In the context of scientific research, misconduct takes many forms and may involve the actions of many different stakeholders — authors, editors, reviewers, and publishers. It is vital that all parties are aware of what is expected of them and are educated and informed regarding industry best practices, guidelines, and codes of conduct.
AIP Publishing defines misconduct as any conduct that violates or compromises the ethical standards and expectations determined by the scientific publishing community. In some cases this breaches a legal duty, responsibility, or principle of law.
AIP Publishing journal editors and staff utilize the resources and tools provided by COPE, the Committee on Publication Ethics, to assist them in handling ethical concerns. As publisher, we have a responsibility to clearly define what we expect of our authors, to provide transparent policies and procedures, and to take appropriate and timely action when needed.
Plagiarism is the unauthorized and unacknowledged use of someone else’s words, ideas, processes, or results in a manner that can mislead others into thinking the material is your own. Plagiarism can also be in the form of text recycling where an author reuses portions of text from their own work that isn’t properly credited.
The severity of plagiarism ranges across a broad spectrum. It is most egregious when it is intentional and deliberate and may be considered less serious when it results from honest error, a lack of knowledge of proper publication practices, or simply from poor judgement. Regardless of the intent, plagiarism is a serious issue that can have negative implications for an author in terms of reputation and career, as well as legal consequences when copyright is infringed.
Authors can benefit greatly by educating themselves as much as possible about proper publication practices. The key to avoiding plagiarism is proper attribution and citation to the previous works on which you have relied in your writing. Although citations may differ in form within the scientific literature, their function is the same; namely, to point others to the original source of the information presented. Author guidelines may tell authors how to cite a work but not always when to cite a work. When deciding whether attribution or citation is needed, authors should keep the following in mind:
- Acknowledge the source: Always acknowledge and include a citation for the source of any ideas, evidence, and supporting data that contributed to your work, even if it is your own previous work (see text recycling).
- Point readers in the right direction: Citations must be clear and comprehensive enough to allow readers to access the original work.
- Primary is preferred: Always cite the primary source and not subsequent sources that have been derived from the primary source.
- Add to the readers’ understanding: Make sure that the source material to which you are referring offers readers insight into the arguments, hypotheses, or statements you have made and that you’ve interpreted it accurately.
- Separate contributions: Clearly indicate where material derived from other sources ends and your own thoughts and expression begin.
- Study the field: Be sure to cite relevant papers in the field. If you fail to do a comprehensive literature search, it could be seen as plagiarism if you selectively omit citations to papers that have already reported on your topical area and whose authors are considered to have made an original contribution to that field.
- Treat unpublished works the same: Remember that an unpublished work can still be plagiarized. Credit should be given and permission obtained for any material reused from an unpublished work.
- How to adapt: Even when adapting figures and images, you must obtain permission from the original copyright holder. Simply making cosmetic or incidental modifications is not enough to constitute a new work for the purposes of copyright.
Text Recycling is the practice of reusing portions of text from your own previous publications without formally quoting or citing them. All work you draw on, even your own, should be properly attributed and cited. Text recycling in hypotheses, results, or discussion can be a sign the manuscript is misleading the reader by presenting ideas as original when they are not. Text recycling in methods or introduction, while less severe, may inadvertently imply that a method is new when it is not. Text or image recycling anywhere may violate another publisher’s copyright. While some degree of overlap may be necessary or even desirable, this should always be properly cited and annotated to make it clear what comes from earlier papers and what is new.
The overarching guideline that authors can use to avoid harmful text recycling is that it should always be clear where ideas, methods, and even particular phrasing comes from. Any element not original to the current article needs to be identified as such to allow readers an accurate view of the present work. Authors should keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Always acknowledge and include a citation for the source of any ideas, evidence, and supporting data that contributed to the present work.
- Citations must be clear and comprehensive enough to allow readers to access the original work.
- Clearly indicate where material from your previous work ends and thoughts and expression unique to the current work begin.
- If figures, images, or tables are reused, they must be attributed to their original publication. Additionally, you may need to obtain permission from the original publisher. This is the case even when you are the original creator of the figure or image.
Duplicate Publication and Dual Submission
Duplicate publication is the publication by an author or group of authors of more than one article that is identical in the hypothesis, results, discussion, or conclusions, although there may be superficial differences in the articles (such as a revised title and/or abstract or redrawn figures). Duplicate publication is a type of text recycling/self-plagiarism. Dual publication is a subtype of duplicate publication wherein the duplicate publications are published at roughly the same time, frequently as a result of dual submission.
Dual Submission, also called simultaneous or double submission, is the submission of manuscripts that are identical in the essentials (as described above for duplicate publication) to two or more journals at the same time. “The same time” means that the manuscript is under consideration for publication in more than one journal at once – this is a violation of AIP Publishing policy.
Data Fabrication, Falsification, and Image Manipulation
Data fabrication, falsification, and inappropriate image manipulation represent serious research misconduct as they present false or manipulated data and scientific results. Research integrity requires reporting of conclusions based on accurately recorded data for all relevant observations. Fabrication refers to fake results or data, and their recording or reporting. Falsification refers to the alteration of research materials, processes, protocols, equipment, or changing or omitting data or results.