Kristi Overgaard

CSE Editorial Policy Committee Publishes Update of White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications

The Council of Science Editors first published the White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications in 2006. Many journals, professional societies, and publishers have written policies or ethics statements that address integrity in publishing for their fields, but the White Paper supplements these valuable guidelines with an explication of the fundamental principles and best practices that promote integrity in all fields of scientific research and publication. An updated version of the White Paper has now been issued.

Publication is the culmination of the many steps that are involved in completing scientific research. The integrity of a published work can be impaired at any point—in the research design, data collection, analysis, writing, or publication process itself. Recognizing that every participant in the research process bears responsibility for the integrity of published works, the White Paper’s first section deals with the professional and ethical roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in scientific publishing: editors, authors, peer reviewers, publishers, journal owners, sponsors, and members of the mass media. It discusses many of the policies and practices of stakeholders that influence the integrity of scientific publications. The second section focuses on defining and identifying research misconduct, and it reviews guidelines for reporting and handling suspected misconduct in the United States and other countries.

A look at the material newly incorporated into the White Paper in the 2009 Update shows how scientific research and publishing are intricately related to society; new ethical questions arise in response to changes in the political and economic environment and trends in technology use. Three topics that were added to the 2009 Update were dual-use research, open access, and clinical-trial registration. A discussion of current thinking about dual-use research was added in light of the topic’s heightened importance, given concerns about terrorism. In response to increasing use of electronic communication technologies and greater economic pressures, open-access publishing is of great topical interest. The 2009 Update includes information on the open-access requirements of public funding agencies. Although clinical-trial registration is itself not new, a push toward registration has gained momentum over the last several years. Not only has the number of registries increased with the regulations involving trial registration, but more and more journals are requiring registration as a condition of manuscript submission; this part of the White Paper has been substantially updated to discuss the recent changes.

Some additions to the 2009 Update focus on relatively recent circumstances and trends, but some of the most heavily revised parts deal with perennial questions regarding authorship, conflict of interest, and scientific misconduct. For example, the section on authorship was substantially revised and reorganized to reflect evolving thinking regarding the roles and responsibilities of authors as the scientific-publishing community continues to reach for that elusive goal: uniform practices for defining and assigning authorship. The revised discussion of conflict of interest describes both financial and nonfinancial conflicts and contains information on disclosure requirements for editors, authors, and reviewers. The section on scientific misconduct includes current information on how misconduct is defined and addressed in the United States and other countries. Up-to-date examples of corrections, retractions, and expressions of concern are also included.

As CSE’s Editorial Policy Committee looks toward its next update of the White Paper, it asks for your help. Science is a diverse enterprise, with many people in many specialties. Although we face many of the same ethical issues when publishing research results, each discipline also has its own practices and concerns. As it stands now, the White Paper is heavily influenced by the medical sciences because this is where, traditionally, much of the information on publishing issues has been available. The Editorial Policy Committee is actively seeking input from those in non-medical disciplines for the White Paper’s next update. Please send any questions, comments, or suggestions you have to Robert L Edsall, chair of the Editorial Policy Committee, at The 2009 Update is available online at A pdf is also available to download.

Kristi Overgaard, a medical editor at the University of Michigan, is a member of the Editorial Policy Committee.