10 Tips for Ethical Authorship

authorship ethics

Navigating the seas of scientific publication isn’t always easy. Publishing your research in a peer-reviewed journal is a challenge in and of itself, but it is also vital that researchers publish their science in an ethical manner. Observance of high ethical standards is vital to the scientific community at large and can help maximize benefits to society and your fellow researchers. To help authors ensure their research is published responsibly, we have compiled a list of tips to provide guidance in this area. Some of this may seem like common sense to most researchers, but it’s important that these standards are made clear to all.

  1. Be Accurate and Truthful: An author’s central objective is to avoid deception and present an accurate and complete account of the research performed. Make sure your research report and collected data are as detailed as possible to aid in reproducibility.
  2. Share Your Data with Other Authors: Make any reasonable effort to provide data, methods, and samples of unusual materials unavailable to other authors. Submit your data to a public database, such as the PubChem Project or CAS databases, whenever possible. If you’re submitting to an ACS Journal, any supporting information supplied with the manuscript will automatically be deposited to FigShare and assigned a DOI—no extra work required.
  3. Cite All Sources: Give credit when credit’s due; be sure to cite everything that is not common knowledge. Citations are important to disclose publications that have been influential to the reported science and help readers find previous work that is essential for understanding the present work. Only cite sources that are directly referenced in the research you are conducting, and be sure to cite non-authors for critical contributions to your work.
  4. Report All Safety Concerns: Identify any unusual hazards inherent in the chemicals, equipment, or procedures used in an investigation. It is vital that potential risks to public health and safety, crops and other plants, animals, the environment, or material are reported when publishing research.
  5. Avoid Fragmentation: Keep it simple. Provide a well-rounded account of your study in one paper—not several. If you have done extensive work on a particular subject or several related subjects, make sure each report you submit for publication gives a comprehensive account of a particular aspect of your research. This saves journal space and helps others find your publications more readily.
  6. Don’t Double-Dip Submissions: Don’t submit manuscripts describing the same research study to more than one journal at a time. However, it is permissible for you to submit a manuscript for a full paper that expands on a previously published “letter” or other brief accounts. Just make sure you communicate this to journal editors when submitting!
  7. Constructive Criticism Only: An experimental or theoretical study may sometimes justify criticism, but keep it professional and don’t let it get personal.
  8. Disclose Authorship and Potential Conflicts: It is the responsibility of the submitting author to report authorship and contributions fairly. Co-authors should be all those who have made significant contributions to the reported work and share accountability for the results. Other contributors to the work should be indicated in an “Acknowledgements” section. It is also vital that the corresponding author discloses any potential conflicts, financial or otherwise, to the editor and also with the readers.
  9. Do NOT Plagiarize: This is not acceptable, not ever, self-plagiarism included. ACS journals adhere to the National Science Foundation’s definition of plagiarism as “the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.” So just don’t do it! Check out this guide to citing references here.
  10. Provide Accurate Visuals: Images should be free from misleading manipulation. Check out this handy guide for TOC/abstract graphics here.

Learn more about ACS Publications’ Ethical Guidelines and download our infographic to hang in your lab.

If you have comments or questions for the author of this post, please e-mail: Axial@acs.org.