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Research ethics, animal treatment and biosecurity

Articles will be accepted based on scientific merit and only if they are considered ethically sound in the judgement of the editors.

Referees are asked to express any ethical concerns regarding human studies, potential risk of misuse or maltreatment of animals and conservation or environmental issues.

Human subjects

For experiments involving human subjects, the committee approving the experiments should be identified with any and all related project/licence numbers given and the research conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki. The authors should confirm that informed consent was obtained from all subjects or their representatives or explain why this was not done.

Researchers undertaking cross-cultural behavioural studies should follow best-practice guidelines such as those outlined here and include clear details within the paper where relevant. Human articles must clearly specify the sample and context in which the study was done in the title or abstract (for example, geographical location, ethnicity of population, etc.).

Animal subjects

The Royal Society believes that all research should be carried out with a high regard for animal welfare. Authors should include details of any animals used in their study, including information about welfare standards used (such as, but not limited to: species, number, sex, age, weight, housing conditions, welfare, animal training and the fate of the animals at the end of the experiment) and relevant details of steps taken to ameliorate suffering. These details should be included in the Methods section of the article. 

Authors are expected to comply with the 'Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments' (ARRIVE) guidelines. These have been developed by NC3Rs to improve standards of reporting to ensure that the data from animal experiments can be fully scrutinised and utilised. Relevant information should be included in the appropriate section of the article, as outlined in the ARRIVE guidelines.

Articles describing work with animals will be accepted only if the procedures used are clearly described and all experiments were performed in accordance with relevant international guidelines and regulations. They must also meet the legal requirements of the country in which the work was carried out and all institutional guidelines. 

A statement identifying the institutional and/or licensing committee approving the experiments (including the number(s) of the licence/approval(s) received) must be included at the end of the article.

Any possible adverse consequences of the work for ecosystems, populations or individual organisms must be weighed against the possible gains in knowledge and its practical applications.

Research relating to animal behaviour and fieldwork studies should follow the advice provided by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour / Animal Behavior Society Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research (Animal Behaviour, 2020, 159, I-XI).

The journals of the Royal Society reserve the right to ask authors for all ethical documentation related to their study and to contact the authors institution for more information. 


Authors who use DNA from commercial DNA providers should get their DNA from a company that screens against misuse. They should choose a provider which is a member of the IGSC, and they should disclose the name of the company they purchased DNA from to the editors. 

Other ethical issues

We endorse guidance of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology by not publishing work resulting from unethically sourced Burmese amber and where fossil samples (i.e. the “data”) are not publicly available. We expect authors, on submission of a manuscript, to provide the following information: 1) evidence that the data are permanently curated in an accessible collection with specimen number(s); 2) Verification of the date of collection and export (this must be pre-2017) of the specimens, including a permit number or other verification that the fossils were legally exported from Myanmar; 3) clarification whether any of the listed authors are researchers or personnel based in Myanmar, with adequate justification if not. Item #1 should be in the manuscript and ethics statement. Items #2-3 should be part of the cover letter. We cannot proceed with considering studies for possible peer review until these questions are answered.

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