Mistakes by authors or issues relating to research and publication ethics can arise and be identified at any point along the manuscript handling process, as well as after publication. With increasing awareness and better detection methods, it is inevitable that an Editor-in-Chief will need to handle more and more publication ethics issues, so they should be aware of such issues, how to handle simple cases and where to go for help for more complicated issues.
All Springer Nature journals are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) which provides advice and resources to help editors deal with research and publication problems. As well as a set of flowcharts to guide editors through commonly encountered problems, COPE also holds quarterly discussion forums for difficult cases and conferences for its members.
When a publication ethics issue arises
With any publication ethics issue, there is likely to be a number of stakeholders involved, (e.g. authors, institutions, funders, reviewers, whistle-blowers). Editors-in-Chief can seek help and support from their Publisher contact in the first instance. In complex cases, a Research Integrity Advisor from the Springer Nature Research Integrity Group, a team dedicated to promoting best publication practice and resolving publication ethics issues, will get involved to help resolve the case.
It is important to remember that details of all on-going publication ethics investigations are kept confidential until a final editorial decision is made. The outcome of an investigation may be: no further action, the publication of a Correction, the publication of a Retraction, or the publication of an Expression of Concern.
Code of Conduct
In addition, all Editors-in-Chief at Springer Nature agree to follow the Editors Code of Conduct.
- The Editors Code of Conduct sets out the minimum expected standards in relation to peer review, manuscript handling, editorial policy, conflicts of interest, legal issues and representing the journal.
- Editors-in-Chief particularly need to be aware of their own potential competing interests which may relate to their role as Editor-in-Chief as a whole, or in relation to a particular manuscript submitted to their journal. It is important to note that a competing interest in relation to the role of Editor-in-Chief as a whole does not necessarily preclude them from acting as Editor-in-Chief.
- When an Editor-in-Chief has a competing interest in relation to a particular manuscript (for example, they may have collaborated or competed with the authors or they may have financial or non-financial connection with some aspect of the manuscript content or with the funders of the research or the institution where the research was carried out), the Editor-in-Chief should not handle the manuscript themselves, but should assign a member of their Editorial Board or team of handling editors to manage peer review of the manuscript and make the final editorial decision.