Unfortunately, unethical research practices and dissemination of the research findings are widespread in the scientific community and are observed in many different shapes and forms. The unethical research behavior, such as spreading misinformation about a formula or making significant changes to the rules could have adverse effects on every subsequent study. The important point is that all researchers tend to use scientifically accepted fundamentals with paying attention to ethical issues. In addition, authors and readers need to trust the article they are going to use or read.
The most important ethical issues include the condition in which the reader is assured that the full names of all authors are cited, all conflicts of interest are expressed, and any ethics violation or plagiarism are mentioned. All scientific journals must declare clear and precise standards and guidelines regarding the code of ethics as well as actions in case of ethics violation.
Ethics and Authors
It is important for a scientific journal to know that the authors adhere to ethical guidelines regarding conducting biomedical research on humans and animals (e.g. informed consent, have the right to withdraw from the study at any time, patient judgment, and etc.). All manuscripts must be evaluated to determine if they have been conducted based on the ethical issues. If necessary, the scientific journal could request some evidence that supports the implementation of ethical issues in a study. For instance, the journal may request a copy of the informed consent from the corresponding author.
Unfortunately, in some countries, there may be no research ethics committees; however, if these committees exist, their approval is necessary to be obtained in order to conduct a study. In countries where there is not such a committee, it is the responsibility of the scientific journals to encourage the authors to adhere to the ethical guidelines; moreover, the journal should provide the authors with ethical codes on their website.
There may be no consensus on who deserve to be on the author list; however, according to “Unified Drafting Methodology Rules”, manuscript writing and editing does not guarantee the inclusion of one’s name in the author list. The author of the article is someone who is involved in all research procedures , including making ideas, writing the proposal, data collection and analysis, interpreting the findings, drafting the article, critical revision of the article ,final approval, and submission.
A number of scholarly journals require authors to explain how they participate in the study to make sure that everyone has involved in the research process. A common issue is adding the name of a “Guest author”, including the head of the department or institution under whose investigation the research was conducted, or adding the name of a well-known researcher to improve the chances of a manuscript being accepted in a scientific journal.
Supervision on the research procedure is not considered a criterion for being included in the author list; therefore, the names of individuals who do not meet the authorship criteria should be given in the Acknowledgements. It may be difficult for the authors to avoid mentioning the “guest author’s name”, but if the scientific journal asks the authors to explain how they involved in the research process, guest author’s name may be less mentioned in the author list.
You may recognize the “Ghostwriters” in some manuscripts. They are hired to write literary or journalistic works that are officially credited to another person as the author and they will include your corrections and deliver a final draft to you. The “Ghostwriters” are often working at pharmaceutical companies in which the researchers conduct authentic research and these authors write the final draft of the manuscript. It should be noted that they do not have the criterion of being regarded as authors.
It is worth mentioning that the most appropriate individuals to draft a paper are the ones who conduct the research project. However, if the authors tend to hire “Ghostwriters” to write or edit a draft of the article, they themselves must be involved in the drafting process, and the names of the “Ghostwriters” should be mentioned in Acknowledgements.
Consider the following conditions regarding the author list:
- The authors’ names should be mentioned in each manuscript since they are responsible for the content of the published article and approved it prior to submission.
- The name of the “Ghostwriters” should not be mentioned in the authors list; however, the names should be included in the Acknowledgements.
Disclosure of Funding Sources
The authors are required to specify any sources of funding (institutional, private, and corporate financial support) for the work reported in their paper.
Conflict of interest
Conflicts of interest is a situation in which one author benefits from the advantages of publishing an article (other than scientific credit), such as being hired in a particular company and receiving research grants. These may cause the presence of bias in the findings or conclusion. Therefore, it should be noted when submitting an article to the journal, and the editor in chief has to take this issue into account in making final decisions. Many scholarly journals ask the authors to express any conflict of interest regarding the publication of their study.