances outlined below.

Distinct from the roles and responsibilities of editors of learned journals, editors and authors of scholarly (STM) books do not commonly bear the sole or independent responsibility for deciding which chapters submitted as part of a larger book manuscript shall be published. Responsibility is most commonly shared between book Editor/Author and Publisher, as laid out in common (industry standard) language in Editor or Author contracts. Publishers rely on the scientific expertise of Editors and Authors to guide decision-making regarding the scientific or scholarly quality, clarity, and currency of information in the text, data, illustrations, and bibliography. However, Editors, Authors and Publishers commonly make collective decisions when ethical concerns arise. In this collective decision-making processbook Editors, Authors and Publishers are guided by general ethical policies set by the AAP, COPE, the individual Publisher, and constrained by legal requirements in force regarding libel, copyright infringement, and plagiarism (as laid out in book contracts).  As standards evolve and change, we will revisit this issue and welcome the input of scholarly and library communities.

Related policy information: