DJPH Policy on Ethical Principles

Delaware Journal of Public Health

Policy on Ethical Principles
(Based on WAME, Publication Ethics Policies for Medical Journals and the American Journal of Public Health Policy on Ethical Principles)
Updated and Published February 19, 2019

Purpose of a Policy on Ethical Principles

The Delaware Journal of Public Health (DJPH) aspires to select, through peer review, scientific findings and manuscripts related to public health practice of the highest quality. To achieve this, the entire peer review and publication process of the DJPH must be thorough, objective, and fair. Every aspect of this process involves important ethical principles and decisions. The reputation of the DJPH depends on the trust of readers, authors, researchers, reviewers, editors, public health practitioners, research subjects, funding agencies, and administrators of public health policy. This trust is enhanced by describing as explicitly as possible the DJPH policies to ensure the ethical treatment of all participants in the publication process.

Study Design and Ethics

The DJPH considers papers in which research has been conducted to high standards of quality control and data analysis. Data and records must be retained and produced for review upon request. Fabrication, falsification, concealment, deceptive reporting, or misrepresentation of data constitute scientific misconduct.

The DJPH endorses increased reporting on the external validity of all research studies, and considers external validity when critiquing manuscripts.

Also relevant to the DJPH is the Code of Ethics for Public Health, which includes Values and Beliefs Underlying the DJPH Policy on Ethical Principles. Authors must comply with these Principles.

Editorial Policies:

Authorship and Acknowledgments

Authorship implies a significant intellectual contribution to the work, some role in writing the manuscript, and reviewing the final draft of the manuscript. For all manuscripts, the corresponding author (in collaboration with co-authors) must provide information on the specific contributions each author has made to the article. Simple copy-editing does not warrant co-authorship or acknowledgements.

All authors must take responsibility in writing for the accuracy of the manuscript, and one author must be the guarantor and take responsibility for the work as a whole.

Acknowledgements are acceptable for people who do not qualify as authors but provided support for the study and manuscript. Examples of suitable acknowledgements may include:

  • Individuals providing assistance with technical analysis, manuscript preparation, study design, or data collection;
  • Funders;
  • In-kind contributors;
  • Clinician investigators or interviewers.

Additional guidance on authorship and acknowledgements is provided by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (available at http://www.icmje.org/#author).

Editorial Decisions

Decisions about a manuscript will be based only on its importance, methodological rigor, originality, clarity, and relevance to the journal’s mission. Studies with negative results, or those challenging previously published work or widely held beliefs, will receive equal consideration.

Statements made by authors that are defamatory or otherwise unreasonably critical towards persons or institutions may jeopardize the objectivity of the DJPH and create grounds for requested amendments to or rejection of the manuscript.

Originality, Prior Publication, and Media Relations

The DJPH is a Delaware-centric publication, but does periodically publish work by Delaware authors or or Delaware subjects that have been published elsewhere. In addition, the DJPH periodically publishes work that has been presented as an abstract, or in a report of a scientific meeting, or is a reprint of classic papers that have historical value. The DJPH embargo policy is available online (www.apha.org/news-and-media/american-journal-of-public-health-press-information).  A section of the DJPH is specifically oriented toward the Delaware Academy of Medicine / Delaware Public Health Association archives and history collection, and can be found in most issues.  For  media relation questions, please contact Elizabeth E. Healy, MPH at ehealy@delamed.org .

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is scientific misconduct and includes the use of others’ published and unpublished ideas or words (or other intellectual property) without attribution or permission, and presenting them as new and original rather than derived from an existing source. The intent and effect of plagiarism is to mislead the reader as to the contributions of the plagiarizer. This applies whether the ideas or words are taken from abstracts, research grant applications, Institutional Review Board applications, or unpublished or published manuscripts in any publication format (print or electronic).

Self-plagiarism refers to the practice of an author using portions of their previous writings on the same topic in another of their publications, without specifically citing it. All previous work from the author(s) must be properly cited if used in submitted manuscripts.

Responding to Allegations of Possible Misconduct

Definitions of Misconduct

Deception may be deliberate, by reckless disregard of possible consequences, or by ignorance. Since the underlying goal of misconduct is to deliberately deceive others as to the truth, the journal’s preliminary investigation of potential misconduct must take into account not only the particular act or omission, but also the apparent intention (as best can be determined) of the person involved. Misconduct does not include unintentional error. The most common forms of scientific misconduct include:

  • Falsification of data: ranges from fabrication to deceptive selective reporting of findings and omission of conflicting data, or willful suppression and/or distortion of data.
  • Plagiarism: the appropriation of the language, ideas, or thoughts of another without crediting their true source, and representation of them as one’s own original work (see prior section).
  • Improprieties of authorship: improper assignment of credit, such as exclusion, misrepresentation of the same material as original in more than one publication, inclusion of individuals as authors who have not made a contribution to the work published; or submission of multi-authored publications without the concurrence of all authors.
  • Misappropriation of the ideas of others: an important aspect of scholarly activity is the exchange of ideas among colleagues. Scholars can acquire novel ideas from others during the process of reviewing grant applications and manuscripts, however, improper use of such information can constitute fraud. Wholesale appropriation of such material constitutes misconduct.
  • Violation of generally accepted research practices: Serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing or carrying out research, improper manipulation of experiments to obtain biased results, deceptive statistical or analytical manipulations, or improper reporting of results.
  • Material failure to comply with legislative and regulatory requirements affecting research: Includes but is not limited to serious or substantial, repeated, willful violations of applicable local regulations and law involving the use of funds, care of animals, human subjects, investigational drugs, recombinant products, new devices, or radioactive, biologic, or chemical materials.
  • Inappropriate behavior in relation to misconduct: this includes unfounded or knowingly false accusations of misconduct, failure to report known or suspected misconduct, withholding or destruction of information relevant to a claim of misconduct, and retaliation against persons involved in the allegation or investigation.
  • This includes qualifications, experience, or research accomplishments to advance the research program, to obtain external funding, or for other professional advancement.

The above were taken with minor modification from the Office of Research Integrity publication, Analysis of Institutional Policies for Responding to Allegations of Scientific Misconduct, ori.hhs.gov/documents/institutional_policies.pdf, accessed 05/25/07, verified 02/19/19.

Responses to Possible Misconduct

Misconduct allegations will be investigated by a committee consisting of the editor-in-chief, the editorial board chair, and other editors and editorial board members, as determined by the editor-in-chief and editorial board chair, who have specific expertise in the area being investigated.

The investigation will be completed even if the authors withdraw their paper, and the responses listed below will still be considered. In the case of allegations against reviewers or editors, that individual will be replaced in the review process while the matter is investigated. Those who are the subject of such allegations will be given the opportunity to respond and provide data supporting their response.

All such allegations will be kept confidential; the number of inquiries and those involved will be kept to the minimum necessary to achieve this end. Whenever possible, references to the case in writing will be kept anonymous.

Journals have an obligation to readers and the public to ensure that their published research is both accurate and adheres to the highest ethical standard. Therefore, if an inquiry concludes there is a reasonable possibility of misconduct, responses will be undertaken, and chosen in accordance with the apparent magnitude of that misconduct. Responses may be applied separately or combined, and their implementation will depend on the circumstances of the case as well as the responses of the participating parties and institutions. The following options are ranked in approximate order of severity:

  1. A letter of explanation (and education) sent only to the person against whom the complaint was made, where there appears to be a genuine and innocent misunderstanding of principles or procedure.
  2. A letter of reprimand to the same party, warning of the consequences of future such instances, where the misunderstanding appears to be not entirely innocent.
  3. A formal letter referring the concerns to the relevant head of educational institution and/or funding body, with all the commentary and evidence collected by the journal. This will occur when it is believed that genuine misconduct is likely to have occurred, and its goal will be to submit the case for consideration of formal review and judgment by organizations better suited to that task than a peer review journal.
  4. A formal letter as above, including a written request to the supervising institution that a investigation be carried out and the findings of that inquiry reported in writing to the DJPH.
  5. Publication of a notice of redundant or duplicate publication or plagiarism, if appropriate (and unequivocally documented). Such publication will not require approval of authors, and will be reported to their institution.
  6. Formal withdrawal or retraction of the paper from the scientific literature, published in the journal, informing readers and the indexing authorities (National Library of Medicine, etc), if there is a formal finding of misconduct by an institution. Such publication will not require approval of authors, will be reported to their institution, and will be readily visible and identifiable in the journal. It will also meet other requirements established by the International Committee of Journal Editors (www.icmje.org/#correct, accessed 05/25/07, verified 02/19/19). Formal withdrawal or retraction of paper will take place only after a thorough investigation that includes due process for the author and an opportunity for the author to present a defense against any allegations before a neutral group of peers.

Editors or reviewers who are found to have engaged in scientific misconduct will be removed from further association with the journal, and this fact reported to their institution.

Relation of the Journal to the Sponsoring Society

The primary responsibility of the editor-in-chief is to inform and educate readers, with attention to the accuracy and importance of journal articles, and to protect and strengthen the integrity and quality of the journal and its processes. The publisher is ultimately responsible for all aspects of publishing the journal, including its staff, budget, and business policies. The relationship between publisher and the editor-in-chief is based on mutual respect and trust, and recognition of each other’s authority and responsibilities, because conflicts can damage the intellectual integrity and reputation of the journal.

The following are guidelines for protecting the responsibility and authority of the editor-in-chief and publisher:

Guest Editor

The conditions of the guest editor’s engagement, including authority, responsibilities, term of appointment, and mechanisms for resolving conflict, will be explicitly stated in writing and approved by both the editor and publisher before the guest editor is appointed. The same applies to any agreement on interpretation and/or amendment of such conditions, after appointment.

Editor-in-Chief

  • The editor-in-chief is an appointee of the Board of the Delaware Academy of Medicine / Delaware Public Health Association, and his or her appointment status is governed by the administrative policies of said board, with these ethical principles in mind.
  • The Board of Directors has the right to retain or remove the editor-in-chief.
  • The editor-in-chief will establish procedures that guard against the influence of commercial and personal self-interest on editorial decisions.
  • The editor-in-chief will have full authority over the editorial content of the journal, generally referred to as “editorial independence.”
  • Editorial decisions will be based mainly on the validity of the work and its importance to readers, not the commercial success of the journal. Editors will be free to express critical but responsible views without fear of retribution, even if these views might conflict with the commercial goals of the publisher. To maintain this position, editors will  seek input from a broad array of advisers, such as reviewers, editorial staff, the editorial board, and readers.

Publisher

  • The publisher will not interfere in the evaluation, selection, or editing of individual articles, either directly or by creating an environment in which editorial decisions are strongly influenced.
  • The publisher may dismiss the editor-in-chief for substantial academic or administrative reasons. Examples of these reasons include: a pattern of irresponsible editorial decisions, scientific misconduct, disagreement with the overall editorial direction of the journal, or unlawful acts, that are incompatible with a position of trust.

Acknowledgments

This document closely mirrors one of the American Public Health Association. The APHA document was drafted based on modifications to “Publication Ethics Policies for Medical Journals” developed by the World Association of Medical Editors (www.wame.org/policies, accessed 05/25/07, updated 02/19/19) as well as other resources as referenced throughout this document, from organizations including the World Medical Association, U.S. Public Health Service, the DHHS Office of Integrity Research, and the International Committee of Journal Editors.

Recognition is extended to the DJPH Editorial Board and DJPH Editors for their review, recommendations, and edits to this document which allowed us to adopt this proven format from our national organization.

This page has been adapted with permission from that of the American Journal of Public Health and/or the American Public Health Association.  The Delaware Academy of Medicine / Delaware Public Health Association is Delaware’s affiliate to the American Public Health Association.