Publishing Best Practices

The resources compiled here are meant to guide journal editors on publishing best practices, including ethical publishing standards and strategies for new and incoming editors. On this page you’ll find:

Standards for Responsible Research Publication
A Guide for New Editors
Code of Conduct and Best Practices for Journal Editors
Additional Resources


Standards for Responsible Research Publication

Below is a summary of editorial guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics‘ (COPE) Responsible research publication: international standards for editors

  • Editors are accountable and should take responsibility for everything they publish
  • Editors should make fair and unbiased decisions independent from commercial consideration and ensure a fair and appropriate peer review process
  • Editors should adopt editorial policies that encourage maximum transparency and complete, honest reporting
  • Editors should guard the integrity of the published record by issuing corrections and retractions when needed and pursuing suspected or alleged research and publication misconduct
  • Editors should pursue reviewer and editorial misconduct
  • Editors should critically assess the ethical conduct of studies in humans and animals
  • Peer reviewers and authors should be told what is expected of them
  • Editors should have appropriate policies in place for handling editorial conflicts of interest


A Guide for New Editors

Incoming editors may wish to review COPE‘s Short Guide to Ethical Editing for New Editors, which details important processes and practices that new journal editors should pay attention to when taking over the responsibility of a publication. These key points include:

  • Performing an initial assessment of journal when you take over:
    • This includes familiarizing yourself with the journal’s editorial practices, understanding the mechanics of the journal’s submission system (if there is one) and website, and understanding timelines for peer review and publication of manuscripts.
  • Relations with the outgoing editor:
    • Ideally the outgoing editor will compile all necessary information related to editorial duties into a document that can be referenced by the incoming editor. Training sessions should also take place to help the new editor understand their responsibilities and the particular processes of the journal they’ll now be leading.
  • Relations with the other editors/editorial board:
    • “Most journals also have an editorial board, although their levels of activity and involvement vary. New editors should contact board members and discuss their expectations of them (e.g. if they are expected to review a certain number of manuscripts each year).”
  • Relations with authors:
    • Incoming Editors-in-Chief should carefully read the author agreement and submission guidelines for the journal so they are prepared to answer any questions from submitting authors.
    • “Editors are responsible for everything they publish and should therefore take all reasonable steps to ensure the
      quality of this material, recognizing that journals and sections within journals will have different aims and standards.”
  • Transparency:
    • The policies of the journal should be clear to potential authors, with as much information as possible made available about the submission process, required submission materials, peer review policy, publication timeline, etc. A review of the materials available on the journal’s website may be in order to ensure transparency of policies.
  • The submission system:
    • “Electronic submissions usually include standard communications to authors, reviewers and other editors. If these
      are specific to your journal… you should review them to ensure that they reflect current practices, are consistent with the Instructions to Authors, and are clear.”
  • Relationship with reviewers:
    • Incoming editors should evaluate the relationship that the past editor(s) had with the journals’ reviewers. Should they think it necessary, the new editor may provide updated guidance on the expectations of peer reviewers. These guidelines could include any of the following: (1) Reviews should be conducted objectively; (2) Personal criticism of the author is inappropriate; (3) Reviewers should express their views clearly with supporting arguments and references as necessary and not be defamatory or libelous.
    • Editors may also wish to update reviewers on ways to address any potential violations of defined ethical practices, such as:
      • Has the author published this research before?
      • Has the author plagiarized another publication?
      • Is the research ethical and have the appropriate approvals/consent been obtained?
      • Is there any indication that the data has been fabricated or inappropriately manipulated?
  • The peer-review process:
    • “Editors should adopt a peer-review process that is appropriate for their journal/field of work and resources/ systems available. You should think about the number of reviewers used, whether review is anonymous or signed,
      whether author names and affiliations are masked, and whether reviewers complete checklists/forms.”
  • Responding to possible misconduct/inappropriate behavior and dealing with complaints:
    • “The COPE Code of Conduct states that editors have a responsibility for pursuing cases of suspected misconduct even in submissions they do not intend to publish. It is important that editors act politely, fairly but firmly at all times.”
    • “If you have concerns about plagiarism, data fabrication, or an authorship dispute you should (if possible) involve
      other editors (preferably the one who was involved directly in dealing with the manuscript) and inform the publisher.”


Code of Conduct and Best Practices for Journal Editors

Also from COPE, below you’ll find a summary of some of the information from their Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors, which represents both minimum standards for editors and more aspirational recommendations. These are grouped into categories based on the following:

  • General editorial duties/responsibilities of editors: (Minimally, editors should strive to meet the needs of readers and authors; strive to constantly improve their journal; have processes in place to assure the quality of the material they publish; champion freedom of expression; maintain the integrity of the academic record; preclude business needs from compromising intellectual and ethical standards; always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed).
  • Relations with readers, authors, reviewers, and editorial board members
  • The peer review process
  • Quality assurance
  • Protecting individual data
  • Encouraging ethical research
  • Dealing with possible misconduct
  • Ensuring the integrity of the academic record
  • Intellectual property
  • Encouraging debate
  • Dealing with complaints
  • Commercial considerations
  • Conflicts of interest


Additional Resources

Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly work in Medical Journals, International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME)

  • ICMJE developed these recommendations to review best practice and ethical standards in the conduct and reporting of research and other material published in medical journals, and to help authors, editors, and others involved in peer review and biomedical publishing create and distribute accurate, clear, reproducible, unbiased medical journal articles.

How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers, Tim Albert & Elizabeth Wager

The EQUATOR (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research) Network: an international initiative that seeks to improve the reliability and value of published health research literature by promoting transparent and accurate reporting and wider use of robust reporting guidelines.

What to do if you suspect plagiarism in a submitted manuscript” and in a published manuscript, COPE

How to spot authorship problems, COPE

What to do if you suspect an ethical problem with a submitted manuscript, COPE

Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, COPE

  • Includes principles of transparency about the following, which may be of most use to those considering starting a new journal: (1) peer review process, (2) governing body, (3) editorial team/contact information, (4) author fees, (5) copyright, (6) process for identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconduct, (7) ownership and management, (8) website, (9) name of journal, (10) conflicts of interest, (11) access, (12) revenue sources, (13) advertising, (14) publishing schedule, (15) archiving, (16) direct marketing.

COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers, COPE