The publication of an article in a peer-reviewed journal or book/proceedings series is an essential building block in the development of a coherent and respected network of knowledge. It is a direct reflection of the quality of the work of the Authors and the institutions that support them. Peer-reviewed articles support and embody the scientific method. It is therefore important to agree upon standards of expected ethical behavior for all parties involved in the act of publishing: Authors, Editors, Reviewers, Publishers and Societies or Institutions for society-owned or institutionally-owned publications and/or sponsored publications.
At Athena International Publishing, all ethical and misconduct cases are assessed and handled based on their individual merit while following the guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), such as the COPE Core Practices, and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). This policy describes Athena's position on the most common types of misconduct and the ethical standards expected from different stakeholders in the publishing process.
According to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) plagiarism is the “theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another's work”. In other words, plagiarism is when someone copies words, chunks of text or ideas of someone else without proper attribution. Such practices are not acceptable and articles which contain plagiarized text or ideas will not be considered for publication in Athena journals or book/proceedings series. Publishers and Editors expect that all articles which are submitted to an Athena publication are original and have not been submitted or published elsewhere.
Authors are required to practice due caution when reusing portions of text from previous publications by giving appropriate credit where due. Duplicate (or redundant) publications refer to previously published articles which are nearly identical in content. Duplication can take several forms: identical papers published in multiple publications, partial but substantial duplication by introducing small amounts of new data to a previously published article (a.k.a. salami slicing), etc. Editors and Editorial Board members of Athena publications will take responsibility to assess such incidents on a case-to-case basis and the course of action that is taken will be in accordance with COPE guidelines. Note that Athena International Publishing uses an industry-standard automated similarity checking tool to screen all submitted manuscripts for textual overlap with previously published work.
Other forms of unethical submission behavior related to multiple, redundant or concurrent submissions are the following:
Note that Authors are entitled to re-publish their articles in different languages, to increase visibility and emphasize on an important topic to a wider audience. In such cases it is expected that permission is sought from the publication where the original article was published and that this is properly acknowledged in the translated version.
Fraudulent practices to disseminate data or conclusions that were not generated by experiments or observations, but by making up or manipulating data, are unacceptable forms of misconduct. The two most common types of research data manipulation are the following:
Further information on what to do when an Editor, a Reviewer or a Reader suspects fabricated data can be found in the COPE flowcharts for Fabricated Data in a Submitted Manuscript and Fabricated Data in a Published Article.
Publication Decisions. The Editor of a publication is solely and independently responsible for deciding which of the articles submitted should be published. The validation of the work in question and its importance to researchers and readers must always underwrite such decisions. An Editor may be guided by the policies of a publication’s Editorial Board and constrained by such legal requirements as shall then be in force regarding issues such as libel, copyright infringement and plagiarism. The Editor may confer with other Editors or Reviewers in making these decisions.
Peer Review. The Editor shall ensure that the peer review process is fair, unbiased and timely. Research articles must typically be reviewed by at least two external and independent Reviewers, and where necessary the Editor should seek additional opinions. The Editor shall select Reviewers who have suitable expertise in the relevant field and shall follow best practice in avoiding the selection of fraudulent peer reviewers. The Editor shall review all disclosures of potential conflicts of interest and suggestions for self-citation made by Reviewers in order to determine whether there is any potential for bias.
Fair Play. The Editor shall evaluate manuscripts for their intellectual content without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship or political philosophy of the Authors. The editorial policies of a publication should encourage transparency and complete, honest reporting, and the Editor shall ensure that Authors and Reviewers have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The Editor shall use a publications’s electronic submission system for all communications and shall establish, along with the Publisher, a transparent mechanism for appeal against editorial decisions.
Publication Metrics. The Editor shall not attempt to influence the ranking of a publication by artificially increasing any metrics. In particular, the Editor shall not require that references to that (or any other) publication's articles be included except for genuine scholarly reasons and Authors should not be required to include references to the Editor’s own articles or products and services in which the Editor has an interest.
Confidentiality. The Editor shall protect the confidentiality of all material submitted as well as all communications with Reviewers unless otherwise agreed with the relevant Authors and Reviewers. In exceptional circumstances and in consultation with the Publisher, the Editor may share limited information with Editors of other publications where deemed necessary to investigate suspected research misconduct. For more information, refer to the COPE guidelines on Sharing of Information Among Editors-in-Chief Regarding Possible Misconduct. Unless a publication uses an open peer review system and/or Reviewers have agreed to disclose their names, the Editor must protect Reviewers’ identities. Unpublished materials disclosed in a submitted manuscript shall not be used in an Editor’s own research without the express written consent of the Author. Privileged information or ideas obtained through peer review shall be kept confidential and shall not be used for personal advantage.
Declaration of Competing Interests. Any potential editorial conflicts of interest shall be declared to the Publisher in writing prior to the appointment of an Editor, and shall then be updated if and when new conflicts arise. The Publisher may publish such declarations in the publication itself. The Editor shall not be involved in decisions about articles which he/she has written himself/herself or which have been written by family members or colleagues, or which relate to products or services in which the Editor has an interest. Furthermore, any such submissions shall be subject to all of the publication’s usual procedures, peer review shall be handled independently of the relevant Author/Editor and their research groups, and there must be a clear statement to this effect on any such article that is published. Finally, the Editor shall apply the Athena International Publishing policy relating to the disclosure of potential conflicts of interest by Authors and Reviewers.
Vigilance over the Published Record. The Editor shall work to safeguard the integrity of the published record by reviewing and assessing reported or suspected misconduct in conjunction with the Publisher. Such measures will generally include contacting the Author of a manuscript and giving due consideration to the respective complaint or claims made, but may also include further communications to the relevant institutions and research bodies. The Editor shall further make appropriate use of the Publisher’s systems for the detection of misconduct such as plagiarism. An Editor presented with convincing evidence of misconduct shall coordinate with the Publisher to arrange the prompt publication of a correction, retraction, expression of concern, or other correction to the published record as may be relevant.
Contribution to Editorial Decisions. Peer review assists the Editor in making editorial decisions and through editorial communications with the Author may also assist the Author to improve an article. Peer review is an essential component of formal scholarly communication and lies at the heart of the scientific method. In addition to the specific ethics-related responsibilities described below, Reviewers are requested generally to treat Authors and their work as they would like to be treated themselves and to observe good reviewing etiquette. Any selected Reviewer who feels unqualified to review the research reported in a manuscript or knows that its prompt review will be impossible shall notify the Editor and decline to participate in the review process.
Confidentiality. Any manuscripts received for review shall be treated as confidential documents. Reviewers shall not share the review or information about the article with anyone or contact the Authors directly without permission from the Editor. Some Editors encourage discussion with colleagues or co-reviewing exercises, but Reviewers must first discuss this with the Editor in order to ensure that confidentiality is observed and that participants receive suitable credit. Unpublished materials which are disclosed in a submitted manuscript shall not be used in a Reviewer’s own research without the express written consent of the Author. Privileged information or ideas obtained though peer review shall be kept confidential and shall not be used for personal advantage.
Alertness to Ethical Issues. Reviewers must be alert to potential ethical issues in a paper and, if observed, shall bring these to the attention of the Editor, including any substantial similarity or overlap between the manuscript under consideration and any other published article of which the Reviewer has personal knowledge. Any statement that an observation, derivation or argument has been previously reported must be accompanied by the relevant citation.
Standards of Objectivity & Competing Interests. Reviews of submitted manuscripts shall be conducted objectively. Reviewers must be aware of any personal bias that they may have and are expected to take this into account when reviewing a paper. Personal criticism of any Author is inappropriate. Reviewers shall express their views clearly and with supporting arguments. Reviewers must consult the Editor before agreeing to review an article for which they have potential conflicts of interest resulting from competitive, collaborative, or other relationships or connections with any of the Authors, companies or institutions connected to the article. If a Reviewer suggests that an Author includes citations to the Reviewer’s (or their associates’) work, this shall be for genuine scientific reasons and not with the intention to increase the Reviewer’s citation count or to enhance the visibility of their work (or that of their associates).
Reporting Standards. Authors of reports of original research shall present an accurate account of the work performed as well as an objective discussion of its significance. Underlying data shall be represented accurately in the paper which shall also contain sufficient detail and references to permit others to replicate the work. Fraudulent or knowingly inaccurate statements constitute unethical behavior and are not acceptable. Reviews and professional publication articles shall also be accurate and objective. Editorial ‘opinion’ works shall be clearly identified as such.
Data Access and Retention. Authors may be asked to provide research data supporting their submission for editorial review and/or to comply with the open data requirements of a publication. Authors must be prepared to provide public access to such data, if practicable, and must be prepared to retain such data for a reasonable number of years after publication. Authors may refer to the Instructions for Authors of a publication for further details.
Originality and Acknowledgement of Sources. Authors shall ensure that their submitted manuscripts are entirely original and that proper attribution is given, and permission has been obtained where necessary, if they have used the work and/or words of others. Authors shall cite publications that have influenced the reported work and that give the work appropriate context within the wider scholarly record. Information obtained privately, as in conversation, correspondence, or discussion with third parties, must not be used or reported without explicit written permission from the source. Plagiarism can take many forms, from claiming another’s article as the Author’s own article, to copying or paraphrasing substantial parts of another’s paper (without proper acknowledgement), to claiming results from research conducted by others. Plagiarism in all of its forms constitutes unethical behavior and is not acceptable.
Multiple, Redundant or Concurrent Publication. Authors shall not publish manuscripts describing essentially the same research in more than one publication. Submitting the same manuscript to more than one publication at a time constitutes unethical behavior and is not acceptable. The rationale for this standard is the potential for disagreement when multiple publications claim the right to publish a manuscript that has been submitted simultaneously to more than one publication, and the possibility that multiple publications will unknowingly and unnecessarily undertake the work of peer review, edit the same manuscript, and publish the same article. In general, an Author must not submit an article that has been published previously for consideration in another publication, except in the form of an abstract or as part of a published lecture or academic thesis or as an electronic preprint. Publication of some kinds of articles (e.g. clinical guidelines, translations, etc.) in more than one publication can sometimes be justifiable provided that certain conditions are met. The Authors and Editors of these publications must agree to the secondary publication, which must reflect the same data and interpretation of the primary document. Moreover, the primary reference must be cited in the secondary publication. Further details on acceptable forms of secondary publication can be found on the website of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE): Acceptable Secondary Publication.
Confidentiality. Information obtained in the course of confidential services, such as reviewing manuscripts or grant applications, shall not be used without the explicit written permission of the Author of the work involved in these services.
Use of Inclusive Language. Authors are expected to use inclusive language in their submitted manuscripts. Inclusive language avoids the use of certain expressions or words that may be considered to exclude specific groups of people. Such language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences and promotes equal opportunities. Authors shall make no assumptions in the text about the beliefs or commitments of any reader, shall not use words which may imply that one individual is superior to another on the grounds of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, culture or any other characteristic, and shall use inclusive language throughout the manuscript. Authors shall also ensure that writing is free from any bias, for example, by using ‘he or she’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘his/her’ instead of ‘his’, and by making use of titles that are free of any stereotyping (e.g. ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’ and ‘flight attendant’ instead of ‘stewardess’).
Authorship of an Article. Authorship shall be limited to those who have made a significant contribution to the conception, design, execution or interpretation of the reported study. All those who have made substantial contributions must be listed as co-Authors. Where there are others who have participated in certain substantive aspects of a paper (e.g. language editing or medical writing) they must be recognized in the acknowledgements section. The corresponding Author shall ensure that all appropriate co-Authors and no inappropriate co-Authors are included on the paper, and that all co-Authors have seen and approved the final version of the paper and have agreed to its submission for publication. Authors are expected to carefully consider the list and order of Authors before submitting their manuscript and to provide the definitive list of Authors at the time of the original submission. Only in exceptional circumstances will the Editor consider (at the Editor’s discretion) the addition, deletion or rearrangement of Authors after the manuscript has been submitted and the Author shall clearly flag any such request to the Editor. All Authors must agree with any such addition, removal or rearrangement. Authors take collective responsibility for the work and each individual Author is accountable for ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. Individual publications may have particular definitions of authorship and Authors shall ensure that they comply with the policies of the relevant publication.
Hazards and Human or Animal Subjects. If the work involves chemicals, procedures or equipment that have any unusual hazards inherent in their use, the Author shall clearly identify these in the manuscript. If the work involves the use of animal or human subjects, the Author shall ensure that the manuscript contains a statement that all procedures were performed in compliance with relevant laws and institutional guidelines and that the appropriate institutional committee(s) have approved them. Authors shall include a statement in the manuscript that informed consent was obtained for experimentation with human subjects. The privacy rights of human subjects shall always be observed. For human subjects the Author shall ensure that the work described has been carried out in accordance with the Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects (Declaration of Helsinki) of the World Medical Association. All animal experiments shall comply with the Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines and shall be carried out in accordance with the UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and associated guidelines, or EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, or the U.S. Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and, as applicable, the Animal Welfare Act. Appropriate consents, permissions and releases shall be obtained where an Author wishes to include case details or other personal information or images of patients and any other individuals in an Athena publication. Written consents shall be retained by the Author and copies of the consents or evidence that such consents have been obtained shall be provided to Athena International Publishing on request.
Declaration of Competing Interests. The World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) defines conflict of interest as “a divergence between an individual’s private interests (competing interests) and his or her responsibilities to scientific and publishing activities, such that a reasonable observer might wonder if the individual’s behavior or judgment was motivated by considerations of his or her competing interests”. All Authors shall disclose in their manuscript any financial and personal relationships with other people or organizations that could be viewed as inappropriately influencing their work. All sources of financial support for the conduct of the research and/or preparation of the article shall be disclosed, as shall the role of the sponsor(s), if any, in study design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, and in the decision to submit an article for publication. If the funding source(s) had no such involvement then this shall be clearly stated. Examples of potential conflicts of interest which must be disclosed include employment, consultancies, stock ownership, honoraria, paid expert testimony, patent applications/registrations, and grants or other funding. Potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed at the earliest possible stage.
Notification of Fundamental Errors. When an Author discovers a significant error or inaccuracy in their own published work, it is the Author’s obligation to promptly notify the Editor or Publisher and cooperate with the Editor to retract or correct the article if this is deemed necessary by the Editor. If the Editor or the Publisher learn from a third party that a published work contains an error, it is the obligation of the Author to cooperate with the Editor, including providing evidence to the Editor where requested.
Image Integrity. It is not acceptable to enhance, obscure, move, remove or introduce a specific feature within an image. Adjustments of brightness, contrast or color balance are acceptable if and as long as they do not obscure or eliminate any information present in the original. Manipulating images for improved clarity is accepted, but manipulation for other purposes could be regarded as scientific misconduct and shall be dealt with accordingly. Authors shall comply with any specific policy for graphical images applied by the relevant publication, e.g. providing the original images as supplementary material with the article or depositing these in a suitable repository.
Clinical Trial Transparency. Athena International Publishing supports clinical trial transparency. For relevant publications, Authors are expected to conform to industry best practices in clinical trial registration and presentation, such as the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) guidelines, as further described in the Instructions for Authors of the publications concerned.
Guardianship of the Scholarly Record. It is an important role of the Publisher to support the huge efforts made by Editors and Reviewers in maintaining the integrity of the scholarly record. Although ethical codes inevitably concentrate on violations that can occur, it is a tribute to scholarly practice that the system has worked so well for so long and that problems are relatively rare. The Publisher has a supporting, investing and nurturing role in the scholarly communication process, but is also ultimately responsible for ensuring that best practice is followed in its publications. Athena International Publishing takes its responsibility of guardianship over the scholarly record very seriously. Our publications record “the minutes of science” and we recognize our responsibility as the keeper of those “minutes” in all our policies. Athena International Publishing adopts these policies and procedures to support Editors, Reviewers and Authors in performing their ethical duties.
Safeguard Editorial Independence. Athena International Publishing is committed to ensuring that our commercial interests have no impact or influence on the editorial decision-making processes of our publications.
Collaborate to Set Industry Best Practice. Athena International Publishing works with other publishers and industry associations to set standards for best practices on ethical matters, errors and retractions.
Provide Editors with Technical, Procedural and Legal Support. We promote best practice by providing Editors with similarity check reports for all submissions to our publications. We also support Editors in communications with other publications and/or publishers where this is useful and are prepared to provide specialized legal review and counsel where required.
Educate Researchers on Publishing Ethics. Through our workshops to Authors and Editors, Athena International Publishing is very active when it comes to providing education and advice on publishing ethics standards.