Author: Carmen Fonseca – Translation: Erika-Lucia Gonzalez-Carrion

The code of ethics of a scientific journal ensures the existence of public and explicit regulations governing the transparency and honesty of the three types of agents involved in academic publications: editors, reviewers and authors. The need for a code of ethics arose in the 1970s in the USA to ensure the prevention of scientific fraud and to provide guidance on procedure in cases of malpractice. The best known code to which journals from all areas can adhere is the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), which is updated periodically. It includes recommendations translated into several languages on how to make decisions to solve incidents related to scientific publication.


Below, in a generic way since the length of the post requires it, the ethical responsibilities of editors, authors and reviewers are summarized.


 Publishers’ commitments:

  • They are responsible for what is published in the journal and the processes involved. If there is an owner or editorial group, COPE recommends the existence of a contract that reflects the obligations and rights of the editors.
  • They preserve the authors’ freedom of expression and ensure confidentiality throughout the process.
  • They act to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • They avoid the manipulation of citations: coercion (the editors ask the author to include citations of articles from their own journal), editorials that reference articles from the journal itself, self-citation, and exchange citations (commitment of citation between a group of authors).
  • They coordinate and promote the operation of the editorial committee (review of manuscripts, assignment of evaluators and advice on the definition of editorial policy).
  • They record all interactions for any external audit and for the internal control of processes.
  • They resolve authorship disputes.
  • They facilitate complaint procedures.
  • Preserve rights by explaining the conditions of copyright and self-archiving licenses.

Authors are considered to be researchers who have participated in the intervention in all phases (structure, writing and review), coordination with the other authors, contribution to fundraising, data collection and analysis. Therefore, it is recommended to agree on the order of signature before writing the article.

Commitments of the authors:

  • They confirm the absence of data manipulation, the consistency and reliability of the research, and the originality of the manuscript.
  • They avoid the simultaneous submission to several journals for review.
  • They provide data to ensure transparency with research funding sources.
  • They adjust the text to the established norms of publication, they collaborate in an agile way in the corrections and they respond to the acceptance or rejection and to the suggestions of the reviewers.

The expert evaluators of the subject matter being evaluated are of vital importance in scientific journals because they ensure the selection of the best manuscripts. Scientific reviews are generally voluntary (unpaid), peer-reviewed, and anonymous, although increasingly international initiatives are emerging that publish the reviewers’ names in the article in recognition of their silent work.

 Reviewers’ commitments:

  • They ensure that the manuscript makes a contribution to science.
    • They provide editors and authors with objective information about the manuscript at both the content and formal levels.
    • They preserve confidentiality and anonymity.

In general, the malpractices that can be generated in the field of scientific journals that affect the three agents involved are of a very different nature. Disputes over authorship, misappropriation of the work of others by excluding participants or the use of names without prior consent are frequent. They are reported in COPE which publishes the variety of cases that reach them. For more information on ethics in scientific journals, the following publications are provided:

Baiget, T.; Torres Salinas, D. (2013). Informe APEI sobre Publicación en revistas científicas. Gijón, España; Asociación Profesional de Especialistas en Información.

Delgado-López-Cózar, E.; Torres-Salinas, D.; Roldán-López, Á. (2007). El fraude en la ciencia: reflexiones a partir del caso Hwang. El Profesional de la Información. 16 (2), 143-150.

Fonseca-Mora, M., Tur-Viñes, V., & Gutiérrez-San Miguel, B. (2014). Ética y revistas científicas españolas de Comunicación, Educación y Psicología: la percepción editora. Revista Española de Documentación Científica37(4), e065.

Hernández-Ruiz, A. (2016). Antifraud Editorial Policy in Spanish and Latin American Scientific Publication: JCR Social Sciences Edition [La política editorial antifraude de las revistas científicas españolas e iberoamericanas del JCR en Ciencias Sociales]. Comunicar, 48, 19-27. Tur-Viñes, V., Fonseca-Mora, M. C., & Gutiérrez-San-Miguel, B. (2012). Ética de la publicación científica: iniciativas y recomendaciones. El Profesional de la Información21(5), 491-497.

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