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Reviewer Certification

6. Assessing Presentation

Ethical Considerations

Ethical Issues to Look For

A final consideration is author ethics.

The pressure to publish—a “publish or perish” attitude, especially in academia—has given rise to a number of questionable (and fraudulent) practices that can be caught during peer review.

Fraudulent author practices that you may notice during peer review include:

  • Salami slicing: Dividing portions of a single study into multiple articles
  • Plagiarism: Including portions of previously published work (even one’s own work) in the submitted article
  • Duplicate submission/publication: Submitting or publishing the same study in different journals, perhaps with minor adjustments to the author list and/or content to conceal the duplication
  • “Ghost” authorship: Significant contributions from uncredited authors, often noted when a manuscript’s content or presentation doesn’t match the authors’ expertise
  • Honorary authorship: Authors not justified by the methodology and content of the manuscript
  • Excessive self-citation: A large (and unjustified) percentage of references from the authors’ own previous work
  • Data or figure manipulation: When it appears that calculations have not been carried out as described, that images have been altered (“photoshopped”), or figures have been re-used and presented as the results of a new experiment

If you notice minor ethical concerns that appear to be the result of unintentional mistakes on the part of the authors, then you may address these concerns in the comments to the authors.  However, if you are unsure about ethical concerns you have, or if you are sure that your concerns are serious, you should address these concerns in the “Confidential Comments to Editor” section of the review form.

OSA’s ethical guidelines for publication provide more detail on the obligations of authors.

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