Editor: “Close to 10% of the papers we receive show some sign of academic misconduct”

The latest issue of Elsevier’s Editors’ Update is part one of a two-part series on publishing ethics. It contains a bevy of articles on various issues that will be be familiar to Retraction Watch readers, from bias to research misconduct. (Not surprisingly, given the sheer number of journals they publish, Elsevier shows up regularly on Retraction Watch.)

In one of the pieces, Applied Surface Science editor in chief Henrik Rudolph pulls no punches:

Close to 10% of the papers we receive show some sign of academic misconduct, but since the total number of submissions is increasing, the absolute number is also rising. The most common issue we see is too large an overlap with previously published material, i.e. plagiarism. Cases are evenly divided between self-plagiarism and regular plagiarism. These submissions are most often identified in the editorial phase (by the managing editor or editor) and are rejected before they are sent out for review. iThenticate is an important instrument for detecting academic misconduct, but often common sense is an equally important instrument: do certain parts of the paper look much more polished language-wise than the rest? Has the spelling suddenly changed from UK English to US English? We have even had cases where authors have copied the spelling mistakes in the papers they have plagiarized. If it looks fishy it probably is fishy.

From the introductory editorial, here’s what you’ll find in the issue:

Part I of our Ethics Special opens with a Guest Editorial by our SVP and General Counsel for the legal department, Mark Seeley. He reflects on the rise in publishing ethics cases and talks frankly about his own thoughts on how they should be addressed.
In Understanding and addressing research misconduct we hear from an Elsevier lawyer and a publisher about what constitutes research misconduct and the roles editors and publishers have to play once a case has been identified.

Two editors from the journal Biochemical Pharmacology explore research bias – and its implications – in Bias in research: the rule rather than the exception?.

We also hear from the editor community in Research misconduct – three editors share their stories. Our interview subjects discuss the ethics challenges in their fields and how they are working to combat them.

It’s not only authors who can find themselves crossing ethical boundaries and in The ethics pitfalls that editors face we examine two of the most common editor pitfalls – undisclosed conflicts of interest and citation manipulation.

Lessons learnt at the 3rd World Conference on Research Integrity highlights the key points one of Elsevier’s publishing ethics experts took home with her from this year’s World Conference on Research Integrity.

We complete the edition with Editor in the Spotlight – Professor Margaret Rees. As Editor-in-Chief of Maturitas and current Secretary of COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics), she draws on her extensive ethics experience to answer our questions.
a range of articles designed to keep you up to date with the publishing ethics support on offer. Features include an interview with the current Chair of COPE, tips on dealing with the media, information on how we are working with authors and reviewers to train them on good ethical practice and a range of practical advice (and an offer of free software!) from The Office of Research Integrity.


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