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Research integrity initiatives

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. In the below we briefly list the many initiatives that we undertake to translate this vision into actual steps.

Re-using research data

Research data are the foundation on which scientific and medical knowledge is built. With the increased digitization 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 lifecycles. These aspects include preservation, accessibility, citation, reproduction and re-use. With these characteristics in mind, we contribute to data initiatives like Force11opens in new tab/windowScholixopens in new tab/window, and the Research Data Allianceopens in new tab/window (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 API’s to allow for local integrations as well.

Mendeley Dataopens in new tab/window 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, 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 Checkopens in new tab/window (previously called CrossCheck), a service that helps editors 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 CONSORTopens in new tab/window. 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 Pharmacologyopens in new tab/window introduced an author checklistopens in new tab/window to ensure that proper research procedures are followed and reported.

Cell Pressopens in new tab/window has rolled out STAR Methodsopens in new tab/window to most of its journals. STAR Methods are methods that provide Structured, Transparent, Accessible Reporting. They promote rigor 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.

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 Cortexopens in new tab/window became one of the first journals to offer Registered Reports – an empirical article type designed to eliminate publication bias and incentivize 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.

View an example of a recent Registered Reportopens in new tab/window

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 Lancetopens in new tab/window launched the REWARD (REduce research Waste And Reward Diligence) Campaignopens in new tab/window calling 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.

Read more on the papers, the statement, the Campaign, its partners, and regular updates.opens in new tab/window

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 Heliyonopens in new tab/window 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’re 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.

The CRediT taxonomyopens in new tab/window emerged from a collaborative effortopens in new tab/window between a range of research institutions, publishers, funding agencies, standard organizations, and others. The new taxonomy is designed to help clarify what authors actually contribute to a paper, and provides clear definitionsopens in new tab/window 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.