Ethical Guidelines for Research1

Expectation of Ethical Conduct

The Endocrine Society’s mission is to advance excellence in endocrinology and be an integrative force in scientific research and medical practice. Such progress depends on integrity in the conduct of scientific research and truthful representation of findings. Specific guidelines regarding the Society’s expectations for ethical conduct can be found in the Code of Ethics of the Endocrine Society and the Ethical Guidelines for Publications of Research.

The journal editors and publication oversight committees of the Endocrine Society are dedicated to upholding high ethical standards in its publications and expect authors and reviewers to do the same.

Editorial Prerogative for Ethical Unsuitability

The editors reserve the right to reject manuscripts describing research that does not meet acceptable standards of research behavior as determined by the Belmont Report, the Geneva Convention, the Declaration of Helsinki, and the Endocrine Society Code of Ethics.
 

Human Subjects Research

All studies involving human subjects or human tissue must be in accordance with the principles set out in the Declaration of Helsinki and must have been formally approved by the appropriate institutional review board, ethical review committee, or equivalent. All manuscripts should indicate that such approval was obtained. The study populations should be described in detail. In many studies details of age, race, and sex are important. In all experiments involving human subjects, it should be documented that informed consent was obtained from the participants and that an institutional human research committee had approved the investigations. In text, tables and figures subjects must be identified by number or letter rather than by initials or names. Photographs of patients’ faces should be included only if scientifically relevant. Authors should obtain written consent from the patient for use of such photographs.
 

Guidelines for the Care and Use of Experimental Animals

The Society requires that all studies involving the use of animals published in its journals be conducted in accordance with mandated standards of humane care. The appropriateness of the experimental procedures, as well as the species and required number of animals used, must be considered in the design of any study. All research animals must be acquired and used in compliance with federal, state, and local laws and institutional regulations. In particular, the Society recommends that animals be maintained in accordance with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals [National Research Council 1996 (7th ed.) Washington, DC: National Academies Press, http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5140.]

Research animals must receive appropriate tranquilizers, analgesics, anesthetics and care to minimize pain and discomfort during preoperative, operative, and postoperative procedures. The choice and use of drugs must be made in accordance with the NRC Guide. Where the use of anesthetics would negate the results of the experiment, the protocol must be clearly justified and approved by the Committee on Animal Care and Use of the local institution and according to accepted veterinary medical practice. The health of the animals must be properly monitored. If either the study or the condition of the animals requires that they be killed, it shall be done in a humane manner.

The manuscript must indicate that the studies were approved by the authors’ institutional committee on animal care.
 

Ethical Guidelines for Publication of Research in the Endocrine Society Journals

The Publications Committee is keenly aware of the importance of formulating and disseminating rules of good conduct for authors, reviewers, and editors. Equally important is the establishment of due process for alleged or apparent improprieties. The Council of the Endocrine Society has approved the following Ethical Guidelines as prepared by the Publications Committee and has authorized periodic publication as well as distribution to members of our Editorial Boards, reviewers, and authors submitting manuscripts. The following statement is not meant to be all-inclusive but is provided in sufficient detail to give a clear understanding of ethical considerations to all concerned.
 

Introduction

The fundamentals of good conduct as they apply to research are honesty, fairness, good manners, adherence to the highest ethical standards, and the subordination of self-interest to the common interest of our profession and our society. In these notes, the Publications Committee sets forth its rules of good conduct for authors, reviewers, and editors.
 

Obligations of Authors

Authorship Conditions

An author should have participated in either the conception or planning of the work, the interpretation of the results and the writing of the paper. An acknowledgment accompanying the paper is appropriate recognition for others who have contributed to a lesser extent, e.g., provision of clones, antisera or cell lines, or reading and reviewing manuscripts in draft. The signature of each author on the Affirmation of Originality and Copyright Release form that must be submitted with the manuscript indicates that all authors have had a part in the writing and final editing of the report, all have been given a copy of the manuscript, all have approved the final version of the manuscript, and all are prepared to take public responsibility for the work, sharing responsibility and accountability for the results.
 

Authorship Obligations

The foremost obligation of an author is to present a clear, honest, accurate, and complete account of the research performed. Each manuscript should describe a complete study or a completed phase of an extended study. Fragmentation of reports should be avoided. When some of the results are to appear in another journal, in publications of congresses, symposia, workshops, etc., details plus a copy of the other paper(s) should be supplied to the editor. Any preliminary accounts or abstracts of the work, already published, must be referenced in the complete report.

The author has an obligation to: 1) describe the work in sufficient detail to allow others to repeat the work; 2) adhere to the journals’ policy regarding preparation of digital images as outlined below; 3) include all relevant data, including those which may not support the hypothesis being tested; 4) cite those publications which have a direct bearing on the novelty and interpretation of the results, including original findings and seminal works; 5) make unique resources available to other investigators for academic research purposes, as a condition of publication. The Endocrine Society endorses the philosophy of open exchange of research materials and requires this; 6) ensure no substitution, addition, or deletion of data or text during the proof correction process (after acceptance). Answers to author queries and changes to typographical or printer’s errors may be made to proofs. Any other changes will require that the proofs be returned to the editorial office for re-review of the manuscript; 7) If there are any additions, deletions, or changes in position of the names that appear in the authorship line of the originally submitted manuscript, the corresponding author must send to the Editorial Office a brief letter, signed by all authors, stating that they agree to the change.
 

Image Integrity

When preparing digital images, authors must adhere to the following guidelines (as stated in Reference 8):

  • No specific feature within an image may be enhanced, obscured, moved, removed, or introduced.
  • Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance are acceptable if they are applied to the entire image and as long as they do not obscure, eliminate, or misrepresent any information present in the original.
  • The grouping of images from different parts of the same gel, or from different gels, fields, or exposures must be made explicit by the arrangement of the figure (e.g., dividing lines) and in the figure legend.

Deviations from these guidelines will be considered as potential ethical violations.

Note that this is an evolving issue, but these basic principles apply regardless of changes in the technical environment. Authors should be aware that they must provide original images when requested to do so by Editors-in-Chief who may wish to clarify an uncertainty or concern.

Please see paper of Rossner and Yamada (Journal of Cell Biology, 2004, 166:11–15), which was consulted in developing these policy issues, for additional discussion.
 

Scientific Misconduct and Unethical Practices

The Endocrine Society accepts the definitions of plagiarism, fabrication and falsification proposed in the ORI Handbook for Institutional Research Integrity Officers, February 1997, Office of Research Integrity, Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Washington, DC). Scientific misconduct and unethical acts include, but are not limited to, plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, redundant or duplicate publication, violation of federal, state or institutional rules, and honorary authorship.

The list below includes, but is not limited to, the following prohibited acts:

  1. Plagiarism, which includes the theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work. It does not include authorship or credit disputes. The theft or misappropriation of intellectual property includes the unauthorized use of ideas or unique methods obtained via a privileged communication, such as a grant or manuscript review. Substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work is defined as the unattributed verbatim or nearly verbatim copying of sentences and paragraphs which materially misleads the ordinary reader regarding the contributions of the author. It does not include the limited use of identical or nearly identical phrases which describe a commonly used methodology or previous research. The author must show the editor written permission to quote any information learned personally from another investigator or by reviewing applications for research grants. In the introduction, and especially in the discussion of a paper, the author should cite fairly the work of others that is relevant either to the origin or to the outcome of the research described, including references to original findings and seminal works.
  2. Fabrication, which includes making up results and recording or reporting them, in whole or in part.
  3. Falsification is manipulating research, materials, equipment or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. It includes the suppressing or altering of data not in agreement with one’s hypothesis.
  4. Redundant or duplicate publication, which includes the submission of a paper, or portion thereof, that overlaps with one already submitted or published. An author may not submit reports of the same or substantially overlapping research to more than one journal at the same time, unless the author can justify it in letters to both editors.
  5. Submission of animal or clinical research conducted without the approval of the institutional animal care and use committee or review board.
  6. Honorary authorship is not permitted in the Endocrine Society publications. Honorary authorship is the inclusion of authors who have not met the Endocrine Society’s definition of authors as described above. An author’s signature on the copyright release form submitted with the manuscript and included in the byline of the manuscript indicates that the author agrees to share responsibility and accountability for the results. Alleged misconduct against an author on a manuscript will automatically entail investigation of all co-authors.
     

Prior Publication

Failure to notify the editor that some results in the manuscript are being or have been previously published will result in placement of a notice in the journal that the authors have violated the Ethical Guidelines for Publication of Research in the Endocrine Society Journals. The journal publishes original research and review material. Material previously published in whole or in part shall not be considered for publication. This includes materials published in any form of mass communication. At the time of submission, authors must divulge in their cover letter all prior publications or postings of the material in any form of media. Abstracts or posters displayed for colleagues at scientific meetings must be reported. Other postings of any part of the submitted material on web pages, as well as those essential for participation in required registries will be evaluated by the Editor-in-Chief, who shall determine if those postings are material enough to constitute prior publication.
 

Copyright Assignment and Affirmation of Originality

Acceptance and publication of any article in the Endocrine Society journals is contingent upon the author’s warranty that the manuscript has not been published in total or in part, nor is it being submitted or considered for publication in total or in part elsewhere. In addition, the acceptance of any work for publication in the Endocrine Society journals is contingent upon the author’s assignment and transfer of rights and interest in and the copyright of that work in its current form, and in any subsequent form revised for publication to the Endocrine Society.
 

Embargo Policy and the Ingelfinger Rule

The embargo policy is an agreement between reporters and the journal. All press activity and/or interactions with the media prior to the publication of an article in the Endocrine Society journals either in print or online will be initiated and coordinated by the Endocrine Society’s Department of Public Affairs in conjunction with the Society’s Media Advisory Committee. Neither authors nor their institutions and/or organizations may initiate press activity at any point while an article is under consideration for print or online publication by the Endocrine Society journals without the express prior consent of the Endocrine Society Department of Public Affairs. Articles published by the Endocrine Society that appear in print only are embargoed until 6:00 a.m. on the date of the specific issue of the journal in which that article will be published. Articles published online before the print edition of the journal are embargoed until they appear online. Additionally, the Endocrine Society’s Department of Public Affairs may alone authorize and/or coordinate press activities prior to the embargo date such as interviews, composition of press releases, and distribution of press releases before the online or print publication of an article. Any press releases that are distributed by the Endocrine Society’s Department of Public Affairs related to the journal article will carry the appropriate embargo date.

The Ingelfinger Rule is an agreement between authors and the Endocrine Society journals, whereby a paper is considered for publication on the condition that its substance has not been submitted or reported elsewhere. The Ingelfinger Rule specifically prohibits publicity about an unpublished report from the time of submission. This policy does not preclude the journal considering a paper that follows publication of a preliminary report, such as an abstract or poster displayed for colleagues at a scientific meeting. Press reports from these scheduled meetings will not usually be regarded as breaches of this rule, but such reports should not be amplified by additional data or copies of tables and illustrations.

The Endocrine Society Publications Committee will investigate any breach of these policies and determine appropriate action.
 

Obligations of Reviewers

The critical and confidential review of manuscripts is an essential element of research publications. Every scientist has an obligation to contribute to the peer review process by serving as a reviewer. Among the obligations of reviewers is the commitment to providing an expert, critical, and constructive scientific and literary appraisal of research reports in their fields of knowledge, skills, and experience in a fair and unbiased manner. In order to facilitate the prompt sharing of scientific results, it is also the obligation of each reviewer to complete their assignments promptly, within the editor’s deadline. Should a delay in their review occur, the reviewer has the obligation to notify the editor at once.

Reviewers should not review a manuscript if: 1) they do not think that they are competent to assess the research described, 2) they believe there is a conflict of interest or personal or professional relationship with the author(s) that might bias their assessment of the manuscript, or (3) there is any other situation that could bias their review. Employment at the same institution as one of the authors does not automatically represent a conflict. Having previously reviewed the article for another journal does not disqualify a reviewer, although the editor should be informed so the reviewer’s perspective can be considered. In circumstances when reviewers need to recuse themselves, they should notify the editor promptly, preferably with an explanation. If reviewers are uncertain whether they should recuse themselves, they should consult with the editor.

The reviewer should strive to provide accurate, detailed, and constructive criticisms, and the review should be supported by appropriate references, especially if unfavorable. The reviewer should also note whether the work of others is properly cited. If the reviewer notes any substantial resemblance of the manuscript being reviewed to a published paper or to a manuscript submitted at the same time to another journal, they should promptly report this to the editor.

No part of the manuscript under review should ordinarily be revealed to another individual without the permission of the editor. If a reviewer consults a colleague on a particular point, this fact, and the name of the collaborator or consultant, should be reported to the editor, preferably in advance. With these exceptions, a reviewer must obtain through the editor written permission from the authors to use or disclose any of the unpublished content of a manuscript under review.
 

Obligations of Editors

The Editor-in-Chief directs and supervises the policies of a journal and is responsible for maintaining its scientific and literary quality. The first obligation of an Editor-in-Chief and the journal Editors is to make certain that all authors receive confidential, expert, critical, and unbiased reviews of their work in a timely fashion. The editors and members of the editor’s staff should not disclose any information about a manuscript submitted for review to anyone except the reviewers or authors or those working on their behalf.

An editor may not take part in the editorial management of any report of the editor’s own research because that involves conflict of interest. An editor must also avoid conflict of interest in the editorial management of reports of research closely related to the editor’s own research. An editor may not use unpublished information of any kind from a submitted manuscript without written permission of the author.

If an editor is presented with convincing evidence that the main substance or conclusions of a report published in an editor’s journal is erroneous or determined to be the result of misconduct, the editor should facilitate prompt publication of a report pointing out the error and, if possible, correcting it. The report may be written by all the authors. In those cases where it is not possible, or there is disagreement, the Editor-in-Chief may consider the report written by some of the authors, academic or institutional sponsor, editor, or the Society.
 

Electronic Publications

It is now recognized that manuscripts appearing in Rapid Electronic Publication are considered to be published the day they are posted. If a serious error or ethical violation is identified before print publication, the Editor-in-Chief has the prerogative to print a revised manuscript or even withdraw a manuscript from print publication. While the rapid electronic version cannot be removed, it can be appropriately identified and stamped as a withdrawn or retracted manuscript.
 

Due Process/Administrative Procedures

The Society has approved the following procedures for administering allegations of scientific misconduct. However, establishment of these procedures does not supersede or diminish the authority of a journal to reject a manuscript as set forth in the Editorial Policies and Procedures. Further, the Society, in its discretion, may choose to suspend this policy, in whole or in part, in specific instances.

The Editor-in-Chief of each journal shall investigate all allegations of scientific misconduct with a prompt and discreet initial inquiry to assess the veracity, severity and scope of the perceived impropriety or violation. The Editor-in-Chief shall also provide written notification to the author against whom the violation is alleged and obtain information to assist him or her in this initial inquiry. The Editor-in-Chief may delay publication of a challenged paper pending the outcome of an investigation. The ability to effectively investigate and administer an allegation of scientific misconduct shall be carefully balanced with the need to maintain confidentiality in order to protect the rights and reputations of all concerned.

If the Editor-in-Chief, after any needed consultation with their Editorial Board, determines that there is reasonable cause to proceed with further investigation, he or she shall contact the institution with which the author is associated, and where the work was conducted. The Editor-in-Chief shall request to be informed of the progress and outcome of any inquiry or investigation, including any administrative or disciplinary action taken by the institution as a result. The pace of the inquiry or investigation and the frequency of progress reports will be set in reference to timelines established by the institution, if they exist, or by a mutually agreed upon timeline established between the institution and the Editor-in-Chief. In instances where the institution fails to meet expected timelines, the matter will be referred back to the Publications Committee for treatment as a special case. Similarly, in the rare event that the author against whom the allegation is made does not have an institutional affiliation, the matter will also be treated as a special case by the Publications Committee. A “special case” is a matter involving allegations of scientific misconduct in which the Publications Committee, rather than an author’s institution, undertakes an investigation.

All parties involved are expected to cooperate fully to ensure fairness in the investigation. Authors are expected to cooperate by providing access to original data and laboratory notebooks or in other ways. The accused is considered innocent of wrongdoing until the evidence or investigation indicates otherwise. Any individual who brings forward allegations in good faith shall not be subjected to retaliation, however, allegations not brought in good faith, or maliciously motivated, may be subject to disciplinary action by the Council.

The outcome of the institutional investigation (or the special case investigation if no institution is involved) shall be reported to the Council of the Endocrine Society for a determination as to appropriate action, if any, including rejection of a manuscript or retraction of a publication. If the Council determines that, due to scientific misconduct, the validity or authoritativeness of a previously published article is in question, or the article contains a material error, then a correction or retraction must be published prominently in the journal in which the original report appeared and contain the full bibliographic reference to the original article. It shall be listed in the contents page and be prominently labeled, i.e., erratum or retraction.

The Council also reserves the right to reprimand the author, and co-authors, as it deems appropriate. Sanctions may include, but are not limited to, dismissal from the Society for a number of years, expulsion, written notification to other professional societies, institutions and funding agencies.
 

Policy Regarding Advertisements

All Endocrine Society Journals contain advertisements but advertising is not allowed to influence editorial decisions. Readers will be able to readily distinguish between editorial material and advertising. The juxtaposition of advertisements promoting specific products and scientific articles discussing such products is, as far as possible, avoided. The Endocrine Society and the editors do not provide unpublished advance information about journal content for forthcoming issues to agencies involved in soliciting advertisements or companies purchasing advertising space. The appearance of any advertisement does not imply warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services or of their effectiveness, quality, or safety by the Endocrine Society. The Society has the prerogative to reject any advertisement it deems inappropriate. It accepts advertisements only if the advertisers warrant that the advertisement does not contravene legal requirements on trade descriptions, medicines, race relations, or sex discrimination.
 

Bibliography

In assembling these guidelines, the Publications Committee has relied on the following published reports:

  1. Code of Ethics. Endocrine Society (Chevy Chase, Maryland). The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Endocrinology, Endocrine Reviews, and Molecular Endocrinology, 2001. Code of Ethics of the Endocrine Society
  2. ORI Handbook for Institutional Research Integrity Officers. February 1997. Office of Research Integrity, Public Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services (Washington DC) https://ori.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/rio_handbook.pdf
  3. Burman KD 1982 Hanging from the masthead: reflections on authorship. Ann Intern Med 97:602–605
  4. Responsible Conduct Regarding Scientific Communication. Society for Neuroscience, 1996, 1997, 1998. http://www.sfn.org/member-center/professional-conduct/guidelines-for-responsible-conduct-regarding-scientific-communication
  5. Managing Allegations of Scientific Misconduct: A Guidance Document for Editors. January 2000. Office of Research Integrity, Office of Public Health and Science, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Washington, DC)
  6. American College of Physicians Ethics Manual. American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med 2005; 101:129–137, 263–274
  7. Rossner M, Yamada KM 2004 What’s in a picture? The temptation of image manipulation J Cell Biol 166:11–15
  8. Council of Science Editors 2009 CSE’s White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications
     

In addition, the Committee recommends reading the following:

  1. Association of American Medical Colleges 1982 The maintenance of high ethical standards in the conduct of research.
  2. Hugh EJ 1986 Guidelines on authorship of medical papers. Ann Intern Med 104:269.
     

1 Approved by Council October 2007; originally posted January 2008.