Four prominent scholarly organizations, including the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), worked together to develop Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing to provide a minimum set of criteria for assessing publication outlets.
These organizations use the principles to assess journals or publishers that apply for their memberships. Similar to Think.Check.Submit, the guidelines can also prove helpful for authors and readers in evaluating publication outlets. More details about the principles are included in the embedded slideshow below or via the recorded Intro to Publication Ethics webinar.
There are multiple layers to publication ethics including the author level, the outlet level, and the publisher level.
Checking your own work for ethics is important. A good publication outlet will also employ checks for plagiarism, compliance, and conflicts of interest, but authors are ultimately responsible for their work and are better positioned to make sure their research is ready for the review and publication process. Sengupta and Honavar's editorial provides a checklist (pictured) of items to ask yourself when you are ready to submit your manuscript.
Ethics at the outlet level, such as those at the top of this page regarding journals, may overlap with the publisher level. Understanding the structure of the outlet and publisher you are considering will help in making an ethical assessment. For example, while you may trust a journal title and editorial board, it could be hosted by a publisher that has business practices or policies with which you disagree.
One of the biggest issues in scholarly publishing today concerns whether the business models of publishers are sustainable, accessible, and support the work of researchers and academic institutions. Scholars are scrutinizing both traditional and new models for equity in access and fee structures. For instance, frustration over the traditional reader-pays, subscription-based model of scholarly journals gave rise to the Open Access movement, in which journals may charge authors fees to cover publication services while making their article free to read. This model is still imperfect, as researchers, or their institutions, may be paying large sums to both produce and disseminate research.
There are a number of other new solutions being proposed, not only for journal publication but for books and other output types as well. You can learn more about the evolving publication model landscape through Lisa Hinchliffe's article "Seeking Sustainability: Publishing Models for an Open Access Age" and following The Scholarly Kitchen blog.
What They Are
With new models and technology being developed at a rapid pace, there exists an unfortunate opportunity for fraud and exploitative practices. One of the more common scams occurs when an entity posing as a publisher takes advantage of publishing models with author fees, often by promising fast peer review and publication in exchange for thousands of dollars. These entities have often been referred to as "predatory publishers," and they have created problems for legitimate startups and open access publishers that employ author fees appropriately.
It is important that we think broadly and critically about publisher quality and transparency as innovative models arise, and with them, innovative methods of exploitation. A group of scholars propose the following definition:
What You Can Do
Independent third-party organizations, such as COPE and Think.Check.Submit. are thus crucial in helping us to identify bad actors a well as target those publishers which are actively working toward improved access, transparency, and sustainability. Proactively staying abreast of trends in publishing and researching publication outlets is the best way to avoid scams and maximize research impact.
If you have inadvertently submitted your manuscript to a predatory publisher, the first course of action is to request that the piece be withdrawn from the publication process. Unfortunately, a predatory publisher will likely ignore such a request while continuing to demand payment of publication fees. In this situation, the following steps are advised:
If these steps are unsuccessful and the predatory publisher does not withdraw your article, you may wonder if it will be possible to submit the manuscript to a legitimate publication in the future. Assuming you did not transfer copyright to the predatory publisher, publishing the article in a legitimate journal would not constitute duplicate publication. COPE recommends contacting the editor-in-chief of the legitimate journal to which you wish to submit the manuscript, explaining the situation, and asking for advice.
Other Resources for Issues in Publication
COPE provides guidance and flowcharts for many issues that can arise in the publishing process. Their resources are a good place to start if you encounter ethical questions or problems at various stages of publication. Some examples include: