Springer Publishing Company Journals Policies and Statements

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The below guidelines have been adopted from the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME).

Professionalism Code of Conduct

Journal editors are accountable and responsible for what they publish and should:

  • • Use rigorous evaluation and peer review in publishing scholarly work that has been ethically conducted, is methodologically sound and clearly and completely reported. Editors should correct or retract publications as needed to ensure the integrity of the scientific record and pursue any allegations of misconduct relating to the research, the reviewer, or editor until the matter is resolved.
  • • Pursue lifelong learning and teaching, both formal and informal, and recognize the need to remedy knowledge deficits in themselves and their coeditors.
  • • Establish and disseminate clear and transparent policies for editors, authors, and reviewers; identify potential conflicts of interest for editors and reviewers; and prevent conflicts of interest from affecting journal decision making. Editors should maintain respectful relationships with other individuals, maintain their integrity in all professional relationships, and not misuse their positions for personal gain. Editors should preserve the reputation of their journals through their ethical behavior.
  • • Ensure the journal is editorially independent from publishers, owners, corporations, industry, and other groups that could present potential conflicts of interest.
  • • Publish the best journal they can through careful editing and attention to detail; evaluating journal procedures, reviewing journal manuscript and publication metrics, engaging in regular quality improvement, assessing journal and article impact, responding to author and reader feedback, ensuring the preservation of journal content, and maintaining author, reviewer, and editorial board relationships with experts in fields relevant to their journal.
  • • Address medicine and health-related problems, concerns, and injustices that are relevant to the journal’s readers; make the journal accessible to as many readers as possible; and seek representation of authors, reviewers, and editorial board members from low and middle income countries.

 

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Conflict of Interest in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Conflict of interest (COI) exists when there is a divergence between an individual’s private interests (competing interests) and his or her responsibilities to scientific and publishing activities such that a reasonable observer might wonder if the individual’s behavior or judgment was motivated by considerations of his or her competing interests. COI in journal publishing affects everyone with a stake in research integrity including journals, research/academic institutions, funding agencies, the popular media, and the public. Journals are interested in COI as it relates to a specific manuscript. Some manuscripts may be chosen for inclusion in continuing education activities offered by the appropriate organization. The journal therefore complies with the criteria set forth by the credentialing center.

Everyone has COIs of some sort. Having a competing interest does not, in itself, imply wrongdoing. However, it constitutes a problem when competing interests could unduly influence (or be reasonably seen to do so) one’s responsibilities in the publication process. If COI is not managed effectively, it can cause authors, reviewers, and editors to make decisions that, consciously or unconsciously, tend to serve their competing interests at the expense of their responsibilities in the publication process, thereby distorting the scientific enterprise. This consequence of COI is especially dangerous when it is not immediately apparent to others. In addition, the appearance of COI, even where none actually exists, can also erode trust in a journal by damaging its reputation and credibility.

This statement summarizes the main elements of COI policies with examples and options for disclosure and management.

Definition and Scope

Journals should publish their own definition of COI. In the context of journal publishing, COI exists when a participant in the publication process (author, peer reviewer, or editor) has a competing interest that could unduly influence (or be reasonably seen to do so) his or her responsibilities in the publication process. Among those responsibilities are academic honesty, unbiased conduct and reporting of research, and integrity of decisions or judgments. The publication process includes the submission of manuscripts, peer review, editorial decisions, and communication between authors, reviewers and editors.

 

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Types of Competing Interests

Many kinds of competing interests are possible. Journals often have policies for managing financial COI, mostly based on the untested assumption that financial ties have an especially powerful influence over publication decisions and may not be apparent unless they are made explicit. However, other competing interests can be just as damaging, and just as hidden to most participants, and so must also be managed. The following are examples of competing interests; they do not include all possibilities and they may coexist.

Financial ties. This conflict is present when a participant in the publication process has received or expects to receive money (or other financial benefits such as patents or stocks), gifts, or services that may influence work related to a specific publication. Commercial sources of funding, by companies that sell drugs and medical devices, are generally seen as the most concerning, perhaps because of many well-publicized examples of bias related to ties to industry. Examples of financial ties to industry include payment for research, ownership of stock and stock options, as well as honoraria for advice or public speaking, consultation, service on advisory boards or medical education companies, and receipt of patents or patents pending. Also included are having a research or clinical position that is funded by companies that sell drugs or devices. Competing interests can be associated with other sources of research funding including government agencies, charities (not-for-profit organizations), and professional and civic organizations, which also have agendas that may be congruent or at odds with research findings. Clinicians have a financial competing interest if they are paid for clinical services related to their research —for example, if they write, review, or edit an article about the comparative advantage of a procedure that they themselves provide for income. Financial competing interests may exist not just on the basis of past activities but also on the expectation of future rewards, such as a pending grant or patent application. “Insider trading,” which is the use for one’s financial gain of information obtained through participation in research, review or editing before it is available to the general public, is a special kind of financial COI that has both legal and ethical implications.

Academic commitments. Participants in the publications process may have strong beliefs (“intellectual passion”) that commit them to a particular explanation, method, or idea. They may, as a result, be biased in conducting research that tests the commitment or in reviewing the work of others that is in favor or at odds with their beliefs. For example, if research challenging conventional wisdom is reviewed by someone who has made his or her reputation by establishing the existing paradigm, that person might judge the new research results harshly. Investigators in the same field might make extra-efforts to find fault with manuscripts from competing teams, to delay publication or relegate the work to a lesser journal. While such commitments are not generally part of author’s disclosures, editors should be aware of them and their potential influence on author(s), reviewer(s), and themselves.

Personal relationships. Personal relationships with family, friends, enemies, competitors, or colleagues can pose COIs. For example, a reviewer may have difficulty providing an unbiased review of articles by investigators who have been working colleagues. Similarly, he or she may find it difficult to be unbiased when reviewing the work of competitors. Bonds to family members may be strong enough that their competing interests should be treated as if they are also present for those directly involved with a manuscript.

Political or religious beliefs. Strong commitment to a particular political view (e.g., political position, agenda, or party) or having a strong religious conviction may pose a COI for a given publication if those political or religious issues are affirmed or challenged in the publication.

Institutional affiliations. A COI exists when a participant in the publication process is directly affiliated with an institution that on the face of it may have a position or an interest in a publication. An obvious concern is being affiliated with or employed by a company that manufactures the drug or device (or a competing one) described in the publication. However, apparently neutral institutions such as universities, hospitals, and research institutes (alone or in partnership with industry) may also have an interest (or the appearance of one) in the results of research. For example, investigators may have a COI when conducting research from a laboratory funded by private donors who could have (or appear to have) an interest in the results of the study, on a device for which the participant’s institution holds the patent, when the institution is the legal sponsor of the drug or device trial, or if the institution is in litigation in an area related to the study. Professional or civic organizations may also have competing interests because of their special interests or advocacy positions.

Declaring and Managing COIs

All declarations about COI should be requested in writing as a condition of reviewing a manuscript and asked in such a way that authors will have a high likelihood of reporting their COIs related to the manuscript.

Managing COI depends on disclosure because it is not possible to routinely monitor or investigate whether competing interests are present. Disclosure is about the facts that might bear on COI; assertions of integrity are not, in themselves, helpful.

Journals will publish all relevant COI disclosures with the publication.

Responsibilities of Participants

Authors. All authors should report their financial COI related to the research and written presentation of their work and any other relevant competing interests. Journals will publish all COI (or their absence) reported by authors that are relevant to the manuscript being considered. In additional to financial COI, policies for authors extend to other types of competing interests that might affect (or be seen to affect) the conduct or reporting of the work. Journals will disclose all COIs that they themselves thought were important during the review process. Declarations require authors to explicitly state funding sources and whether the organization that funded the research participated in the collection and analyses of data and interpretation and reporting of results.

Reviewers. Reviewers will be asked if they have a COI with the content or authors of a manuscript. If they do, they should be removed from the review process. In general, it is best to avoid reviewers from the same institution as the authors, unless the institution is so large that authors and reviewers are not working colleagues.

Editors. Editors will not make any editorial decisions or be involved in the editorial process if they have or a close family member has a COI (financial or otherwise) in a particular manuscript submitted to their journal. For example, if editors have political/religious COI or personal COI with respect to the authors or their work, the editors should remove themselves from the decision-making process. An editor may also be in a COI if a manuscript is submitted from their own academic department or from their institution (if it is small); in such situations, they should have explicit policies, made in advance, for how to manage it. When editors submit their own work to their journal, a colleague in the editorial office should manage the manuscript and the editor/author should recuse himself or herself from discussion and decisions about it.

 

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Authorship

Authorship is a way of making explicit both credit and responsibility for the contents of published articles. Credit and responsibility are inseparable. The guiding principle for authorship decisions is to present an honest account of what took place. Criteria for authorship apply to all intellectual products, including print and electronic publications of words, data, and images.

Criteria for Authorship. Everyone who has made substantial intellectual contributions to the study on which the article is based (for example, to the research question, design, analysis, interpretation, and written description) should be an author. It is dishonest to omit mention of someone who has participated in writing the manuscript (“ghost authorship”) and unfair to omit investigator who have had important engagement with other aspects of the work.

Only an individual who has made substantial intellectual contributions should be an author. Performing technical services, translating text, identifying patients for study, supplying materials, and providing funding or administrative oversight over facilities where the work was done are not, in themselves, sufficient for authorship, although these contributions may be acknowledged in the manuscript, as described below. It is dishonest to include authors only because of their reputation, position of authority, or friendship (“guest authorship”).

Some journals may publish the names and contributions of everyone who has participated in the work (“contributors”). Not all contributors necessarily qualify for authorship. The nature of each contributors’ participation can be made transparent by a statement, published with the article, of their names and contributions.

One author should take responsibility for the integrity of the work as a whole. Often this is the submitting or corresponding author, the one who sends in the manuscript and receives reviews, but other authors can have this role. All authors should approve the final version of the manuscript.

It is preferable that all authors be familiar with all aspects of the work. However, modern research is often done in teams with complementary expertise so that every author may not be equally familiar with all aspects of the work. For example, a biostatistician may have greater mastery of statistical aspects of the manuscript than other authors, but have somewhat less understanding of clinical variables or laboratory measurements. Therefore, some authors’ contributions may be limited to specific aspects of the work as a whole.

All authors should comply with the journals’ policies on conflict of interest.

Number of Authors. Editors should not arbitrarily limit the number of authors. There are legitimate reasons for multiple authors in some kinds of research, such as multi-center, randomized controlled trials. In these situations, a subset of authors may be listed with the title, with the notation that they have prepared the manuscript on behalf of all contributors, who are then listed in an appendix to the published article. Alternatively, a “corporate” author (e.g., a “Group” name) representing all authors in a named study may be listed, as long as one investigator takes responsibility for the work as a whole. In either case, all individuals listed as authors should meet criteria for authorship whether or not they are listed explicitly on the byline. If editors believe the number of authors is unusually large, relative to the scope and complexity of the work, they can ask for a detailed description of each author’s contributions to the work. If some do not meet criteria for authorship, editors can require that their names be removed as a condition of publication.

 

The below guidelines have been adopted from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)

 

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Statement of Informed Consent

Patients have a right to privacy that should not be violated without informed consent. Identifying information, including names, initials, or hospital numbers, should not be published in written descriptions, photographs, or pedigrees unless the information is essential for scientific purposes and the patient (or parent or guardian) gives written informed consent for publication. Informed consent for this purpose requires that an identifiable patient be shown the manuscript to be published. Authors should disclose to these patients whether any potential identifiable material might be available via the Internet as well as in print after publication. Patient consent should be written and archived with the journal, the authors, or both, as dictated by local regulations or laws. Applicable laws vary from locale to locale, and journals should establish their own policies with legal guidance. Since a journal that archives the consent will be aware of patient identity, some journals may decide that patient confidentiality is better guarded by having the author archive the consent and instead providing the journal with a written statement that attests that they have received and archived written patient consent. Nonessential identifying details should be omitted. Informed consent should be obtained if there is any doubt that anonymity can be maintained. For example, masking the eye region in photographs of patients is inadequate protection of anonymity. If identifying characteristics are de-identified, authors should provide assurance, and editors should so note, that such changes do not distort scientific meaning.

When informed consent has been obtained, it should be indicated in the published article.

Templates developed by the WHO ERC to assist the Principal Investigator in the design of their informed consent forms (ICF) may be found at http://www.who.int/rpc/research_ethics/informed_consent/en.

 

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Statement of Human and Animal Rights

When reporting research involving human data, authors should indicate whether the procedures followed have been assessed by the responsible review committee (institutional and national), or if no formal ethics committee is available, were in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration as revised in 2013. If doubt exists whether the research was conducted in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration, the authors must explain the rationale for their approach and demonstrate that the institutional review body explicitly approved the doubtful aspects of the study. Approval by a responsible review committee does not preclude editors from forming their own judgment whether the conduct of the research was appropriate.

When reporting experiments on animals, authors should indicate whether institutional and national standards for the care and use of laboratory animals were followed. Further guidance on animal research ethics is available from the International Association of Veterinary Editors’ Consensus Author Guidelines on Animal Ethics and Welfare. Springer Publishing Company will not consider any studies involving humans or animals without the appropriate approval.

 

The below guidelines for reporting of randomized controlled trials have been adopted from CONSORT (CONsolidated Standards of Reporting Trials)

 

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CONSORT 2010 Statement

The CONSORT (CONsolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) 2010 guideline is intended to improve the reporting of parallel-group randomized controlled trial (RCT), enabling readers to understand a trial's design, conduct, analysis and interpretation, and to assess the validity of its results. This can only be achieved through complete adherence and transparency by authors.

CONSORT 2010 was developed through collaboration and consensus between clinical trial methodologists, guideline developers, knowledge translation specialists, and journal editors. CONSORT 2010 is the current version of the guideline and supersedes the 2001 and 1996 versions. It contains a 25-item checklist and flow diagram, freely available for viewing and downloading at http://www.consort-statement.org/consort-2010.

Extensions of the CONSORT Statement have been developed for different types of trial designs, different interventions, and different types of data.

For more information about CONSORT please visit: http://www.consort-statement.org/

 

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