Guidelines for Responsible Conduct Regarding Scientific Communication
Scientific societies exist for many purposes, one of which is to establish policies and guidelines for responsible conduct within the field that they represent. The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has established several such policies. These include an SfN Ethics Policy that covers the broad range of ethical issues related to scientific conduct. There are additional policies on the use of humans and other animals as subjects in neuroscience research. This document focuses on conduct specifically linked to scientific communications. Scientific communications are defined as all communications of a scientific nature; they include research manuscripts, supplemental data, abstracts, posters, oral presentations, and public electronic communications.
SfN believes that progress in understanding the nervous system benefits human welfare. Such progress depends on the honest pursuit of scientific research and the truthful representation of findings. While recognizing that both error and differences among individuals in the interpretation of data are natural parts of the creative process, the Society for Neuroscience affirms that the success of the entire scientific endeavor is jeopardized by misconduct, in the form of plagiarism, fabrication, or falsification of data. By entering the profession, neuroscientists assume an obligation to maintain the highest level of integrity in all scientific activities.
SfN serves neuroscience and society at large in many ways, including publishing JNeurosci, eNeuro, and the annual meeting abstracts, both of which present the results of scientific research. SfN considers it vital to establish and disseminate guidelines and policies regarding responsible professional behavior and to specify the relevant obligations of SfN members to one another and to the public.
Such guidelines and policies derive from a desire to maximize benefits to the profession as a whole, as well as to the general society, and to limit actions that might serve only the narrow self interests of individuals. For example, the advancement of science requires that knowledge be shared, although doing so may sometimes entail foregoing some immediate personal advantage.
These Guidelines are intended for individuals engaged in the communication of research in neuroscience. They spring from a conviction that adherence to high ethical standards is so essential to the scientific enterprise that a definition of those standards should be brought to the attention of all concerned. SfN follows the recommended procedures outlined by COPE when dealing with allegations of misconduct.
It is likely that most aspects of the Guidelines are already understood and subscribed to by the great majority of the members of the Society for Neuroscience and by others engaged in neuroscience research. However, the Guidelines can help those who are relatively new to research and also established.
This document was prepared by the Responsible Conduct Working Group and approved by the Society for Neuroscience Council on July 20, 2010. It is based on previous guidelines developed by the Society for Neuroscience and by other organizations, the committee’s own deliberations, and the comments received from others. Some material has been incorporated from the 2008 revision of the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals,” prepared by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (www.ICMJE.org).
The Responsible Conduct Working Group included David Van Essen (Washington University, chair), Christopher Henderson (Columbia University), Nancy Ip (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), Daniel Johnston (University of Texas, Austin), Sabine Kastner (Princeton University), Peggy Mason (University of Chicago), John Maunsell (Harvard University), Jeffrey Rothstein (Johns Hopkins University), Gordon Shepherd (Yale University), and Michael Zigmond (University of Pittsburgh).
A complete set of SfN policies and guidelines are available on the SfN website and links are included below.
Other relevant policies and guidelines:
Summary of Points
1. Authors of Research Manuscripts
1.1. The Society for Neuroscience expects its members to adhere to high standards when publishing any scientific communications, whether these are SfN publications or not.
1.2. Data must be original and accurate.
1.3. Priority of data and ideas must be respected.
1.4. Any data reported in scientific communications involving human or animal subjects must have been conducted in compliance with the relevant institutional review boards.
1.5. All data should be presented so as to minimize the possibility of misinterpretation.
1.6. Authorship should be based on a substantial intellectual contribution.
1.7. “Honorary authorship” is inconsistent with the definition of authorship.
1.8. “Acknowledgements” provide an opportunity to note assistance that does not warrant authorship but does merit recognition.
1.9. Financial contributions to the work being reported should be clearly acknowledged, as should any potential conflict of interest.
1.10. Methods and materials should be described in sufficient detail to permit evaluation and replication.
1.11. Data sharing is encouraged.
1.12. Unique and propagatable materials used in studies being reported must be made available to qualified scientists for bona fide research purposes.
1.13. Authors have an obligation to correct errors promptly.
1.14. All components of a research article are subject to peer review.
1.15. Authors should not engage in duplicate publication.
1.16. Informal communication of results and ideas is encouraged.
1.17. Authors should not discuss with reviewers any aspect of a manuscript under evaluation prior to a final decision.
1.18. It is improper for authors to submit a manuscript describing essentially the same research simultaneously to more than one peer-reviewed research journal.
1.19. When communications will not undergo formal editorial review (e.g., abstracts for presentations at professional meetings), authors are encouraged to have these communications reviewed by colleagues.
2. Reviewers of Manuscripts
2.1. Thorough scientific review is in the interest of the scientific community.
2.2. A thorough review must include consideration of the ethical dimensions of a manuscript as well as its scientific merit.
2.3. All scientists are encouraged to participate if possible when asked to review a manuscript.
2.4. Anonymity of reviewers should be preserved unless otherwise stated in the guidelines for authors and for reviewers, or unless a reviewer requests disclosure.
2.5. Reviewers should be chosen for their high qualifications and objectivity regarding a particular manuscript.
2.6. Reviews should not contain harsh language or personal attacks.
2.7. Reviews should be prompt as well as thorough.
2.8. Reviewers must not use non-public information contained in a manuscript to advance their own research or financial interests.
2.9. Information contained in a manuscript under review is confidential and must not be shared with others.
3. Editors of Scientific Journals
3.1. The sole responsibility for acceptance or rejection of a manuscript rests with the editor.
3.2. Editors should generally grant the request of an author who asks that an individual be excluded from the review of a particular manuscript.
3.3. Editors should establish a review process that minimizes bias.
3.4. Editors should subject all manuscripts of a given form to the same type of review.
3.5. Editors should provide to the authors a written rationale for editorial decisions regarding a manuscript submitted for publication.
3.6. Everyone involved in the editorial process must treat unpublished manuscripts as confidential documents.
3.7. A limited amount of information regarding a manuscript accepted for publication may be disclosed by an editor before publication in print.
3.8. Editors should correct errors in a manuscript if the errors are detected before publication or publish corrections if they are detected afterward.
4. Abstracts for Presentations at Scientific Meetings
4.1. Research scientists are encouraged to communicate their ideas and results to the public.
4.2. Material prepared for the popular literature should be accurate and be given prior review by peers.
4.3. Communication outside the scientific literature is not a substitute for publication within the scientific literature.