Last Updated April 5, 2018

Ethical policy for journals

This policy should be read in conjunction with our guidelines for authors and reviewers. This policy applies to all IOP-owned journals and to those journals published with partner organisations that are listed in the appropriate section below.

IOP Publishing is a member of the Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE), and and apply the principles of publication ethics outlined in the COPE Core Practices.

Authors must not fabricate, falsify or misrepresent data or results. They should strive to be objective, unbiased and truthful in all aspects of their work.

Authors must be honest in making claims for the results and conclusions of their research. Making inflated claims for a project interferes with the objective evaluation of its results and applications, and can lead to an unfair and wasteful distribution of resources.

Authors should strive to avoid mistakes in research and exercise due diligence in presenting high quality work for publication. They should critically assess the likelihood of experimental, methodological and human errors and avoid self-deception and bias. Where possible they should conduct an internal review to assess the validity of their work before publication.

If an error occurs

It is, of course, recognised that errors will occur from time to time. When an error is discovered in published or submitted work, the mistake should be admitted and a corrigendum, erratum or retraction should be published. Corrections should be approved by all authors of the original article unless there is a particular reason why this is not possible. In these cases any dissent among the authors should be noted in the published correction.

Source materials

IOP Publishing does not require the raw data from an experiment to be submitted for publication, although some of our journals do offer the option to supply this data as supplementary information. However, we expect that all authors follow established best scientific practice and record (and retain) source material of experiments and research results, in an auditable manner that allows for scrutiny and verification by other scientists. Exceptions may be appropriate to preserve privacy or patent protection. There may also be specific instructions from your funding agency or university.

Investigations involving live subjects

All investigations involving humans must be conducted in accordance with the principles embodied in the Declaration of Helsinki and in accordance with local statutory requirements. Researchers should not generally publish or share identifiable individual data collected in the course of research without specific consent from the individual (or their representative). Articles relying on clinical trials should quote the trial registration number at the end of the abstract. IOP also encourages the registration of such studies in a public trials registry prior to publication of the results in the journal. All investigations involving animal experimentation must be conducted in accordance with the Guiding Principles for Research Involving Animals and Human Beings as adopted by the American Physiological Society, and with local statutory requirements.

Informed consent to publish should be obtained from participants (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16) for all research involving identifiable human subjects. This requirement also applies for deceased persons, in which case consent should be given by the next of kin. Authors are required to attest that consent has been obtained and that any identifiable individuals are aware of intended publication. Examples of identifying information are descriptions of individual case histories, photos, video, x-rays, or genetic pedigrees.

In order to protect participant anonymity, authors do not need to send proof of this consent to us at IOP Publishing. A statement confirming that consent was obtained for all identifiable individuals should appear in the manuscript.

Source: Barbour V on behalf of COPE Council, Journals’ Best Practices for Ensuring Consent for Publishing Medical Case Reports: guidance from COPE, December 2016

When determining the credit for a piece of work, authors should ensure that all those who have made a significant contribution are cited as co-authors. Other individuals who have contributed to the study in a lesser capacity should be acknowledged, but not cited as authors.

  • An author is someone who has made a significant intellectual contribution to the article, this can include but is not limited to:
    Background theory
    Design of experiment
    Device prototype
    Data analysis and interpretation
    Writing of the article or reviewing and/or revising the text and/or figures


Some co-authors will be accountable for the entire article, for example those who provide critical data, written the article, present the findings at conferences or provide leadership for junior colleagues. Other co-authors may be responsible for specific contributions to an article. Where such specific attributions of credit and responsibility are required, authors must make this clear in the acknowledgements of the article otherwise all co-authors will be taken to share full responsibility for all of the paper. Authors should not use acknowledgements misleadingly to imply a contribution or endorsement by individuals who have not, in fact, been involved with the work or given an endorsement.

Responsibility of the corresponding author

It is the corresponding author’s responsibility to ensure that all named authors have approved the submitted version of the article, and all further revisions, agree to its submission and are willing to take appropriate responsibility for it.

It is important that all authors have approved the final version of the article as accepted for publication.

Changes in authorship

Any subsequent changes to authorship during the publication process must be approved by all authors of the paper and all authors must confirm to the journal that they give their consent. In addition, you must explain to the journal the reasons behind the change in authorship based on the guidelines above.

IOP Publishing is a member of the Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE), and apply the principles of publication ethics outlined in the COPE Core Practices.


Authors have a responsibility to acknowledge the work of others used in their research and to cite publications that have influenced the direction and course of their study. Information obtained in private correspondence or conversation should only be used with the explicit permission of the individuals involved. Information obtained whilst providing confidential services, such as refereeing research articles or grant applications, should not be used without permission of the original author.

All sources for the article must be clearly disclosed and permissions obtained from the original authors (and original publishers if they hold the copyright) for any figures or significant extracts that are to be reproduced or quoted. Collection of such permissions is the responsibility of the authors.

References should be helpful to the reader and advance the article, so authors should ensure they are relevant, recent and easy to find.


Submitted articles must be the authors’ own work. Plagiarism constitutes unethical scientific behaviour and is never acceptable. Plagiarism ranges from the unreferenced use of others’ ideas, to replication (without attribution) of sections of text from other publications, to submission of a complete paper under ‘new’ authorship. IOP Publishing routinely screens submissions for originality via iThenticate, industry standard plagiarism detection software.

Duplicate publication

Duplicate publication is the production of multiple papers with the same, or essentially the same, content by the same authors and is viewed as unacceptable. Submitted research articles must be novel and original.

In the case of articles that expand upon previously published conference proceedings, or conference write-ups that discuss work already published in an earlier paper, some limited exceptions to this rule may apply. However, in these cases authors should consult with the journal staff before submission. In all instances, articles must clearly cite their sources and present some new contribution to the published literature otherwise such articles will be rejected.

Multiple publications arising from a single research project should be clearly identified as such and the primary publication should be referenced. Translations and adaptations for different audiences should be clearly identified as such, should acknowledge the original source, and should respect relevant copyright conventions and permission requirements. If in doubt, authors should seek permission from the original publisher before republishing any work.

Text recycling

Text recycling occurs when authors publish sections of the same text in more than one of their own publications. Authors should always be clear and cite any re-used text in the manuscript, respecting relevant copyright conventions and permission requirements. Authors should state in their cover letter if there are sections of the article that have already been published elsewhere. We acknowledge there are some instances where text recycling may be acceptable, and others where it is unacceptable. All text recycling will be investigated and considered on an individual basis by our Editors.

Parallel submission

It is also unethical to submit the same, or essentially the same, article to a second primary research journal whilst it remains under active consideration by another.

To aid us in detecting any submissions that do not meet the above requirements, we regularly use plagiarism-detection software to screen articles.


Articles should include a full list of the current institutional affiliations of all authors, both academic and corporate, and all author e-mail addresses listed should be correct to the best of the authors’ knowledge. We also encourage authors to provide ORCID identifiers for each named author on submission. If a researcher is not affiliated to an institution or company, they can list themselves as “independent researcher”.

All sources of financial support for the project should be disclosed in the article.

All authors and co-authors are required to disclose any potential conflict of interest when submitting their article (e.g. employment, consulting fees, research contracts, stock ownership, patent licences, honoraria, advisory affiliations, etc.). If the article is subsequently accepted for publication, this information should be included in an acknowledgments section.

It is difficult to specify the threshold at which a financial or other interest becomes significant. Two practical guidelines are:


to declare any competing interests that could embarrass you were they to become publicly known after your work was published;


to declare any information which, when revealed later, would make a reasonable reader feel misled or deceived.


Reviewers should contact the editorial office to declare any potential conflicts of interest in advance of refereeing an article (e.g. being a co-worker or collaborator with one of the authors, or being in a position which precludes giving an objective opinion of the work).

Minor conflicts do not disqualify a reviewer from reporting on an article but will be taken into account when considering the referees’ recommendations. Major conflicts of interest (especially relating to a financial commercial interest of over £5000/year) do disqualify a referee. Reviewers should act within the spirit of the Principles of Public Life.

Peer review by independent scientists provides advice to the Editors and staff of journals, and is an essential component of the scientific process.

IOP journals are international in authorship and in readership and referees are carefully selected from the worldwide research community. Referees’ names are kept confidential and may only be disclosed to journal Editorial Board members, who are also instructed to maintain confidentiality. Unbiased consideration is given to all manuscripts offered for publication regardless of the race, gender, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, political philosophy, sexual orientation, age or reputation of the authors.

Information and ideas obtained whilst acting as a referee must be kept confidential and not used for competitive advantage. Referees should disclose any conflicts of interest as described here. Referees should inform the journal if they are unable to review a paper or can do so only with some delay. They should not delay the peer review process unnecessarily, either deliberately or inadvertently.

Referees should judge objectively the quality of the research reported, give fair, frank and constructive criticism and refrain from personal criticism of the authors. Comments made by referees may be seen by the authors. Therefore referees’ judgements should be explained and supported so that authors can understand the basis of the comments and judgments.

Referees are expected to point out relevant work that has not been cited, and use citations to explain where elements of the work have been previously reported. If they believe that the work is substantially similar to a manuscript or any paper published or submitted to another journal, they should report this to the journal staff for further investigation.

We request that referees do not contact authors directly. Many IOP journals consult two referees and the opinion of one reviewer may not reflect the journal’s final decision on an article. Receiving partial advice from one referee can give authors a misleading impression of the peer review process. If there is a particularly urgent reason for contacting the author then this should be done via the journal office.

IOP is not able to actively police the policies and conditions of publication. Our relationship with our authors is based on trust and we publish submitted material in good faith. We believe that employers have the prime responsibility for ensuring their researchers’ good conduct and for the provision of ethical training and leadership.

However, it is our responsibility to maintain the integrity of the scientific record as far as possible. If a possible breach of this ethical policy, or similar misconduct affecting article(s) in our journals, is brought to our attention, we will ask the authors to respond. Whilst journals do not have the resources or legal legitimacy to fully investigate all allegations of scientific misconduct, we will seek advice from an article’s referees and/or the journal’s Editorial Board.

If there is then evidence that trust has been significantly compromised by an author’s or reviewer’s actions, we will attempt to redress the matter by:


if necessary, contacting editors of any other journals involved;


publishing appropriate corrections in the printed and online journal (which may include retractions);


refusing to consider an author’s future work for a given period;


in rare instances, communications to employers or funding agencies.

In handling corrections to the published record, we follow the STM Guideline for the Preservation of the Objective Record of Science (2006).

IOP Publishing is a member of COPE, and adheres to the COPE Guidelines regarding misconduct and retractions.

IOP reserves the right not to work with anyone who is abusive to our staff, authors, referees or editors.

The IOP Ethical Policy for Journals applies to all the titles listed below. Other journals we publish with partner organisations not listed operate using the partners’ ethical policies.

* These journals are not members of COPE.