A SHORT GUIDE TO ETHICAL EDITING FOR
Role of a journal editor is not only thrilling but it is also a discouraging job if he works without daily interaction with associates. This guideline will put emphasis on relevant problems.
- Preliminary steps to be taken at the joining time.
Firstly, Study existing process with important criteria of journal with preceding editor, then compare and analyses with OARS checkpoints. This will enable new editor to find out the lacunas / weak points of journal policy, existing procedure which required to be corrected immediately to commensurate OARS guidelines on publication norms. Journal reflects various ways and counter measure to avoid ethical problems which depends on employee’s strength, inputs available and the subject. Hence it is advisable to use checkpoints with publisher and the journal manager make regular practice which may be time taking
- Relations with the leaving editor
It is advisable for publisher to ensure that outgoing editor completes submission of paper which started by him and also gives sufficient [stipulated] time to new editor and comfortably makes new editor understand to administer routine work. New editor is also not supposed to disrespect/modify outgoing editor’s decisions, acceptance unless grim and drastic consequences anticipated such as plagiarism data manipulation.
- Association / interaction with other editors/board
Some journal follows the system where chief editor works with his team members. Whenever new entrant editor joins, he reviews and revises role clarity responsibility, performance of all the team members,editors and other editorial staff members.
Mostly journals follows the system of having editorial board although roles and responsibility may differ. New editors’ gets guidelines from board members with ascertain their expectations with regard to annual quantum of reviewing manuscripts. This may also give clarity whether to appoint fresh editors or ask existing editors to quit for board restructure. There is also a policy to recruit editors for a certain period of time, observed by some journals.
In case, journal shows the scope of change in direction, the same can be done after consulting and convincing other editorsand publisher or else such decision will be erratic. All concerned need to be taken into confidence in the medium the journal has practice.
- Relations with authors
It is advisable for new editor to communicate [through giving links of OARS illustrations and disclaimer guidelines] authors the expectations from them and review functions given to authors and to ascertain whether the same commensurate with guidelines. Authors should also be warned about the exact disciplinary actions to be taken against them in case plagiarism or data manipulation is detected. The new editor is also advised to have good rapport with his team members such as co-workers, publisher or a literature editor to make sure that journal instructions are not confusing or vague. He is also suggested to maintain values of journal by giving checklist to authors indicating expectations.
Since the editors are supposed to act as a Quality Controller of all the publications, he is required to take all the corrective steps to maintain best quality by identifying various objects and criteria’s of journal and within parts of journal.
Whatever conclusions taken by editors regarding accepting or rejecting an article should only be based on quality, uniqueness, clearness and pertaining to journal’s concern.
The procedure for submissions should be jointly agreed by editor, group of editors, and publisherto ensure proficiency and perfection in the journal. It is also advisable to share all the relevant required and justified informationviz. authorship declarations, details of fund contributor etc. [through Software’s which can also be designed in such a way that it reflects for online submissions] to ensure cent percent transparency.
- Obtain authors’ acknowledgement regarding all the relevant directives.
- Role clarity statement for each and every author indicating details of expectations vs. actual performance
- Full details of the fund contributing persons/authority
- Statement of challenge awareness
- Obtaining approval for using copyrighted articles from the concerned people
- Written records for any unpublished quotations/certifications/references
- Details of past submissions to other journals.
- Obtain undertaking/declaration from the submitting persons indicating that it is unpublished anywhere and its originality
- Journals should motivate authorship policy which is suitable to research. Editors are also supposed to boost suitable authorship to disappoint guest, trace and encourage ghost authors. Journals are expected to have following guidelines.
- Details of role to be performed by each of the employee to the research and its publication.
- counter measure to avoid ghost authorship
- Authorship statement should be duly signed by all the concerned authors
- All the authors should actively participate in communication (e.g. acknowledging receipt of a submission)
- While instructing authors, they should be given clarity regarding authorship criteria
- Display of moral consent and documented acceptance for study in human being
- Information regarding consent received for animal experimentation
Whether to obtain ethical consent for studies in humans differs from nation to nation. Some country insists and some does not. This again leads to rejection of submissions of manuscripts which do not meet the journal’s requirement and also due to confusions regarding local laws. In such case, OARS guidelines may be obeyed for clarity.
- Submission and tracking portal
Online submissions generally offer normal information/feedback to authors/reviewers/co-editors. If this is suitable to your journal then please review to ensure that it indicates all the required information along with clear instructions to authors. Obtain standard letters reviewed by other editors, editorial staff or language editor may also be useful for improving them with more clarity.
- Association with reviewers
Reviewers should be well equipped with utmost role clarity and expectations by editors. The same should be periodically reviewed and modified. They can be provided link to the OARS illustrations/guidelines with following suggestions.
- NEW EDITOR
- There should be accurate and impartial Reviews
- Avoid personal criticizing / blaming authors
- Reviewers are supposed to share their opinion/conclusions with documentary evidence and avoid offensive and baseless matters
- Reviewers are expected to pronounce probable conflicting outcomes
- Reviewers are supposed to reject reviewing manuscripts which may lead to dispute with internal or external directly or indirectly effected authors, firms, institutions individually or collectively.
- Reviewers are supposed to maintain secrecy for the unpublished article they receive and not to share / divulge any information with anybody within or outside his periphery.
- Reviewer cannot transfer review request to other co-worker without getting concerned editor’s written approval.
- Journals are supposed to have process which offers appraisal of reviewer's work and if the same is not satisfactory, it should entitle to get rid from such reviewers
- Editors are not supposed to disclose the peer reviewer's name and identity unless review system is declared as transparent among the authors and reviewers.
- Editors are supposed to ask the reviewers the following questions effecting moral aspects of submitted articles:
- Whether this research article is published earlier?
- Whether author has tried to copy partly or fully from other published research i.e. to find out whether it is case of plagiarism?
- Whether research articles are ethical and all the necessary permissions are acquired?
- To ascertain whether content of research article is fictitious or managed one
- Whether authors have disclosed probable conflicting outcomes
- The peer-review process
Editors are supposed to implement only peer review process which is best suited for their journal. They can decide
- The number of reviewers required
- whether reviewers’ identity to be disclosed or signature are to be obtained or not
- whether reviewers’ name and other relevant details to be published or not
- whether reviewers have worked as per checklists.
Editors are expected to make sure that all the articles submitted to their journal are kept extreme secret till the same is completely reviewed/published
Editors are also supposed to give equal importance to timeliness to avoid unnecessary delay by regular supervising and expediting peer review process
- Can editors publish in their own journal?
Editors should not take advantage of their right to publish submission in their own journal. The editorial board members should make it mandatory to obtain their approval regarding process of submission/peer review which should be detailed after the publication is over.
- Editorial freedom and association with publisher
The relation between publisher and editor is always complicated but should not compromise with editorial freedom. Editors should accept submission only based on its quality,acceptability,uniqueness without considering only personal/materialistic/political gains [refer OARS guideline]
To avoid future complications and mis-understandings in the mutual relation, it is advisable to have written agreement [appointment letter ] indicating all the terms and conditions which should be adhering to OARS guideline and mutually acceptable. It should also indicate anticipated grievance [if any] handling process in case of difference of opinion. In absence of written agreement, insist to take publisher / owner in confidence.
- Non-technical Financial issues
- In case, journal accommodates commercially sponsored additions, please make sure it should neither adversely effect quality of journal nor effect editorial decisions.
- Editors can accept responsibility for commercial functions provided policy is crystal clear. Executives handling this assignment should be free from personal gain, if something found detrimental he should revoke himself.
- Handling probable misbehavior and solution
OARS declares that editors reactions for settling cases of non-acceptable, non publishable doubtful submission having misbehavior. OARS flowchart advises the editors to be assertive during conflicts and be courteous and act gracefully while asking for “show-cause”. The allegation of editors should not be harsh and attacking on reviewers/authors, but it should reflect the exact reasons with necessary proof. The authors/reviewers should be given opportunity to put up their views without fear before reaching to conclusion. OARS also offers ready made letters to sort out such problems.
In case, plagiarism or data manipulation or major disagreement with author is detected, editor should include his counterpart who was directly handling manuscript and go through the OARS guideline to tackle such grim and unfortunate cases suitably. The editor should be cautious in handling such situation as it may cause negative impact with regard to monetary or legal consequencies.
Editors are supposed to publish acknowledgements, erratum, corrigendum, withdrawals, disclaimers, confessions as and when required. Withdrawals should be viewed positively and can be considered as protection tool rather than journal’s unsuccess.
- There should be clear modus operandi regarding tackling of grievances and applications.
- Journal should act as guide to show path when disputes between editors and authors are not settled mutually. It may suggest to recruit impartial expert mediator to intervene and solve such problems.