5 Unethical publication practices journal editors hate to see

5 Unethical publication practices journal editors hate to see


Hi there, I am Donald Samulack,
President US Operations of Editage, an English
language services provider. And I am here today at Wolters
Kluwer in Philadelphia, talking with Dr. Anne Woods
who is Chief Nurse and Shawn Kennedy, the Editor-in-Chief of
American Journal of Nursing. Hi there! Hi. Hi. We’ve done a series of little
videos talking about different aspects of publishing and Wolters
Kluwer and AJN, the journal And so I thought it would be
good to start exploring ethics of publication and good
publication practices versus things that authors
should not be doing, either in interacting
with the journal or in the writing
of the paper from scratch. And so, perhaps we can start
with Shawn and maybe you can talk first about some of the
strange things that you do see and the red flags that
you see come across your desk and we can
expand upon that. Sure. Well, one thing that I
think some authors are maybe confused about is that you can
query any number of journals about submission of a paper. But once you submit a paper,
you can always submit to one journal and some authors don’t
do that and we have come across authors…I’ve been at a
meeting with an editor and said, “Oh, I saw your journal,”
and we look and I said, “Yeah, I have that same paper.” So, we’ve come to that point,
but I think for most authors, if they know that and they
submit some of the things that they need to be careful of is
again making sure that they’re sending it to the
right journal – the right email to
the right journal. Editors don’t like to see
that people are, you know, shopping their manuscript around
or… And we can tell that sometimes because they haven’t
changed the format and according to author guidelines that
they have submitted elsewhere and probably got rejected,
so now they are submitting to us, which doesn’t matter
because it’s not a good fit for other journals and maybe
a perfect fit for us. But it kind of makes you have a
little bit more of a – antenna go up to say, “Okay, well, what’s
– what’s wrong that it got rejected elsewhere, is there
something in the content?” So, we look a little
bit more carefully. So, multiple submissions
to multiple journals… journals is a no-no.
…is a no-no. Yeah, and that’s – that’s, when
you do that – because when you do that, you tend to not
get on to the submission list again because, as
an editor, when I get that – that
paper, I review it. I send it out to peer review. So they are spending
time reviewing it. It comes back in, we discuss it,
and then send out the revision letter which takes about an
hour just once we make the decision about the status
of the manuscript. So, it is a lot of time and hours
spent by people who are very busy and then to find out, oh
well, I submitted it elsewhere, that’s – you become a
persona non grata. So, many query letters
is fine, submit once. The other issue that I think
authors need to be aware of is plagiarism, and I think
people are aware of it nowadays because there are many sites
that people can submit to. And I think at this point university
students know that their papers get submitted to Turnitin
or we use iThenticate and it comes back. And so we can find
if people are plagiarizing. Also, peer reviewers who
really know the content, they can tell you where that
paragraph came from, what other… -Absolutely.
…textbook came from, so… And so, for – for the author
just to be aware as an industry, we have services like
CrossRef where all the major publishers have, for
lack of a better term, dumped their collections
into a common database. And iThenticate has a software
interface, screens all the known published works that are out
there across all publishers. And so when you as a journal
screen a paper, you’re not just screening it against
your own body of work. You’re screening it against the literature that goes
back to the’50s. Right, and anything
that’s out on the net, so – we
– we see it all. Yeah, and so authors beware
that you cannot be plagiarizing material from other papers.
-Right. And it is fine obviously
to make reference to other works, but that
reference needs to be cited appropriately and
described appropriately… …as the other person’s work.
-Correct. And even your own previous work,
and I know it’s difficult, many authors say, “Well, I said
in the best way I could say it in the first – the first time
I wrote about it, and so now I’m writing about it for you, so I
have to use the same language,” and saying, “No, you don’t.” Or if there’s only one way –
and frequently, we come across this in the method section, and
– and that can be dealt with by just, you know, we pull
it out in a box and we get permission from “as cited in” or,
you know, “adapted from” or “used with permission
from the original”. But readers have a right to know
whether this has been out there or if they have read it,
if they are purchasing, whether it’s a journal or book,
that they are purchasing original content, and then of course there
are copyright laws as well. So, there is blatant plagiarism
which is stealing work of others and then self-plagiarism
which is using your own work but it’s already
been published. So, those are the two areas
that I think authors need to be – two areas
that are problematic. And you touched on and split
them appropriately because there really are two issues
at hand; one is intellectual property of the original authors
and the other is copyright which is either owned by the
original author or owned by the journal or publisher
of that paper. And so by plagiarizing
something, not giving adequate reference, you are
actually creating two no-nos; one is theft of intellectual
property and theft of copyright. Correct. The other – the other
issue that we – that we see or that I would say some
authors aren’t aware of is that there are standards
for being authors. We follow as most journals
do or many journals do the International Committee of Medical
Journal Editors’ standards for authorship, and
– and those are – can be found
easily at icmje.org. And what they require, and I
won’t detail all the criteria, but basically, requires that
you have to be involved in the design and intellectual
development of the content, have been participating in
drafting the original manuscript or intimately involved in
revising it significantly, that you give approval
for the manuscript, and that you can take
public responsibility. So, that’s what it
means to be an author. So, someone who – what we see
many times is people will have an author on there who
really didn’t do anything but kind of was a – a cheerleader
or just read it and said, “yeah, this is good”
or “you might change that”. That’s not an author. Those are
people who can be acknowledged. So, this practice of honorary
or guest authors, as they call it, is very frequent, I think,
in academic areas where the tradition has been to put the
faculty, chair of the department on, or in hospital settings,
it may be you put the manager or the supervisor, or director
of the unit where you did your research, but that’s
not considered authorship. So, I think that’s becoming more
important in all areas now. There’s been some studies
done showing how that impacts – that impacts bias, it impacts
data, appropriate data collection, and it impacts
really how – how the public can accept that this is a bona fide,
vetted piece of – of work that stands up to
scientific rigor. So, honorary authors is one
part which is basically having somebody on there
who isn’t an author. The other aspect that we see,
less so now because again people are becoming aware of it, is
ghost authorship where you have somebody who actually is an
author but isn’t named as such and that’s where the bias is
really – comes in because people maybe have been paid
to write a certain article and that person may have been
paid by someone who has a vested interest in a
certain viewpoint. So, these type of issues, I think,
are becoming more in the forefront. They haven’t been an issue for
nursing or I shouldn’t say they haven’t been an issue,
they haven’t been recognized in nursing but now that nursing
is doing more scholarly work and research and bench research
and focusing on clinical outcomes, that’s
becoming more important. So, those are some of the
big issues that we see and are trying to
communicate to authors. One of the… I will just throw
in another that just came to mind and that’s conflict of interest
and declaration of conflict of interest and people always
perceive conflict of interest, “Oh conflict, it’s something that
I’m not doing appropriately.” And that’s not what conflict
of interest is about. Conflict of interest is about
disclosure of conflicting interests or disclosure of competing
interests and is not something to be looked at negatively,
but something to be looked at in the
form of transparency. Correct.
-I have this relationship with a pharmaceutical company or
I have been doing this or this or I have… This paper may be
part of a larger study. -Correct.
-These are types of disclosures that actually allow the
journal to understand where this paper is
coming from and who the authors truly are on this paper.
-Correct. Perhaps you can talk a little
bit more about these interests, the disclosure of these interests and
they need for it. Sure! It’s important in terms
of transparency because when a reader is digesting
material and thinking about how they may use this in their
practice, they need to be sure that the material is based on
scientific evidence and not on particular biases that
the author may have had. So, that – for example, if the
author has been paid by a company to promote a certain
product whether it’s device or a drug, that this author is
only looking at the positive studies, and we have seen
this happen years ago. JAMA did a study. We
also did a follow-up study, but this has
happened repeatedly. I think it was the children
with the antidepressants. And it came out that not all
the data was being presented because it wasn’t favorable,
and that’s an extreme case and most authors don’t practice that
way, but that brought out the fact that there needs to be
transparency in relationships. We at AJN, have always
asked what was your… what was your role in
developing this manuscript? Do you have any ties? Were
you paid and if so, who? Since Wolters Kluwer now has
a form that is part of our manuscript submission process
for all journals, across all journals, and it follows these
ICMJE guidelines that ask the author not only their criteria
for being an author but also disclosing transparency, not
only in terms of payment but are you employed by
an institution… I mean it’s pretty rigorous,
and also even ask about stock options and things
like that… Right. …which I have no idea how people
find out that some of that information but the – it’s
important because the reader needs to know that this
is – this is true and accurate and evidence-based
and not biased as I said. -Right.
-So, that’s a big issue. I just want to add
one thing here. So, Wolters Kluwer is
a publishing entity. We have a very large arm of
our business that’s related to continuing education, continuing
medical education and any article that is
chosen to have CE or CME credit, a disclosure has to be made really
to the conflict of interest, any financial disclosure, or we cannot
accredit the article with the requisite
credits that we get. So, it’s so important for us
as a business to make sure we have complete transparency of
what the author is associated with before we go ahead
and publish that journal. Now, we realized many authors,
I mean, who are experts, we have a couple of contributing
editors and we realized that the experts in the field are
often people who work closely on advisory councils for
pharma industry, for various things, and – and – and
that – we understand that but again that’s
the transparency. So, that the reader
understand there – there is a relationship there
and the reader can knowing that has access to the content but we are
very careful about making sure that
transparency is there. The take – the take-home message
is that a conflict of interest is not anything bad. It – it is
a disclosure of transparency. Right. Right. Well, the other
issue about conflict of interest: Number 1 we also ask of our
peer reviewers each time before they do a peer
review we ask them if they have any conflicts
of interest to disclose. But the other aspect that many
people don’t think about, in my view, with
conflict of interest is they think
it is only as financial. But there could be other conflicts
of interest, for example, somebody is doing a similar
– similar work or similar research is in the middle
of writing a similar paper and they get this
– this paper to review. So, there is a – there is a
different conflict of interest. So, this may be a competitor for
a professorship or a position. So, there are different layers.
So, it’s not just financial and authors need to know that those
types of things need to be brought out too like I worked
with this person, this person was, you know, my
boss or something like that. And you touched on one piece
that resonated with me as well, and that is how duplicate or
– duplicate publication or what we often refer to as salami
slicing where you’re taking a piece of a study
in the publishing and then a greater piece and a greater piece and
getting – soaking three or four papers out of a –
one single set of data. And how this actually affects
meta-analyses of literature and so perhaps you can discuss why
salami slicing is actually bad for literature and
bad for an author in – in how their papers
are perceived. We just have one. Yeah, so,
as you explained salami – salami slicing nicely and I
do want to say it’s different from writing for
different audience. It’s different from publishing
research and then writing a clinical application piece for clinicians
that provides clinical implications. So, there are different
types of papers that one can write from a research study
as opposed to just repeating, as you said, using
the same data. The – the problem it makes with
the literature is that for – for one thing as you said when
someone don’t go in to do an analysis, it looks
like there is a larger body of literature
than there is on this. The other thing is that it’s
really kind of dishonest because it makes this author look like
they have 10 publications when, in reality, it really
should be maybe 1 or 2. So, I think there’s – there’s –
it’s a little bit of a deceptive practice from the
authorship trying to gain as much as they can. And also it’s the – it does hurt
the literature because it makes it appear that there are several
pieces of research on this one topic, all showing these
positive results or all showing similar results and that skews
any further meta-analysis or systematic reviews that are
trying to build on them. I think that for myself who
has done some research around secondary – systematic reviews,
I think the most important thing is when we
look at research to submit your publication
that the methodology is sound, and it has a
lot of rigor behind it. And that if your
methodology doesn’t have the rigor or the soundness
of science behind it, your article is not
going to get accepted. It also brings into the question
of the validity of data. You know, so many times when
we are looking at a study and we will see that the numbers
just don’t quite add up, they – they forget to mention that
some of the people who dropped out in the study, you have
to talk about that and why those
people dropped out. They don’t adequately discuss
their statistical analysis. They don’t talk about the
limitations of the study and all these things are
really going to affect the credibility of
the publication. So, one of the things that we
really look at at Wolters Kluwer is to make sure that people who
are publishing any type of research from a randomized
controlled trial to an observational study, even to
quality improvement studies or systematic review meta-analyses,
that they follow the guidelines. And the EQUATOR Network website
is a great place to go. And it is the standard
by which we publish any type of research
that is done. And we really encourage all
authors when they get started to write, they go to that website,
they see exactly what has to be included in their
article or their research so that they don’t
leave anything out. If you leave
something out, your article is not going
to get published. And it also speaks to then
the – the credibility and the soundness of the
evidence that’s published. You know we want
to drive outcome changes by the best
available evidence. We want the best
available evidence to inform practice changes. We can only do that if
the science is sound, and so that part is
really important, and all authors, before
they write, need to really think about that
and especially before they submit their manuscript
for considerations. Great! So, with that, I
will bring closure to this segment of our discussion and again,
I’ll mention that I’m Donald Samulack, the President
US Operations of Editage. And I am here at Wolters
Kluwer in Philadelphia talking with Dr. Anne Woods, the Chief
Nurse, and Shawn Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief, the American
Journal of Nursing. Thank you! And look for other videos in the series.

2 thoughts on “5 Unethical publication practices journal editors hate to see

  1. Thank you for posting. It would be also interesting to discuss conflict of interest among editors from various journals, with some (or many) publishing in journals from related fields. It would also be interesting to discuss why so many journal editors, associate editors, and members of their editorial board 'use' their own journal to publish, what the procedure for reviewing their work is, the transparency of the process, and the ethical issues involved. Lastly, it would be interesting to discuss why so many journal editors take an eternity (e.g., 6, 9, or more months) to send manuscripts for review, or simply do not reply to authors' messages asking the status of their paper. Would you be editing a YouTube video discussing these issues? Thank you again.

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