Publication and authorship
Good research conduct guidance on publication, authorship and peer review
Researchers should seek to publish their results in accordance with current best practice and funders' terms and conditions. They should ensure that they:
- use the most appropriate means to publish the results of their research, typically as papers in refereed journals
- comply with University policies and funder requirements in the dissemination of the results of research and, where appropriate, seek guidance and approval to report research to the media (working with the Public Affairs Directorate or the University's News Office as appropriate)
- publish a coherent report of the work and do not report the data more than once (unless in a secondary analysis) or sub-divide the data (unless this was a predefined approach)
- consider negative results of research as important as positive when disseminating research and avoid exaggerating the importance of conclusions obtained
- analyse the data using appropriate methods of statistical analysis
- acknowledge and cite the work of others where appropriate, fully and accurately attributing relevant sources
- take steps to ensure the accuracy of the data reported and act immediately to correct any genuine errors or misunderstanding prior to and after publishing
- acknowledge the funding, support, sponsorship and other forms of input (including that of the University) to the work in an appropriate way
- give notice of intention to publish and seek approval, where appropriate, from all partner organisations
- openly declare all relevant interests
- not seek media exposure for research which has not been subject to peer review, unless sanctioned by all parties
- handle the release of research data which might have high and/or commercial impact with care and sensitivity, consulting the University and other partners as appropriate
Papers presented for publication must be the author’s own work, reflecting their own research and analysis. Authors should not engage in plagiarism - verbatim or near-verbatim copying, or very close paraphrasing, of text or results from another’s work.
If a publication is found to include an honest error (eg a difference in interpretation, errors unrelated to the research), it is advised that authors seek a correction (erratum) or retraction of work as appropriate, providing the reason for this action. Such errors are not uncommon in research, with The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (All European Academies, 2017) stating that authors should be “given credit for issuing prompt corrections post-publication” if required.
If there is a concern that an error may have constituted research misconduct (including fabrication, falsification and plagiarism), information on formal procedures can be found on the University’s Research Misconduct webpages.
Generally, an author is considered to be someone who has made a substantive intellectual contribution to a published study. According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), this normally includes anyone who has:
- made a substantial contribution to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data for the work; and
- drafted or substantively reviewed or revised the publication; and
- approved the final version of the publication; and
- agreed 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 could be appropriately investigated and resolved.
These widely accepted guidelines set a high standard. However there are no universally accepted standards for attributing authorship and there is great variation in practice among different disciplines, research fields and journals.
This places most of the responsibility for decisions about authorship on the researchers who conducted the research reported in the publication. These decisions are best made early in each project and renegotiated regularly as necessary, to avoid misunderstanding and later disputes.
Where the work has more than one author the researchers should also:
- agree among all authors the contribution each will make to reporting the work and authorship order, reviewing this commitment regularly as the work progresses
- appoint a lead or executive author for communication on the work and keep written records of decisions made regarding authorship
- report the work fairly according to each author’s contribution, and neither omit, underplay nor overplay a contributor's input
- comply with the definition of author and co-author given by the journal or by international organisations (eg International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, Committee on Publication Ethics).
- provide a formal offer of authorship (which should be accepted or declined in writing) to those meeting the agreed definitions
- maintain a file of all relevant signatures and correspondence (eg exchanges of emails, notes of meetings etc) in case of disputes.
Any individual who contributed to the research, but whose input was not sufficient for them to be listed as an author should be recognised in the acknowledgements of the publication, where they can be credited as a contributor rather than an author.
To ensure a given author’s publications are accurately attributed to them, all authors should register for an ORCID account and ensure that their ORCID number is referenced in their published research.
In general, researchers should seek advice from within their own research field and refer to guidance produced by the appropriate research funder, the journal in question or from their professional society. Such sources include:
- Academy of Management, Code of Ethics, (February 2006)
- British Educational Research Association, Ethical guidelines for Educational research (June 2018)
- Medical Research Council, Good Research Practice: Principles and Guidelines (July 2012)
- Nature, Nature journals’ authorship policy (May 2014)
- Wellcome Trust, Good Research Practice Guidelines (April 2018)
Only staff or students of the collegiate University, or those who have a formal affiliation to the University or a College (or those who were University staff or students, or had a formal affiliation when the research in question was conducted), should state in any journal submission that they are affiliated to the University or a College.
Researchers should give priority to publishing in publications that employ rigorous standards of peer review.
When acting as peer reviewers, University members should declare all relevant interests as required in the University's conflict of interest policy.
New reviewers are advised to take any available training and follow provided guidance (see Further Resources below) to become familiar with good practice, and consult or discuss with colleagues as necessary. Where appropriate, reviewers should contribute comments that will be attributed.
All reviewers should:
- apply rigorous objectivity in all assessments
- complete the review in accordance with the guidance provided and on time
- respect the confidentiality of any information sent for review
- report any conflicting interests
- not allow vested interests or personal bias to influence their impartial assessment
- only accept assignments for which they have the expertise and no conflicting interests
- not take advantage of any new data, ideas or privileged information they have had access to during the review process, to further their own research and/or other activities
- conduct a fair assessment of the work and not deliberately disadvantage a competitor in the field
- review objectively work that challenges accepted views, crosses traditional boundaries and/or is wholly innovative
- be aware that the review may identify practice which falls below good conduct (which might be honest error or research misconduct) and which should be reported
If submitting work for peer review, researchers should:
- not take actions, directly or indirectly, to influence the review of their own work or that of others, positively or negatively
- accept comments and respond to the factual points made
- report any suspected infringement of the principles outlined above to the appropriate authority (eg journal editor, funder)
- discuss details with all co-authors before making any revision or appeal
- ensure all authors approve any appeal or response document and revised publication