One of the many roles of a scholarly publisher is to ensure the integrity of the research published in its journals. Often, it is only after an article is published and a reader spots an issue that the journal editor and publisher become aware of the problem. It seems obvious that there must be ways to stop problematic research from getting published in the first place. One way is for publishers to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to research integrity. This is more difficult to achieve than it might seem.
Many journal editors who are academics lack professional editorial training and experience. This makes it challenging for them to detect and manage research misconduct. There are complex forces that drive research misconduct, such as the need to publish to obtain grants, positions, and promotions. These realities can lead researchers, and those who seek to exploit them, to find more and more ingenious ways to bypass traditional editorial checks. The ideal scenario would be to screen all journal submissions to detect all types of misconduct. That is a long way off, but in the meantime, there is still plenty that can be done.
Having an effective research integrity strategy in place can go a long way towards preventing the publication of unreliable or unethical research. Here are five questions a publisher should consider in helping them develop such a strategy.
1. Have you established strong editorial foundations?
This means setting standards in the form of strong generic and field-specific editorial policies.
2. Does everybody who needs to know, know what they need to know?
Effective communication is crucial. Make your standards known to editors and peer reviewers as well as authors. Provide comprehensive resources and make sure researchers, editors and peer reviewers are aware of the consequences of not adhering to your standards. Provide training and support for staff and academic editors.
3. Do you have processes in place for when things go wrong?
Having processes in place for raising concerns, whether they are expressed by readers, editors, reviewers, or editorial staff, as well as for investigating and managing concerns, will make it easier to handle issues quickly and efficiently when they occur.
4. Do you review and a revise your standards and processes regularly?
Monitoring adherence to your standards will help you to know whether your standards are being met, to spot new emerging issues and adjust your strategy to meet new challenges.
5. Do you share your experience and collaborate on finding solutions?
Publishers are often reluctant to speak about their research integrity issues because they assume that they alone are affected and fear reputational damage. No publisher is immune to research misconduct and all will have experienced their share of plagiarism, fabrication, unethical research and manipulation of peer review and publication processes. So, sharing information across publishers is important to achieve the common goal of preserving the integrity of the published scholarly record.
Maverick offers a robust program of research integrity services to help publishers implement best practices, maintain their reputation for outstanding quality, and increase their acceptance rate in new markets. Learn more here or contact us for a free consultation.
by Jigisha Patel – Affiliate Senior Associate, Research Integrity Consultant