The Ethics of Publishing

(Co-sponsored by the ACS Committee on Ethics and the Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications. Organizers: Thomas R. LeBon, El Camino College Compton Center, Compton, CA 90221, Email:; and George M. Bodner, Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, tel: (765) 494-5313, Email: gmbodner@purdue

A symposium on Ethics in Publishing was held as part of the 241st American Chemical Society National Meeting in Anaheim. It was co-sponsored by the ACS Committee on Ethics and the ACS Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications. The symposium was video-taped and is available on the ACS website. Copies of many of the presentations will be made available on the DivCHED website.

Tom LeBon of El Camino College Compton Center opened up the symposium with a discussion of plagiarism of words and data that linked this symposium with one on plagiarism that had been sponsored by the ACS Committee on Ethics for the DivCHED program at the 237th ACS National Meeting in Salt Lake City, two years ago. The goal of his presentation was to connect efforts to combat plagiarism in the classroom with efforts being undertaken within the context of journal publications. George Bodner of Purdue University then examined the implications of a National Academy of Sciences report: “Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age.” He summarized some of the issues raised in this report as well as the recommendations made by the panel, but he focused on the reason why the panel was created: To investigate the significant increase in the number of manuscripts being submitted for publication in top-ranked journals that contain one or more images that had been improperly manipulated. He noted that in a five-year period, from 2002 to 2007, the Journal of Cell Biology found that more than a quarter of the manuscripts accepted for publication contained one or more images that had been improperly manipulated, and 1% of these papers contained an image that had been altered to the point where it would lead the reader to a different conclusion than the raw data. John Challice from Oxford University Press presented a perspective on ethics in publishing from the perspective of a book publisher who had to decide what to publish, how to ensure discoverability of content, and how to avoid accusations of plagiarism. Robin Rogers from the University of Alabama presented the perspective of an editor of an ACS journal. He focused on experiences with contentious issues encountered by Crystal Growth & Design related to rapid growth of the field, fractional publication, self-plagiarism, referencing reviews rather than original works, and rejection without review. Paul Weiss from UCLA presented a perspective on ethics in pubishling from the editorial board of ACS Nano. He argued his journal sits at the crossroads of many fields, which provides an interesting perspective on approaches taken across fields.

Jeffrey Seeman from the University of Richmond described research done with his colleague, Mark House of Giant Steps Research, to determine what actions are both “practiced” and “experienced” within the US chemistry academic community based on a survey of faculty that dealt with issues of authorship [cf., House, M. C. & Seeman, J. I.(2010). Accountability in Research, 17(5), 223-256]. He noted that half of the respondents perceived that they had failed to receive credit they deserved. He noted that faculty who received their Ph.D. in the 1990's and 2000's were less likely to give credit to their co-workers than more senior faculty, and that there was a tendency to be more likely to give credit to one’s own students than students from another faculty’s research group, for the same intellectual contributions. Kenneth Busch from the National Science Foundation described some of the issues faced by the Office of Inspector General and reported on the success of his co-author’s (Dr. Pedro Muiño’s) semester-long sabbatical at the NSF OIG office. Issues he addressed included authorship, data integrity, questionable research practices, corrections and retractions in the literature, and mentorship in responsible professional practices.

The symposium concluded with presentations from two individuals who had chaired the ACS Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications. John Russell from the Naval Research Lab presented a pair of case studies he had created to illustrate how editorial ethical issues are considered and handled. Grace Baysinger from Stanford University then examined some of the issues faced by graduate students in the era of electronic theses and dissertations, such as prior publication, copyright transfer, and self-plagiarism.

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