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Journal editors’ standards

Journal editors’ standards for authors, reviewers, readers and the scientific community, owners/publishers of the journals, and the public

An editor is a person who edits, or selects and revises, material for publications. In addition, an editor has managerial and sometimes policy-making responsibility related to the writing, compilation, and revision of content for publication. Journals editors have general duties and responsibilities. The editors should:

  • strive to meet the needs of readers and authors;
  • strive to constantly improve their journal;
  • have processes in place to assure the quality of the material they publish;
  • champion freedom of expression;
  • maintain the integrity of the academic record;
  • preclude business needs from compromising intellectual and ethical standards;
  • always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed.

Best practice for editors would include:

  • actively seeking the views of authors, readers, reviewers and editorial board members about ways of improving their journal’s processes
  • encouraging and being aware of research into peer review and publishing and reassessing their journal’s processes in the light of new findings
  • working to persuade their publisher to provide appropriate resources, guidance from experts (e.g. designers, lawyers)
  • supporting initiatives designed to reduce research and publication misconduct
  • supporting initiatives to educate researchers about publication ethics
  • assessing the effects of their journal policies on author and reviewer behavior and revising policies, as required, to encourage responsible behavior and discourage misconduct
  • ensuring that any press releases issued by their journal reflect the message of the reported article and put it into context

Editors of scientific journals have responsibilities toward the authors who provide the content of the journals, the peer reviewers who comment on the suitability of manuscripts for publication, the journal’s readers and the scientific community, the owners/publishers of the journals, and the public as a whole. Depending upon the relationship between the editor and publisher for particular journals, some of the roles and responsibilities between the two may overlap in some of the following:

Journal editors’ standards for authors

  • Editors’ decisions to accept or reject a paper for publication should be based on the paper’s importance, originality and clarity, and the study’s validity and its relevance to the remit of the journal.
  • Editors should not reverse decisions to accept submissions unless serious problems are identified with the submission.
  • New editors should not overturn decisions to publish submissions made by the previous editor unless serious problems are identified.
  • A description of peer review processes should be published, and editors should be ready to justify any important deviation from the described processes.
  • Journals should have a declared mechanism for authors to appeal against editorial decisions.
  • Editors should publish guidance to authors on everything that is expected of them. This guidance should be regularly updated and should refer or link to this code.
  • 3.7. Editors should provide guidance about criteria for authorship and/or who should be listed as a contributor following the standards within the relevant field.

Journal editors’ standards for reviewers

  • Assigning papers for review appropriate to each reviewer’s area of interest and expertise
  • Establishing a process for reviewers to ensure that they treat the manuscript as a confidential document and complete the review promptly
  • Informing reviewers that they are not allowed to make any use of the work described in the manuscript or to take advantage of the knowledge they gained by reviewing it before publication
  • Providing reviewers with written, explicit instructions on the journal’s expectations for the scope, content, quality, and timeliness of their reviews to promote thoughtful, fair, constructive, and informative critique of the submitted work
  • Requesting that reviewers identify any potential conflicts of interest and asking that they recuse themselves if they cannot provide an unbiased review
  • Allowing reviewers appropriate time to complete their reviews
  • Requesting reviews at a reasonable frequency that does not overtax any one reviewer
  • Finding ways to recognize the contributions of reviewers, for example, by publicly thanking them in the journal; providing letters that might be used in applications for academic promotion; offering professional education credits; or inviting them to serve on the editorial board of the journal

Journal editors’ standards for readers and the scientific community

  • Evaluating all manuscripts considered for publication to make certain that each provides the evidence readers need to evaluate the authors’ conclusions and that authors’ conclusions reflect the evidence provided in the manuscript
  • Providing literature references and author contact information so interested readers may pursue further discourse
  • Ensuring that all involved in the publication process understand that it is inappropriate to manipulate citations by, for example, demanding that authors cite papers in the journal
  • Disclosing sources (e.g., authorship, journal ownership, and funding)
  • Creating mechanisms to determine if the journal is providing what readers need and want (e.g., reader surveys)
  • Disclosing all relevant potential conflicts of interest of those involved in considering a manuscript or affirming that none exist.
  • Explicitly stating journal policies regarding ethics, embargo, submission and publication fees, and accessibility of content.

Journal editors’ standards for owners and publishers

  • The relationship of editors to publishers and owners is often complex but should be based firmly on the principle of editorial independence.
  • Editors should make decisions on which articles to publish based on quality and suitability for the journal and without interference from the journal owner/publisher.om the journal owner/publisher.
  • Editors should have a written contract(s) setting out their relationship with the journal’s owner and/or publisher.
  • The terms of this contract should be in line with the COPE Code of Conduct for Journal Editors.

Journal editors’ standards for public

Many responsibilities of editors toward the public are carried out through the mechanisms established for the processes and constituencies mentioned above. Editors’ roles have benefited society in many ways, from the quality-control measures taken when considering manuscripts for publication to requiring authors to abide by standards that would advance science and deposit information into freely available public databases as a condition of publication (e.g., data sharing). Editors are regularly taking steps to see that the outcomes of the scientific enterprise benefit the public. This includes identifying dual use research, which is research that can be misused to harm the public or its well-being.

Further reading

Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors

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