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EJIFCC. 2014 Oct 24;25(3):244-51. eCollection 2014 Oct.

Ethics in Online Publications.

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Principal Scientist, Pathology Services, Royal Hobart Hospital Honorary Associate, School of Human Life Sciences, University of Tasmania Chair, Committee on Internet and eLearning (C-IeL) , IFCC.


Journals have been publishing the results of scientific investigations since the founding of Philosophical Transactions in 1665. Since then we have witnessed a massive expansion in the number of journals to the point that there are now approximately 28,000 active, peer reviewed journals collectively publishing more than 1.8 million articles per year. Before the mid-1990s, these journals were only available on paper but by the end of the 20th century, most journals had moved to online platforms. Online publication has also served as the impetus for the move to 'open-access' to the information contained in journals. The fact that a publication is 'on-line' and 'open-access' does not negate the responsibility of the author and the publisher to publish in an ethical way. [1] The document produced by the IFCC Ethics Task Force (TF-E) on publication ethics states that 'Ethics in Science at its broadest level encompasses research ethics, medical ethics, publication ethics, conflicts of interest, ethical responsibilities as educator, plus many other areas.' Thus publication ethics is a continuum from the first step of research design through to the information being read by the reader. In general terms 'publication ethics' includes the ethical behaviour of the authors in writing and submitting a scientific manuscript to a publisher for the purpose of publication, thus any discussion of publication ethics must include the role of the authors, referees, publisher and reader and the issues of authorship (and the use of 'ghosts'), plagiarism, duplicate publication (including in different languages), image manipulation (particularly in the era of digitisation), and conflict of interest [2]. To aid the authors, and others involved in the process of publication, a number of resources are now available particularly those from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) [3] and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) [4]. More recently the issue of 'publisher ethics' has also been raised, particularly with the sudden increase of what could be termed 'predatory' publishers utilising the open access model to publish low quality articles, which often do not adhere to the guidelines mentioned above, utilising an author-pays model of open-access publishing for their own profit [5].


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