Teamwork Between Journals and Research Institutions on Research Reliability Cases
Suggestions from OARS
Journals and institutions both plays vital role in research and printing of misbehavior. Institutes are accountable for researchers’ misconduct and create suitable atmosphere to upgrade research. Similarly Journals are accountable for editors’ behavior and for protecting research records. Journals are also supposed to make sure to continue trustworthiness of their publication. Hence it is mandatory for institutes as well as journals to take care of reliability by effective communication and contribution. This goal can be achieved by taking following steps.
- Delegate responsibility of reliability to special research executive and display his contact details clearly visible
- The journals should be communicated all confirmed misconduct which can harm trustworthiness or goodwill, without any delay
- All the requests received from journals, pertaining to any disputes w.r.t. authorship, misguiding reports, honest errors, competing interest should be honored on priority to avoid adverse effect on integrity.
- Take suitable steps against research misconduct allegations/objectionable publication pointed out by journals.
- Make policy which motivates ideal research conduct and process instead of enquiring doubtful research misconduct.
Expectations from a Journal:
- Publicize name, address, contact phone/mobile no., email id, fax no. etc. of chief editor to enable people to contact him to get answers w.r.t. reliability of research and publication
- Share all the information w.r.t. their researchers’ doubtful misconduct with documentary evidence.
- Extend utmost cooperation to investigators by answering all the questions to institutions regarding misconduct charges.
- Whenever verdict received from investigators with concrete evidence regarding misconducts, they should be ready to issue retractions or corrigendum as per OARS illustrations.
- Have proper guidelines for dealing with investigating authorities engaged in research misconduct.
- Academic journals and research universities are indispensable stroke in sustaining reliability of research and publication by performing vital role, in mutual interest. They are accountable for the behavior of their editors & researchers and for motivating sound research atmosphere which nurtures research integrity. They are also supposed to protect research record and to make sure the integrity is sustained in all their output.
- In order to maintain reliability of research and publication, institutions and journals should work together with each other. They should make suitable policy and encourage ideal understanding among editors, authors, researchers, & reviewers. Journals should be very cautious in detecting plagiarism/misconduct before the publication. With a view to protect readers from misguidance, institutions are supposed to scrutinize probable misconduct; similarly journals should rectify honest error or retract objectionable/untrustworthy article/paper.
- A forum comprised of all journal members is made available by OARS with a view to share the problematic issues among themselves which alerts them regarding the anticipated problems regarding probable misconduct likely to be faced in working with institutions. It is also observed by going through literature and consulting with institutions that sometimes editors does not react favorably while informing misconduct conclusions.
- With a view to achieve fruitful result [w.r.t. publication moral and research reliability] from the joint venture of journal editors and research institutions, OARS has designed following strategies after consulting experts in the relevant areas and institutions.
- This article emphases mainly on scrutiny of probable misconduct without underestimating the importance of eradication, education etc. it is preferable for journal and institutional to include all features in their policies. Journal policies should not restrict their reactions confined to misconduct only but it should also give equal importance to genuine errors.
- In the same way, it is observed that fund contributors also supposed to take responsibility of nurturing research reliability and they are entitled to get ins and outs [i.e. all information] regarding misconduct pertaining to research project for which they have contributed their money. Although OARS guideline is helpful in clarifying the roles of journals and institutions, but fund contributors can design their own guidelines, to sustain reliability of the research and to frame ideal clauses for maintaining desired research conduct with the help of journals and institutions.
- As per OARS guidelines, whenever publication misconduct is found to be doubtful, editors are required to take up the matter first with concerned authors to get satisfactory reply. If editors are not convinced with the reply, then they should refer the case to concerned employers or institution with a request to scrutinize.
- Hence OARS suggests that all the enquiries relating to probable misconduct should be entrusted to researcher’s institution instead of giving to editors. Editor is supposed to rectify or retract the untrustworthy articles before publication. The institution or employer is supposed to ensure that repetitions of misconduct never take place and eradicated once for all. In case, articles are already proved to be plagiarized or manipulated, editors should coordinate with the institutions for rectifying the published record by way of corrigendum/erratum.
- Whenever clashes take place among researchers regarding authorship, journals required to join hands with [or refer the matter to] concerned institution because journals do not have right to scrutinize or conclude quarrels/clashes.
- The OARS guidelines depend upon the criteria that institutions are responsible for the researchers’ faults. They are also supposed to scrutinize and take corrective actions against probable misconduct. The guidelines also specify that journals are accountable for their publications.
- Although these guidelines motivates transparent communication between journals and institutions to conclude probable and confirmed misconduct, but it is also advisable to maintain secrecy with regard to
- (A) Safeguarding identity of the person who has disclosed the misconduct,
- (B) Comments/conclusions of peer reviewers
- (C) Permitted deviations/deliberations/understandings
Description of Misconduct
Description of research misconduct varies from organization to organization and the same is applied based on requirements. Sometimes institutes rigidly follows the misconduct definition so minutely which may be impracticable and may not certify an author is guilty which leads to dispute with journals while considering retraction or corrigendum with a view to protect/aware readers from redundant publication.
- This is guideline reflects to only doubtful situations and does not focus on effective intensity of misconduct which may adversely affect the trustworthiness of research analysis
- Proposals to strengthen relation between journals and research institutions.
1. Single Window Information Centre (SWIC)
- In order to have effective communication, research institution can delegate assignment of ensuring and maintaining reliability and to tackle misconduct disputes to a responsible, honest, impartial person who can work without prejudice and his contact details including name, address, contact phone/mobile no., email id, fax no. etc. should be made available in relevant website to enable people to contact him whenever required. If such person is not available within the institute, then they should recruit suitable person from external sources.
- Similarly journals should also have a counterpart of above who can serve as “Chief Editor” and display his name, address, contact phone/mobile no., email id, fax no. etc. to enable people to contact him to get answers w.r.t. reliability of research and publication. In case, the disputes are not resolved within the journal’s periphery, then external mediator, who can act as an impartial intermediary between the journal editors and author/institutes.
2. Sharing of misconduct information
- Whenever misconduct of researcher is detected by an institution, they should immediately contact concerned journal and share the facts to eradicate/minimize the effect of plagiarism/manipulation. If the conclusion of misconduct is released by external agency, then all the comments of verdict should also be share with journals. They should prepare themselves with suitable replies to all probable questions to justify retraction of concern.
- Institutes are expected to share all the information to journal editor and give replies to all their queries relating to authorship misrepresentation, superfluous publication, repeat submission, failure to disclose competing interests, or misguiding reporting. Institutions should have such a system where researchers gladly share their honest errors to safeguard trustworthiness.
Editors are also supposed to support wholeheartedly the scrutiny process and convince institutes with satisfactory replies to all questions.
3. Interaction between journals and institutions should include
- Receipt of all incoming mails is to be confirmed and suitable reply specially w.r.t. research misconduct accusations.
- Sharing of all information to editors’ w.r.t. under process misconduct enquiries, their outcomes as well as approximate time required to conclude the matter with current status for enabling editors to take suitable/corrective actions.
- The final conclusion of misconduct enquiry should be communicated to editors on priority to enable them to arrange for timely retraction or issue corrigendum.
Make sure all the information regarding misconduct enquiry are crystal clear, perfect and comprehensive
It should be joint endeavor of both institutions as well as editors to maintain utmost secrecy about the in process misconduct enquiries. Although editors can release Expression of Concern to readers about severe charges may be endanger trustworthiness of a publication.
Responsibility / Duties of a Journal
- Receipt of all incoming mails from institutions are to be acknowledged and send suitable reply specially w.r.t. research misconduct accusations
- Share information regarding confirmed or doubtful plagiarism, fabrication of text to institutions with documentary proof.
- Scrutinize the charges of researchers’ misconduct who may be working as peer reviewers for journal by following OARS illustrations.
- Strictly adhere to OARS illustration while retracting research
React to journal affairs regarding research trustworthiness or publication process.
- Institutions are supposed to scrutinize the charges and objections raised by journal editors’ w.r.t. research misconduct.
- Journals should try their best to give documentary proofs for all the objections/charges raised by them w.r.t. to misconduct which can establish the plagiarism or irregularity. They are at liberty to whether to disclose or keep secret the identity of the person who detected the plagiarism or irregularity.
There should be positive approach of institutions whenever editors seek authorship/ownership clarification. Editors are depended upon the researchers’ honesty. Journal cannot act as judiciaryin authorship disagreements and hence they should entrust this responsibility to institutes and accept their decision. Editors should modify list of authors for submitted or published research,as decided by institutions. They can also take help from OARS illustrations.
Joints Venture of Many institutes/Journals
- Wherever it is a joint venture of many institutes or journals, it is advised to authorize leading one of them [who administers the grant or recruited the researchers] to represent & respond, co-ordinate with investigators/concerned parties. The disagreement among them can be sorted out with the help of external legal mediator/adviser
- Generally whenever disputes arises w.r.t. plagiarism, copyright, superfluous publication it involves multiple journals and hence it is desired for them to shake hands in order to achieve mutual goal [which is integrity] by exchanging required information i.e. submission dates, deeds of copyright transfer etc. to settle the disputes.
Monitoring trustworthiness of published research data backup
- Whenever it is concluded by institute’s investigating authority to take disciplinary actions against researcher responsible for misconduct, the same should be communicated to the editors.
- Likewise, whenever misconduct is confirmed by investigators, the journals should immediately process retractions/corrections.
- The difference between retraction and correction: whenever publication proved to be untrustworthy it is retracted and when almost entire publication is within acceptable norms and very little portion is misleading/wrong then correction is issued.
- In order to alert/warn readers regarding probable doubts which may endanger the trustworthiness of journal, then Expressions of Concern is issued and ultimately it is followed with either Retraction or Correction or Letter of Apology when enquiry is over and final verdict is released.
- In case when author accepthonest errors, journal should publish corrections/retractions mentioning the actual reason differentiating honest error with misconduct which will motivate researchers to disclose errors as it will not penalize/disgrace them.
Strategy of Journals / institutes
- There should be guidelines with institutions indicating pros and cons of all the consequences in order to maintain research trustworthiness and to encourage ownership honesty. It should also reflect the various actions to be taken to penalize the erring authors who are adopting wrong methods i.e. plagiarism, data/text manipulation, misrepresentation.
- Researchers should be motivated by institutes to detect and highlight mistakes in published text. Similarly, journals should frame their guidelines reflecting modus operandifor tackling doubtful misconduct and the way to co-ordinate with all concerned people during investigation process.
Motivating ideal tradition
- Journals should give clear direction to Authors and Reviewers apart from having written down handbook containing rules and regulations w.r.t. all attributes of publication integrities. Journals should try their best to make aware all concerned authors and readers transparently the modus operandi for handling doubtful research misconduct and for nonconformance of publication norms.
- A syllabus/prospectus should be designed to include “Ideal Publication Tradition” meant for all the concerned people and added to their programs of education in Research Trustworthiness.
- The Top Level Management of Journal and Institutes should ensure to make their organization exemplary i.e. it comprises of people& place which excels at what they do and are excellent examples to others, and their output is so good and unique which can set as an example for others
- The institutes should communicate effectively to all concerned including readers that the process of accepting, evaluating the research text/article is so rigid which does not have any loopholes for giving any room to irregularity/dishonesty i.e. guest & ghost ownership, plagiarism, data manipulation/fabrication,superfluous contents.
Scrutiny of last publications
It is generally observed that a researcher who is caught red-handed in proven irregularity by adopting plagiarism, data/text manipulation, misrepresentation etc. is always a professional guilty person who repeats the same practice always with various journals/institutions. Hence, it is mandatory for institution/journal to go through his past history and scrutinize all ins and outs and make aware of all the relevant journals/institutions the facts and make them aware/alert of guilty researcher’s misdeeds for the sake of maintaining reliability/trustworthiness of the entire society/association/field.