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Unethical Publication Practices And Code Of Ethics To Be Followed By Publishers: An Overview

Research conducted has to be published or documented; otherwise, it is rendered undone or incomplete. Publication of paper is critical for the evolution of various fields as discussed above and this comes with many responsibilities. But with time, many malpractices and unethical practices have also come into being such as plagiarism, data fabricating, research frauds and what not. Publishers have the duty and responsibility to ensure that the piece of work that is being published by them is not fabricated, plagiarized or forged (fraud).

The publisher has a pivotal, supporting and telling role in this process and is also responsible for making sure that the best and bona fide practices are being followed in its publications. This article will discuss various guidelines developed by COPE, that is, Committee on Publication Ethics so as to know the code of ethics to be followed by publishers. But first, we shall discuss some major misconducts and malpractices in brief in publishing that are very common these days.

Unethical practices in publishing


Plagiarism is usage of the words, figures and ideas of others without attribution. It occurs when someone presents the work of others as if it was his/her own without proper acknowledgement or prior permission.

Data fabrication/Data falsification

Data falsification means manipulating the research data and information deliberately with the intention of giving a false impression. This includes manipulating pictures (e.g., graphs,), removing outliers or the results, changing, adding or omitting data points etc.

Duplicate submission

This refers to the practice of submitting the same research paper or the same study to two journals or publishing more or less the same study in two journals. These submissions/publications can be nearly simultaneous or years later.

Undeclared conflict of interests

This problem occurs when issues outside the research could be reasonably perceived to affect and influence the nature of the piece of work or its assessment. It could result in biased professional judgement.


This issue occurs when the research paper includes comments, critics or opinions about somebody or such person's work in a malicious way which tend to lower such person's reputation in the opinion of the society.

Code of Ethics to be followed by the Publishers

We should be concerned about the discussed malpractices because such unethical practices influence research and clinical practices, retracted work goes on being cited, leads to waste of resources and damages public trust in research/science. Thus, to prevent such misconducts and malpractices, we have Committee on Publication Ethics which is a membership organization for journal editors and publishers.

The Committee on Publication Ethics was founded in 1997 and is a non-profit organization whose stated mission is to define best practice in the ethics of genuine publishing and to assist editors and publishers to achieve this. It has many critical jobs to do such as providing advice on all aspects of publication ethics, providing support and resources for good publication practices, advising on how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct, educating editors and publishers on identifying research and publication misconduct and their responsibilities.

COPE has developed some guidelines that are to be followed by the editors and publishers in order to avoid such negative effects and aforementioned malpractices and misconducts while publishing the research work.

The guidelines and key points are listed below:

  • The editors and publishers are given clear guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in a research paper regarding content, language and tone. As we know that a publisher plays a pivotal role in ensuring that only genuine and original pieces of work are published, therefore, it is his/her job to ensure the same. The piece of work should not be fabricated, unauthorized, plagiarized or defamatory.
  • The guidelines clearly state that it is the publisher's responsibility to make sure that the work has not been published before anywhere (except that in a form of abstract, or as a part of published lecture or thesis). This misconduct is very common these days as many original research papers which have been already published get published again by other people because the publisher did not pay heed to it. Therefore, the publisher has to make sure this malpractice does not take place.
  • The publisher has to make sure that the work he is publishing is not under consideration anywhere else because it would be duplication/submission of multiple copies otherwise leading to waste of resources and hard work of the author to whom the piece of work belongs.
  • It is the publisher's duty and responsibility to make sure that there is no infringement of copyrights. Prior to publishing some research paper, he has to make sure that copyright has not been breached in its publication.
  • The publisher has to ensure that the submission has been approved by all the co-authors and responsible authorities at the institution or organization where the work has been carried out in the first place. Only then the publisher publishes the piece of work to make sure that there is no undeclared conflict of interests.
  • Publisher has to make sure if a piece of work is being translated from some language to another and is being re-published, then there is to be a prior consent of the original author to whom the piece of work belongs in the first place.
  • The publisher has to make sure that the content that is being published by him does not consist any sort of omitted data to misrepresent or distort anything in the content. Misrepresentation by omission of data is also one of the many malpractices that is common these days which results in wrong conclusions and findings and that is why the publishers have to keep a check on the content that they publish to avoid this from happening.

To extrapolate, research and research papers will be rendered futile if they are not taken care of while publishing by the publisher. If they are plagiarized, unauthorized, fabricated or fraudulently submitted then it would result in public trust being damaged and a waste of precious time and resources.

Therefore, to ensure that this does not happen, the publishers strictly follow the guidelines developed by COPE, which happens to be a non-profit organization founded twenty-four years ago. The organization has laid down certain code of ethics to be followed by publishers and have given the publishers certain responsibilities.

The publishers have to always adhere to these codes and must ensure that everything they publish is original and genuine and does not infringe these codes. These codes are the basis on which bona-fide content is published on the websites and various platforms. The codes of ethics play a critical role in making sure that the content that is being published online and on social media platforms is free of the aforementioned malpractices and unethical conducts and does not result in a waste of time, efforts and money. These codes make these online platforms a safer place for people to publish their content and will keep on doing so in the future as well.

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