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Editorial ethics policies

COPE and the Microbiology Society journals

We are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and have adopted their best practice guidance to ensure that articles in our journal adhere to high ethical and editorial standards. This includes the COPE Principles of Transparency, which reinforce the Society’s own values of being welcoming to anyone interested in microbes, their effects and their uses; transparent and professional in everything we do, and dedicated to our charitable aims.

COPE have ten core practices, covering allegations of misconduct, authorship and contributorship, complaints and appeals, conflicts of interest and competing interests, data and reproducibility, ethical oversight, intellectual property, journal management, the peer review process, and post-publication discussions and corrections.

Most of these guidelines are covered in other parts of the Information for Authors, so this page outlines how we handle allegations of misconduct, complaints and appeals, and post-publication issues. If you suspect any kind of violation of these ethics policies, please contact the relevant journal team by email:

Encompassed within COPE’s Principles of Transparency is a requirement for adherence to the World Association of Medical Editors definition of editorial independence. The Society fully endorses the principle of editorial independence, which means that our Editors have full authority over the scientific content of their journals; we provide them with administrative support, but do not take part in the evaluation or selection of articles for publication.

Allegations of misconduct

Allegations of misconduct range include matters like suspected plagiarism and reviewer misconduct. We take all such concerns extremely seriously. If anyone suspects misconduct, we ask them to contact the journal team immediately, providing sufficient detail for us to undertake an investigation. The precise workflow we follow after receiving an allegation of misconduct will depend on the specifics of the case, such as whether the article is still under review or already published, and the nature of the allegation. However, we always acknowledge receipt of allegations and keep the person who raises the issue informed of the progress and outcomes of our investigations.

In the specific case of an allegation of plagiarism we make use of tools such as iThenticate as part of our investigation, as well as asking the Editor-in-Chief of the journal to review the article and judge whether it may be plagiarised.

Complaints and appeals

We welcome feedback on everything we do, and that includes complaints. These should be addressed to the relevant journal email, and a member of the team will respond as quickly as possible.

Authors have the right to appeal an Editor’s decision on their article. If you wish to appeal a decision, you need to email the journal explaining why you think the decision should be overturned. All appeals are sent to the journal’s Editor-in-Chief as well as to the Editor who managed your article’s peer review. The Editor-in-Chief and Editor will re-review your article and the details of the peer review process before making a decision about your appeal. We try to manage appeals as quickly as possible, but they can be complex so we ask authors to be patient. As with any complaint, we will of course acknowledge receipt and keep you informed during the appeals process.

Post-publication issues

While we strive to ensure that every article published in our journals is entirely accurate, there are instances where problems are raised after publication. These fall into different categories, and result in different responses:

  • Where the production process has introduced an error into the article, we will publish an Erratum.
  • Where the authors notice a mistake that has not been introduced by us, we will publish a Corrigendum.
  • Where there are issues which may affect the validity of the scientific record, such as suspected image manipulation, but the authors are not willing to publish a Corrigendum, we will publish an Expression of Concern.
  • Where there are major issues affecting the validity of the scientific record, such as duplicate publication or proven plagiarism, we will publish a Retraction.

In all cases we will work in collaboration with the authors, the Editor who managed the article’s peer review, and the Editor-in-Chief, to determine the best option from our available responses. If the issue was raised by a third party, they are also kept informed.

All Errata, Corrigenda, Expressions of Concern, and Retractions are free to view and digitally linked to the original published article both on our site and in third-party sites which collect our metadata (e.g. PubMed, Web of Science, and Google Scholar). In line with best practice, as outlined by the STM Association, we aim to maintain the scholarly archive as a permanent, historic record, and as such articles that have been published are not removed from our site but remain available and unaltered to the maximum extent possible.

If anyone suspects a post-publication issue we ask them to contact the journal team immediately, providing sufficient detail for us to undertake an investigation.

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Research metrics

We are a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and believe that while metrics form part of a holistic assessment of research, no metric should be used in isolation to assess the value of research. To this end:

  • We make a range of metrics available to the community to allow assessment of the impact of individual articles as well as the journals in which they are published.
  • We encourage responsible authorship practices, including use of ORCiD and the provision of information about the contributions of each author.
  • We have signed up to the Initiative for Open Citations, allowing free reuse and mining of reference lists.
  • Our self-archiving and sharing policies are simple and liberal, making it easy for researchers to share their work.

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Biosecurity

The World Health Organization defines dual use research of concern (DURC) as “life sciences research that is intended for benefit, but which might easily be misapplied to do harm”, and they have a helpful guidance document which we encourage all authors to check. In a similar biosecurity context, Gain of Function research indicates the manipulation of pathogenic species to introduce new functions, such as enhanced transmissibility, which is similarly open to misapplication.

In line with the Society’s position on biosecurity, we support the principle that DURC and Gain of Function studies may have legitimate scientific purposes and all of our journals will therefore consider these types of articles, subject to additional steps during peer review. We ask all authors to disclose any potential DURC or Gain of Function implications during submission. Our team will flag the article to the Editor-in-Chief and a member of the Editorial Board who specialises in the same field as the article, who will discuss the article in detail and potentially seek external advice before proceeding to full peer review. The reviewers’ comments will then be discussed by the Editor and Editor-in-Chief before a decision is reached. If the article is published, it may be accompanied by an Editorial explaining the reason for publication.

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