Elsevier shares the research community’s goal to promote the integrity of research – from proper design methodology to ethical article submission, properly reviewed publication and making research data available for re-use. Below we briefly list the many initiatives that we undertake to translate this vision into actual steps.
Information, education, and training
The integrity of research is frequently addressed in education and training sessions by research institutions. Elsevier also provides such training, especially in the context of writing and publishing research articles.
Online lectures and interactive courses on a variety of topics, including authorship, plagiarism, and conflict of interest.
- Online lectures are presented by leading experts who engage in a Q&A afterwards to boost the discussion.
- Interactive training courses guide attendees through a topic and test their knowledge along the way.
New editors frequently need guidance when they encounter their first research integrity issues, but also established editors like to be supported in their handling of research integrity allegations.
- Publicly accessible Publishing Ethics Resource Kit (PERK)
- Elsevier-published journals are members of COPE, the Committee on Publication Ethics, a forum for editors of peer-reviewed journals to discuss issues related to publication ethics and the integrity of the scientific record.
Re-using research data
Research data are the foundation on which scientific and medical knowledge is built. With the increased digitisation of research there are new possibilities to store and preserve research data. Capturing research results in digital form has many advantages:
- improves access, re-use and reproducibility,
- reduces costs,
- saves resources,
- facilitates discovery,
- fosters multidisciplinary research,
- promotes the integrity of the research being published.
At Elsevier, we believe there are 10 aspects to making research data effective – they can function as a roadmap for the development of better data management processes and systems throughout the research and research data life cycles. These aspects include preservation, accessibility, citation, reproduction and re-use. With these characteristics in mind, we contribute to data initiatives like Force11, Scholix and the Research Data Alliance (RDA).
As a publisher and information analytics provider, Elsevier creates digital products and platforms that embed research data in the research workflow to make them accessible, discoverable, and reusable – and ultimately to support the integrity of the research being published.
All these tools below are seamlessly integrated with one another to avoid double work. All tools have open APIs to allow for local integrations as well.
- Mendeley Data offers a data repository where researchers can store, collaborate, find, share, and expose their research data
- Research Elements provides a collection of peer-reviewed open access journals that make data, software, materials and methods available for further discovery, reuse and citation
- The electronic lab notebook Hivebench helps researchers to annotate, share and retrieve their experiments and methods better in a lab situation.
Plagiarism and image manipulation
One of the more common violations of research integrity is plagiarism.
- To detect plagiarism before publication, the STM publishing community came together to develop Crossref Similarity Check (previously called CrossCheck), a service that helps editors to verify a paper’s originality. Elsevier contributed over 10 million articles and more than 7,000 books to this service and is using it to check each submitted manuscript with over 50 million scholarly content items that have been previously published.
More recently, an increasing number of research integrity problems are related to image duplication or inappropriate image manipulation. Such instances are occasionally found by sharp-eyed reviewers or editors, but a systematic process is needed to consistently identify potential problems.
- Some of our journals already pass submitted images through a manual image-screening process, but bringing such screening to all submissions will require a semi-automated process.
- Elsevier is active in this area, running pilots and sponsoring research in software development – for example, in partnership with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, we have formed the Humboldt-Elsevier Advanced Data & Text (HEADT) Centre to investigate issues related to the integrity of research.
Structured and transparent reporting
For many years, the integrity of health and medical research and its reporting has been improved by requiring the adherence to reporting guidelines like CONSORT. In other disciplines, such standards are not readily available, though many agree that they could be very useful.
- To that end, the Elsevier journal Biochemical Pharmacology introduced an author checklist to ensure that proper research procedures are followed and reported.
- Cell Press has rolled out STAR Methods to most of its journals. STAR Methods are methods that provide Structured, Transparent, Accessible Reporting. They promote rigour and robustness with an intuitive, consistent framework that integrates seamlessly into the scientific information flow — making reporting easier for the author and replication easier for the reader. When Cell began publishing papers with STAR Methods last year, the response was very positive.
As one researcher wrote:
I truly believe that this measure will help to make science more reproducible.
Preregistration and Registered Reports
A key element of proper research is not letting the execution of a research protocol and the collection or analyses of data be influenced along the way. Preregistration of the research methodology is a way to enhance the transparency and reproducibility of science by reviewing study protocols before experiments are conducted.
Cortex journal offers Registered Reports
In 2013, the Elsevier journal Cortex became one of the first journals to offer Registered Reports – an empirical article type designed to eliminate publication bias and incentivise best scientific practice. In contrast to conventional publishing, Cortex and our other journals with Registered Reports provisionally accept an article based on a previously submitted study protocol that is considered methodologically sound and addresses an important scientific question. Armed with this provisional acceptance of their work, authors can perform the research in the knowledge that the results themselves will not determine the article's publication. At the same time, readers of the final paper can feel more confident that the work is reproducible because the initial study predictions and analysis plans were independently reviewed.
The Lancet REWARD Campaign
Every year, about a third of a trillion dollars (USD) is spent on biomedical research across the world. But there is evidence showing that parts of this investment is wasted because of the ways in which research priorities are set, research is designed, conducted and analysed, and research is regulated and managed; also the lack of publication of much research and the poor reporting of research that is published plays a part.
Following the publication of a four paper series in 2014 on how to increase value of and reduce waste in biomedical research, The Lancet launched the REWARD (REduce research Waste And Reward Diligence) Campaign calling on all involved in biomedical research to critically examine the way they work to ensure that they make research as valuable and usable as possible.
The REWARD statement includes the following agreement:
We believe we have a responsibility not just to seek to advance knowledge, but also to advance the practice of research itself. This will contribute to improvement in the health and lives of all peoples, everywhere. As funders, regulators, commercial organisations, publishers, editors, researchers, research users and others – we commit to playing our part in increasing value and reducing waste in research.
Publishing reproducibility papers
Making sure that research can be reproduced is a massive step towards making it trustworthy and showing peers, funders and the public that science can be trusted. This is what we must do to safeguard science. Nevertheless, replication studies are rarely published, which can be due to:
- In part, the lack of a “breakthrough” in such a study, and thus the little recognition that its author(s) receive(s), as relevant citations tend to go to the original paper
- Also a related perception that journals and their editors are not interested in replication studies, particularly those studies that confirm previous results.
As a leading publisher, Elsevier helps to lower this perceived barrier to publication.
- We provide homes for research that promotes reproducibility: journals like Heliyon welcome good-quality studies no matter what the result.
- We have also put together a series of virtual special issues focusing on reproducibility: for instance, one of them features replication studies in neuroscience, neurology, psychology and psychiatry and another one with articles about the importance of reproducibility.
- We are now working on a new article type dedicated to replication studies, which will soon be available across a range of journals.
Transparency in authorship and contributor roles
As research becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, authorship roles are growing and changing. Large collaborative projects can often involve hundreds of contributors, and even for smaller research efforts an author list of 10-15 people is not unusual. Authorship is a mark of credit but also of responsibility – for both the content of the paper and the validity of the data within it. For any paper, inclusion as an author is an indication of meaningful contribution to the paper and agreement about its content and publication.
- With a view to improving clarity and transparency in this context, Cell Press introduced the use of the CRediT taxonomy for research papers,
- Over time, Elsevier plans to roll out the use of this taxonomy across many more journals.
The CRediT taxonomy emerged from a collaborative effort between a range of research institutions, publishers, funding agencies, standard organisations and others. The new taxonomy is designed to help clarify what authors actually contribute to a paper and provides clear definitions for the different roles that they can play. The taxonomy and its implementation are also intended to provide greater recognition for the work of each author and reduce authorship disputes.
Sponsor of the World Conference on Research Integrity
Elsevier has been a proud sponsor of the World Conference on Research Integrity (WCRI).
- In conjunction with the WCRI 2017 conference, we additionally co-organised a pre-conference workshop on “The Role of Text and Image Processing in Fostering Responsible Research Practices”. With presentations from academia and industry, including researchers, developers and software providers, this workshop has been exploring current and future applications of technology for better science. It specifically focused on how text mining and image processing technologies can be used in this context.