Research Misconduct

Scholarly misconduct is defined and divided into 8 basic types, and the measures to avoid and answer these are discussed below. The suggested actions for individual issues, in the light of recommendations by COPE, are as follows:

The suggested protocols for each issue can be viewed by clicking on the links provided below. Please note that flowcharts are given under each category to clearly indicate how the ethical issues in a submitted manuscript or a published article are handled.

Bentham Open has a systematic protocol to deal with allegations of misconduct, whether before publication or after the publication of an article. The sequence of actions to take, in these cases, is given in provided flowcharts and is the same as provided by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

To deal with issues of misconduct, Bentham OPEN has an Ethics Advisory Panel, which consists of the following:

a) A team of senior researchers and experts associated with Bentham OPEN as Editors in different fields.

b) A team of experts in legal and corporate affairs who provide suggestions to other members of The Ethics Advisory Panel on issues that require legal/corporate communications.

c) Bentham OPEN’s senior publication team at the editorial office manages communication between a and b and executes decisions put forward by the Ethics Advisory Panel.

When a complaint is received, Bentham OPEN’s senior publication team communicates with the members of the Ethics Advisory Panel to seek their counsel. The Ethics Advisory Panel carefully reviews the case and advises on ethical issues and decisions, as per the core practices and guidelines of COPE. The basic procedure for the execution of any claim is as follows:

1. Documentation of the Claim

Bentham OPEN’s senior publication team coordinates with the complainant to document the reported claim and prepare the factual report based on these questions: Who (is implicated)?, What (is the ethical issue)?, When (did it happen)?, Where (was the problem)?, and Why (is it important)?.

2. Involvement of Author(s)

If the documented claim/complaint is against an author of a Bentham OPEN article, then in accordance with the general practice guidelines mentioned above, Bentham OPEN’s senior publication team first contacts the author and inquires about the claim/complaint made and then the author is given the opportunity to explain/defend the allegation. The author’s comments are then reviewed by the Ethics Advisory Panel and relayed to the Editor-in-chief of the respective journal for further action. The Ethics Advisory Panel reserves the right to agree or not to the Editor-in-chief’s decision in cases where the members feel that it may not be in line with their assessment of an ethical breach of conduct.

3. Involvement of External Committees

The publisher may involve external committees if the complaint appears to be on merit or may have complexities, and investigation with other institutions and agencies may help reasonably in resolving the complaint. For instance, the following external bodies are contacted based on the nature of the claim/complaint:

  • The other journal/publisher is contacted for claims involving plagiarism and duplicate publications.
  • The Institutions of researchers are notified of the complaints related to authorship and fraud.
  • The funding agencies or ethical committees are approached for matters involving conflict of interest or violation of research ethics.
  • The publisher may put forward some complaints to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) if/when advice is required.

If the complaint is made by authors of publications in Bentham OPEN journals or books against another author of a publication of another journal or book within Bentham OPEN, then the Editor-in-Chief of one journal may contact the Editor-in-Chief of another Bentham OPEN journal. The rest of the procedure remains the same for such cases, as stated earlier.

4. Types of Misconduct

4.1. Data Fabrication/Data Falsification

4.1.1. Data Fabrication

Data fabrication is the intentional misrepresentation of research results. As with other forms of scientific misconduct, it is a concerted effort that highlights fabrication. There are various ways through which facts can be fabricated. Experimental data can be fabricated by writing experiments that were never conducted, and precise data can be influenced or misrepresented to suit an anticipated result.

4.1.2. Data Falsification

Data falsification is the manipulation of research resources, equipment, or processes, including omitting and presenting facts, with the objective of giving a false impression. The results are categorized as deceptive if the data are placed as images and when changes are made to images. This applies to cases, including mislabeled figures, missing integral funding and/or other information, and authors' competing interests. It may, however, be legitimate and even necessary to edit images. Generally, if an author’s figures are questionable, he is requested to provide original data from the authors.

For example, the selective enlargement of part of an artwork may be needed to reveal features that would not otherwise be visible, and editing of video data may be needed to protect the privacy of participants.

It is recommended that the authors should declare that in their provided manuscript, there are no image manipulations. Further, authors are asked to provide original images when requested or be able to supply them on request.

Bentham recommends its authors to follow the below recommendations, as stated by the Committee of Publication Ethics, to avoid any allegation of image manipulation:

  • Specific features within an image should not be enhanced, obscured, removed, moved, or added.
  • Adjustments to brightness or contrast are acceptable only if they apply equally across the entire image and are applied equally to controls and as long as they do not obscure, eliminate, or misrepresent any information and present the information as originally captured.
  • Excessive manipulations, such as processing to emphasize one region in the image at the expense of others, are inappropriate, as is emphasizing experimental data relative to the control.
  • Nonlinear adjustments or deleting portions of a recording must be disclosed in a figure legend.
  • Constructing figures from different gels, fields, exposures, and experimental series is discouraged. When this is necessary, the component parts of composite images should be indicated by dividing lines, clearly demarcated in the figure and described in the legend.
  • Original unprocessed images must be provided by authors if any indication of the foregoing is identified. It may be helpful for journals to suggest that original unprocessed images should be submitted alongside any images that have been processed.
4.1.3. Recommended Action

In case of any claim/complaint/findings related to the Data Fabrication or Falsification, the publisher will communicate the complaint to the corresponding author and ask him to provide his justifications (if any). If he fails to defend himself, the publisher will involve his institution or the company in which he is employed. The overall matter will be dealt with according to the protocols recommended by the Committee of Publication Ethics, mentioned in the links below: Before Publication:

Suspected fabricated data in a submitted manuscript After Publication:

Suspected fabricated data in a published article

Inappropriate image manipulation in a published article.

4.2. Duplicate Submission/Publication and Redundant Publication

4.2.1. Duplicate Submission/Publication:

Submission of a single article/study in two different journals or publication of an almost similar study in two journals refers to duplicate submission. These proposals/publications can be found simultaneously or years apart; in this case, it becomes an instance of a duplicate publication. The intention for this act is likely to acquire peer review services from one publisher while intending to publish in another publisher’s journal. Another intention can simply be to increase the publication count.

4.2.2. Redundant Publication

A redundant publication refers to the publication of the same data more than once, resulting in a rejection or a request to merge the submitted manuscript with another one and the rectification of published manuscripts. Seriously flawed or misleading content (plagiarised publications) may cause a retraction of the article, and the authors may be penalized.

4.2.3. Recommended Action

Bentham Open recommends its authors to avoid duplicate or redundant submissions/publications. The submitted manuscript should be original and should not have been submitted previously to any other journal.

The first stage of checking for duplicate articles is a simple comparison of the relevant texts in both articles of concern. This can be a simple side-by-side comparison by the journal editor for simpler forms of duplicate publication or a more thoughtful analysis by the editor if the same research or a single research project has apparently been inappropriately written as separate articles.

In some cases, an identical or similar version of an article may have been published by one journal (often in a national or local edition, usually in a local language) and legitimately republished in another journal focused on international publications. The ethical implications of such republications depend on the editorial policies of the journal and the agreement by the editors of the two journals involved.

Republication of an article may be appropriate given the prior publication, and any relevant facts concerning such a publication are disclosed to and agreed upon by the editor. A brief explanation of these circumstances and full citation details for the previous article should be published along with the newly published version, preferably as a footnote to the title. The overall case will be dealt with according to the protocols of COPE, as mentioned in the links below: Before Publication:

Suspected redundant (duplicate) publication in a submitted manuscript After Publication:

Suspected redundant (duplicate) publication in a published article

4.3. Duplication of Text and/or Figures (Plagiarism)

4.3.1. Plagiarism

Plagiarism refers to presenting (or outright copying) someone’s work, including words, ideas, or information, as your own without proper citation or acknowledgment.

Plagiarism could be categorized based on various factors: the magnitude of copied material, the novelty of copied material, position/context/type of material, and referencing/attribution of the material used.

Bentham OPEN has a clear editorial policy on the prevention of plagiarism. The complete protocol of plagiarism prevention is mentioned under the section Editorial Policies, on our website.

Bentham OPEN uses iThenticate software to detect instances of overlapping and similar text in submitted manuscripts. iThenticate software checks content against a database of periodicals, the Internet, and a comprehensive article database. COPE has flowcharts on how to handle cases of potential plagiarism in a submitted manuscript or a published article, and Bentham follows the same protocols.

4.3.2. Recommended Action

If the complaint is related to plagiarism, Bentham OPEN’s senior publications team will compare the referred text to that of the manuscript on a word-to-word basis. If significant overlapping is observed, then the Editor-in-chief of the journal will be consulted. The Editor-in-chief may involve other members of the Editorial Board or external reviewers for complex cases. For cases involving copyright infringements, Bentham OPEN will consult its legal advisors for a decision and communicate it to the Ethical Advisory Panel and journal Editor-in-chief. After careful consultation, Bentham OPEN’s senior publications team will write to the corresponding author of the manuscript (found to be plagiarized), summarizing the complaint and requesting them to provide a reasonable explanation. If they are unable to provide a reasonable explanation, then the publisher will write to the institution/company they are associated with. The overall cases will be handled according to the flowcharts given below by COPE. Before Publication:

Suspected Plagiarism in a submitted manuscript After Publication:

Suspected Plagiarism in a published article

4.4. Authorship Issues

Authorship is important in assigning credibility to work submitted or published. It is ethical to include any and only genuine contributors to a given article, which is representative of the efforts taken to complete the work.

Bentham OPEN follows guidelines in line with The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which recommends that authorship is based on all of the following four criteria (that is, all authors must meet these conditions):

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work.
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content.
  • Final approval of the version to be published.
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Bentham Open publishes authors’ names according to their previously cited names and also displays their institutional affiliations and email addresses (for corresponding authors). Current addresses, telephone numbers, and cell and fax numbers are not disclosed unless required by the journal’s editorial policies. The Email address is provided with an asterisk in front of the name of the principal/corresponding author. Bentham Open regularly updates authors’ details to keep them accurate. Affiliations are not changed after publication of an article unless in the case of an error in location or a typo.

Here are some recommendations from COPE on how to spot potential authorship problems . Bentham strives to follow these guidelines:

4.4.1. Recommended Action:

Authors must provide a final list of authors at the time of submission, ensuring the correct sequence of the names of authors, which will not be considered for any addition, deletion or rearrangement after the final submission of the manuscript. If a change is essentially required, it can only be done on an Editor’s approval, for which the Editor-in-chief must receive the following from the corresponding author:

  1. The reason for a change in the author list and the sequence
  2. Confirmation from all the co-authors for any amendment or removal.

Any amendment to the authors' list will only be considered by the Editor-in-chief if it is absolutely necessary. Publication of the manuscript will be withheld during the consideration of the request. However, if the manuscript has already been published online, requests approved thereafter by the Editor-in-chief will result in an erratum or corrigendum.

For dealing with authorship disputes, Bentham OPEN complies with the guidelines of COPE and The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) for scientific publications. General Advice:

Advice on how to spot authorship problems Before Publication:

Corresponding author requests addition of extra author before publication

Corresponding author requests removal of the author before publication After publication:

Request for addition of extra author after publication

Request for removal of author after publication

Suspected guest, ghost or gift authorship

4.5. Undeclared Conflict of Interest (CoI)

Conflict of Interest: A conflict of interest is a situation in which there is a potential for financial or other personal considerations from authors or reviewers to compromise or present bias in professional judgment and objectivity. Authors and reviewers are asked to declare all conflicts of interest relevant to the work under consideration (i.e., relationships, both financial and personal, that might interfere with the interpretation of the work) to avoid the potential for bias. These declarations are presented in each article.

4.5.1. Recommended Action

The complainant is made aware that CoI matters cannot be investigated unless the journal Editor-in-chief informs the corresponding (or complained-about) author (through the due process) and possibly the institution or company where the research took place.

In the communication to the author in question, the Bentham OPEN journal’s editor-in-chief is requested to indicate whether the matter is likely to be referred to the institution or company where the research took place, the standard-setting body (if relevant), the institution or company which provided undisclosed financial support (if relevant), or any other relevant institution or agency (for example a funding agency) unless the author provides a reasonable explanation (accepted as reasonable by the editor).

The overall cases will be handled according to the following COPE guidelines: Before Publication:

What to do if a reviewer suspects undisclosed CoI in a submitted manuscript After Publication:

What to do if a reader suspects undisclosed CoI in a published article

4.6. Suspected Manipulation of Peer Review/Bias of Peer Review

Bentham OPEN selects the reviewers on any manuscript with due care to avoid any conflict of interest between the reviewers and the authors. Bentham Open's peer review policy is adequately explained here. Our policy is compliant with COPE Guidelines on peer review.

4.6.1. Recommended Action

Bentham OPEN asks reviewers to declare and mention any conflict of interest that could affect the standard of the peer review and could result in a biased decision. This includes professional affiliations. The reviewers are also advised not to use the information of any manuscript for their own interest until or unless that work gets published. Similarly, the Editor-in-chief is the final decision maker of any article published in the journal under their editorship, and they should not have any financial, professional or personal interests in the manuscripts. In case there is any Conflict of Interest found, they are asked to declare and withdraw themselves from any decision-making process, and such cases would be dealt with by any other editor of the journal.

In case of any claim or complaint against a reviewer, Bentham OPEN will communicate the complaint to the reviewer and ask him to provide his explanation. If the reviewer fails to defend the assertions in the complaint, Bentham OPEN will involve his affiliation or employer. The overall matter will be dealt with according to the recommended policies of COPE. Before Publication:

Manipulation of peer-review during the review After Publication:

Suspected Manipulation of peer-review after publication

Reviewer Suspected To Have Appropriated An Author’s Ideas Or Data

4.7. Manipulation of Citations

Self-Citation: This refers to the practice of including one’s own work in the cited references of an article to increase the number of citations attributed to the same author. Authors who aim to increase the number of citations to a given author’s research work or the manuscripts previously published in a particular journal will be sanctioned by Bentham OPEN. Similarly, the editors and reviewers should not ask authors to add references just to increase citations of their own or an associate’s work, of the journal, or of another journal they are associated with. Citation manipulation is a problem when references do not contribute to the scholarly content of the article and are included solely to increase citations.

4.7.1. Recommended Action

Bentham OPEN has a centralized system for identifying excessive self-citations when such a case arises. Authors are recommended to provide a reasonable justification, and then after consultation with the Editor-in-chief, the final decision is made on a case-to-case basis. Bentham OPEN discourages Editors and Reviewers from recommending the citation of their own/peers' previous work just to gain false citation. Such cases are dealt with as per the standard protocols of COPE. General Guidelines:

4.8. Violation of Research Ethics

Research ethics can include a number of issues, such as:

  • Patient consent (medical research)
  • Animal experimentation (life sciences)
  • Recipient consent (market research)
  • User consent (social / online research)

Studies involving humans or animals must include informed consent on human subjects, and standard protocols must be followed for the experiments on animals. Bentham OPEN has already mentioned the detailed policy of Ethical Standards under the Section Editorial Policies.

4.8.1. Recommended Action

In the communication to the author in question, Bentham OPEN journal’s Editor-in-chief is requested to indicate whether the matter is likely to be referred to the institution or company where the research took place, the standard-setting body (if relevant) or any other relevant institution or agency (for example a funding agency) unless the author provides a reasonable explanation (accepted as reasonable by the editor).

Ethical issues will be handled according to the protocols of COPE: General Guidelines: