Research Summary: Misconduct Policies in High-Impact Biomedical Journals



It is not clear which research misconduct policies are adopted by biomedical journals. This study assessed the prevalence and content policies of the most influential biomedical journals on misconduct and procedures for handling and responding to allegations of misconduct.


We conducted a cross-sectional study of misconduct policies of 399 high-impact biomedical journals in 27 biomedical categories of the Journal Citation Reports in December 2011. Journal websites were reviewed for information relevant to misconduct policies.


Of 399 journals, 140 (35.1%) provided explicit definitions of misconduct. Falsification was explicitly mentioned by 113 (28.3%) journals, fabrication by 104 (26.1%), plagiarism by 224 (56.1%), duplication by 242 (60.7%) and image manipulation by 154 (38.6%). Procedures for responding to misconduct were described in 179 (44.9%) websites, including retraction, (30.8%) and expression of concern (16.3%). Plagiarism-checking services were used by 112 (28.1%) journals. The prevalences of all types of misconduct policies were higher in journals that endorsed any policy from editors’ associations, Office of Research Integrity or professional societies compared to those that did not state adherence to these policy-producing bodies. Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell had the most journals included (22.6% and 14.8%, respectively), with Wiley journals having greater a prevalence of misconduct definition and policies on falsification, fabrication and expression of concern and Elsevier of plagiarism-checking services.


Only a third of top-ranking peer-reviewed journals had publicly-available definitions of misconduct and less than a half described procedures for handling allegations of misconduct. As endorsement of international policies from policy-producing bodies was positively associated with implementation of policies and procedures, journals and their publishers should standardize their policies globally in order to increase public trust in the integrity of the published record in biomedicine.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 19-December-2012

Author(s): Bosch X., Hernández C., Pericas J., Doti P., Marušić A.


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