Ethics in scientific publication: historical and international perspectives
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Ethical issues in scientific communication have existed in the scientific community since before the 17[th] century publication of the first scientific journal. To understand the historical development of scientific publication ethics as its own field of research, I did a comprehensive review of Internet sites and books and articles published after 1970. To help fill in gaps in the literature, I sent an electronic survey to 26 researchers with experience as editors, authors, and peer reviewers. I found that five main topics in publication ethics have received the largest amount of attention over the last 25 years: peer review, authorship, conflict of interest, publication bias, and duplicate/redundant publication. Since the 1970s, when research reports and other articles on these topics were first published with regularity, the number of studies published annually has increased substantially. Conferences, such as the International Peer Review Congresses, have focused on ethical issues, and many scientific organizations have created guidelines for ethical practices in scientific publishing. Different nations and fields have different codes and guidelines regarding ethical issues in scientific publishing. In national guidelines, it appears that there is an inverse relationship between guideline stringency and the amount of political freedom allowed under that nation's government. Of the 26 surveys sent, 13 were returned. Of those surveyed, most stated that they were only somewhat aware of guidelines, and responses indicated that few researchers surveyed were aware of many instances of misconduct. Debate over each issue has increased, but no commonly accepted ethical practices have been developed. Awareness of these issues does not appear to have increased nor does it appear that the rate of occurrence of ethical infractions has decreased. This apparent unchanging rate of occurrence may be because, as publication has increased in most fields, scientists lack time to read articles outside of their own areas of research. A more comprehensive survey, distributed on a much larger scale, would be useful to better understand the causes of continued ethical infractions and to help develop practical solutions to ethical problems.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 39-47).
Henry, Melissa June (2003). Ethics in scientific publication: historical and international perspectives. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from