Ethical policy for journals

Cope logoThis 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. All corresponding authors are requested to confirm they have read and understand this policy when they submit to our journals.

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. We take publishing ethics very seriously and accept our responsibility to maintain the integrity of the scientific record as much as possible.

Unbiased consideration is given to all manuscripts offered for publication regardless of the race, gender, religious belief, ethnicity, citizenship, political philosophy, sexual orientation, age or reputation of the authors.

IOP Publishing is a member of the Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE) and adheres to COPE’s Guidelines regarding misconduct and retractions, including the processes set out in COPE’s flowcharts. We take ethical allegations very seriously and believe it is our responsibility to maintain the integrity of the scientific record as far as possible. 

Our relationship with our authors is based on trust, and we publish submitted material in good faith. However, if a possible breach of ethics is brought to our attention, we will refer the case to our Research Integrity Team for investigation. We follow the COPE guidelines on responding to whistle-blowers, which includes protecting your anonymity. 

The team will seek the support of relevant individuals across the business, and may obtain advice from the journal’s Editorial Board. In some instances, the team may need to escalate an investigation to author’s institution(s) for further support or information. The team will ensure to take a balanced and objective approach, as well as reach out to the accused individuals in every instance, to provide them with the opportunity to comment on the matter before committing to a particular course of action.  

The team will decide the most appropriate approach to take according to industry guidelines and advise on any corrections (including retractions) that may be required to the published record, following the STM Guideline for the Preservation of the Objective Record of Science (2006). All relevant parties will be informed of the outcome of the case. 

Please note:

  • Misconduct investigations are sensitive and can take time. The Research Integrity Team would appreciate patience while they investigate, by allowing them the time and space to review the matter in full.  
  • Due to the nature of investigations, we are unable to provide a timeline for when a particular case will be resolved by. 
  • IOP Publishing has the right to contact an individual’s institution regarding allegations of misconduct, according to the COPE Guidelines. 
  • IOP Publishing has the right to request proof of identity in cases where identity theft is alleged or suspected. 
  • IOP Publishing reserves the right to issue an expression of concern to a paper which is the subject of an ongoing investigation, such as when we are unable to resolve a case swiftly or when a third party is involved. 
  • In instances where a breach of ethics is discovered with an unpublished work (a submitted manuscript or accepted manuscript that has not yet been made available on IOPscience), IOP Publishing reserves the right to reject or rescind the acceptance of the paper.  
  • IOP Publishing reserves the right not to work with anyone who is abusive to our staff, authors, reviewers or editors. Please see our respect for others policy for more information. 

To report any concerns relating to potential misconduct, please contact the editorial office for the relevant journal. You can find contact information for all IOP journals here. Alternatively, you can contact the Research Integrity Team directly.  

IOP Publishing believe everyone is entitled to courtesy, civility and respect. We commit to treating everyone we work with fairly, professionally and without bias, and we expect our staff to be treated in the same way at all times. Discrimination against any person will not be tolerated, including, but not limited to, discrimination on the grounds of race, age, gender, location, sexual orientation, disability, appearance, religion / belief, human rights, social / economic status, political philosophy, reputation and/or scientific viewpoint. In addition, any form of behaviour which IOP Publishing considers to be threatening, bullying and/or harassment and/or the cause of another person’s distress or discomfort is unacceptable. IOP Publishing reserves the right to refuse to interact further with any person whose behaviour it considers has contravened any of the above.

IOP Publishing reserves the right to refuse to publish any content that, in its opinion, could be deemed distasteful or illegal including, but not limited to, libellous, defamatory, offensive or hate speech.

If you would like to report any behaviour or content that you believe contravenes this policy, you can do so in confidence by emailing researchintegrity@ioppublishing.org.

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

We strongly encourage authors to make specific attributions of contribution and responsibility in the acknowledgements of the article, otherwise all co-authors will be taken to share full responsibility for all of the paper. Authors may wish to use a taxonomy such as CRediT to describe the contributions of each author.

Authors are expected to reach agreement between themselves regarding authorship, and the order in which author names are presented. If agreement between the authors cannot be reached, the institution(s) where the work was undertaken should be asked to investigate. IOP Publishing will not arbitrate in cases where these is disagreement over authorship. IOP Publishing has the right to remove your article from the review process until a resolution can be agreed.

Authors should not use authorship or 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.

It is the corresponding author’s responsibility to ensure the paper is not under consideration by any other journal at the time of submission.

It is the corresponding author’s responsibility to ensure the contact details for all co-authors are entered and correct at the time of submission.

Changes in authorship

Any 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 and made a genuine intellectual contribution to the paper. In addition, you must explain to the journal the reasons behind the change in authorship based on the guidelines above. IOP Publishing reserves the right to refuse requests if there is reason to doubt the contribution of any newly-added author.

Deceased authors

In cases where an author has sadly passed away before a paper has been submitted, we require consent from a familial or legal proxy of the deceased for the paper to be reviewed for potential publication. Deceased authors are still eligible for co-authorship if they made a significant intellectual contribution to the article (see above).

IOP Publishing considers any attempt to impersonate another person as a serious breach of ethics. IOP Publishing has the right to request proof of identity in cases where identity fraud or impersonation is alleged or suspected.

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

It is the corresponding author’s responsibility to ensure the paper is not under consideration by any other journal at the time of submission.

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.

We ask authors to carefully consider both the subject matter and provenance of images included in their work before submitting to the journal. If the submitted images could be potentially offensive to the journal’s readership or violate copyright, IOP Publishing reserves the right to request that authors seek alternative images or other means to express the same results before the final version is published.

IOP Publishing will not consider submissions which feature the Lena/Lenna image (a crop of an image of Lena Söderberg from a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine), as the image and its history conflicts with our commitment to inclusivity in science. Alternatives to the Lena image are widely available, see https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09500340.2016.1270881 for examples.

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).

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 www.publicationethics.org

We follow COPE guidelines on studies involving vulnerable populations as set out in the COPE Core Principles (https://publicationethics.org/core-practices).

If your work involves live subjects (human or animal) you must provide an appropriate ethical statement when submitting your paper. The most suitable location for this is normally the methods section of the manuscript. However, to preserve anonymity in double-anonymous journals please do not add the ethical statement to the manuscript, instead complete the relevant section on the submission system.

Our editorial team checks all ethical statements are appropriate for the study being reported. Any manuscript submitted without a suitable ethical statement will be returned to the authors and will not be considered further until an appropriate and explicit statement is included.

Authors should include the following points in the ethical statement (if applicable) when submitting a paper:

  • The institutional or national research ethics committee /review board that approved the research must be named. Include the approval number/ID if one was given. If the research received a waiver of approval from the ethics committee/review board or did not require approval for some other reason please state this and explain why.
  • For investigations involving animal experimentation you should state which institutional and/or national animal care and use guidelines were followed.
  • For investigations involving human participants:
    • You should state that the research was conducted in accordance with the principles embodied in the Declaration of Helsinki and in accordance with local statutory requirements.
    • You should state that all participants (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16) gave written informed consent to participate in the study
    • For research which involves identifiable human subjects (including donors of cells or tissues) you must include a statement confirming that consent was given for publication by all participants (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16). In order to protect participant anonymity, authors do not need to send proof of this consent to us at IOP Publishing. Where a donor has deceased prior to the research and is therefore unable to grant consent but is still identifiable (e.g. HeLa cells), their origin and lack of consent should be acknowledged.
  • 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 participants being enrolled.

Double-anonymous submissions

  • In double-anonymous journals please do not add the ethical statement to the manuscript, instead please complete the relevant section on the submission system. This information is not shared with reviewers and therefore does not need to be anonymised.
  • If a reviewer feels they need to see an ethical statement, they are advised to contact the journal to discuss.

IOP Publishing requires all authors to declare any funding they received related to their research. When you submit your paper, you will be asked to provide information on all funders associated with your work. It is vital that you enter this information as it helps you to meet your funder requirements as well as to make your research more discoverable and transparent (for example, IOP Publishing is a member of CHORUS – Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States). When asked about funding on the submission form please search the Open Funder Registry for your funding institutions, and provide grant numbers wherever possible.

You should ensure you have permission from your funder(s) before submitting your article.

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.

Referencing

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.

Plagiarism

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.

Authors

All authors and co-authors are required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest when submitting their article. Any conflicts of interest should be included in an acknowledgements section.

Examples of financial interests that should be disclosed:

Any direct sources of funds (employment, grants, patents, stock ownership, sponsorships etc.) or indirect sources of funds (consulting fees, honoraria, equipment supplies etc.) where the funding organisation stands to gain/lose from the publication of the article or could be seen to have influenced the submitted work.

Examples of personal relationships/academic competitions that should be disclosed:

Any unpaid roles that the authors have that could influence the publication process. These would include unpaid advisory affiliations and memberships of professional organisations.

Any personal relationships/beliefs that could be seen as a conflict should also be disclosed. This would include having a relative who works for an organisation funding the work.

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

1

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

2

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

Declaring conflicts of Interest:

Any potential conflicts of interest should be declared in the acknowledgements section.

If you are submitting to a double-anonymous review journal, the full disclosure should be included in your cover letter.

Reviewers

To uphold impartiality, reviewers should consider any potential conflict of interest before agreeing to review and should decline in the following instances:

  • You are in direct competition with the authors
  • You are a co-worker or collaborator or have a personal relationship with one of the authors
  • You are affiliated with the same institution as one of the authors
  • You are in a position to exploit the authors’ work (commercially or otherwise)
  • You are in a position which prevents you from giving an objective opinion of the work.

Reviewers are expected to act within the spirit of the Nolan principles of public life.

If you are unable to act as a reviewer due to a conflict of interest, we will select an alternative reviewer.

If you have been asked to review an article for one of our double-anonymous journals, please notify the journal staff if you suspect a potential conflict of interest.

Reviewers are expected to perform the review of the work themselves, unless they are participating in co-review. Submitting a review in the name of another person (real or fictional) is misconduct and will not be tolerated. IOP Publishing has the right to request proof of identity in cases where identity fraud or impersonation is alleged or suspected.

Conflicts of interest

To uphold impartiality, you should consider any potential conflict of interest before agreeing to review and should contact the editorial office in the following instances:

  • You are in direct competition with the authors
  • You are a co-worker or collaborator with one of the authors
  • You are in a position to exploit the authors’ work (commercially or otherwise)
  • You may be legally prohibited due to national sanctions
  • You are in a position which prevents you from giving an objective opinion of the work.

Minor conflicts do not disqualify you from reporting on an article, but will be taken into account when considering the reviewers’ recommendations. Major conflicts of interest (especially relating to a financial commercial interest >£5000/year) do disqualify you. You should act within the spirit of the Nolan principles of public life.

If you are unable to act as a reviewer due to a conflict of interest, we will select an alternative reviewer.

If the journal is double-anonymous you may not be sure if you have a conflict of interest. If you suspect there may be a reason you should not act as a reviewer, please contact the editorial office who will be able to investigate and advise.

Anonymity and confidentiality

Reviewer names are kept strictly confidential. Reviewer identities may only be disclosed to journal Editorial Board members, who are also instructed to maintain confidentiality. You should not disclose your identity to the authors, including sending reports directly to the authors.

Information and ideas obtained whilst acting as a reviewer must be kept confidential and not used for competitive advantage.

We also ask that you do not discuss the papers you have reviewed with colleagues unless they have been published.

Objectivity

Reviewers should judge objectively the quality of the research reported, give fair, frank and constructive criticism and refrain from personal criticism of the authors. Reviewers’ judgements should be explained and supported so that authors can understand the basis of the comments and judgements.

Timeliness

Reviewers should inform the journal if they are unable to review a paper or can only do so with some delay. Reviewers should not delay the peer review process unnecessarily, either deliberately or inadvertently.

Citations

Reviewers 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. When writing a report reviewers should justify any literature references suggested for inclusion in the work. Please note that the Editor reserves the right to challenge excessive citation suggestions, especially to the reviewer’s own work. The Editor also reserves the right to exclude citation suggestions from reports to protect reviewers’ anonymity.

Suspected author misconduct

Reviewers should report any suspicions of misconduct to the journal staff for investigation. This includes, but is not limited to, suspicions of:

  • Plagiarism
  • Duplicate publication
  • Parallel submission
  • Data fabrication / falsification
  • Image manipulation
  • Incorrect authorship
  • Author conflict of interest
  • Unethical research practices
  • Content that could be considered offensive

We follow the COPE guidelines on responding to whistleblowers, which includes protecting your anonymity.

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.