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Misconduct and redundant publication

Research misconduct

Research misconduct includes fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.

  • Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them
  • 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
  • Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

The Royal Society is a member of CrossCheck, a multi-publisher initiative to screen published and submitted content for originality. Software may be used to screen images.

If misconduct is suspected journal editors will act in accordance with the relevant COPE guidelines.

If, after assessing the available evidence, the editor has concerns about a publication, a response will be sought from the authors. If the response is unsatisfactory, the editors will contact the author's head of department/ employer and can choose to contact the author's funding body.

In cases of published plagiarism or dual publication, an announcement will be made in both journals explaining the situation, including 'retractions' if work is proven to be fraudulent. See the COPE guidelines on retraction.

Prior submission and redundant publication

The Society's journals only consider article submissions which have not been published previously. In addition, it is not acceptable for an author to submit a manuscript (or manuscripts describing essentially the same matter) to more than one journal at a time. Prior submission to a recognised preprint server is permitted - see below.

It is important to ensure that research work is only published once. If it is published more than once, the scientific literature can be unjustifiably weighted by the appearance that one study has been replicated. It might also mean that the study is inadvertently entered twice into a meta-analysis, for example, or cause problems in systems which use the number of publications to assess an individual’s or an institute’s research output.

Conference presentations or posting unrefereed manuscripts on preprint servers such as arXiv, bioRxiv and PeerJ PrePrints are not considered prior publication and are therefore permitted. There may be situations where previously published work can be included in summary form, but it must be made clear to the editor on submission that this is the case. Publication of an abstract at a meeting does not preclude later submission of the full article to a Royal Society journal. Submissions containing material that has previously formed part of a PhD or other academic thesis which has been published according to the requirements of the institution awarding the qualification can also be considered.

Redundant publication, duplicate publication and text recycling is where authors reproduce verbatim content from their other publications.

Duplication of a published article or major overlap/redundancy with another published article is not acceptable. When this is identified we will follow appropriate COPE guidelines and consider publishing a notice of redundant publication.

Minor overlap or a small amount of redundancy may be unavoidable. This must always be reported transparently and be properly attributed and compliant with copyright requirements.

In research articles, some degree of text recycling in the background/introduction/methods section of an article may be reasonable. However, overlap in the results and conclusions section is unlikely to be acceptable.

In review articles, if text is recycled from an earlier publication without any further novel development of previously published opinions or ideas or when they are presented as novel without any reference to previous publications it will not be acceptable.


A definition of plagiarism from the Office of Research Integrity:

Plagiarism includes both 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 by a privileged communication, such as a grant or manuscript review.

As with other forms of misconduct, if plagiarism is suspected journal editors will act in accordance with the relevant COPE guidelines.

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