Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals

When you making and sending articles as the author to the journal "Reproductive Endocrinology" please follow the rules set forth in the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals, adopted in 1997 by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Please pay special attention to the design of the sended bibliography list.


 
WHAT MUST BE PROVIDED PRIOR TO THE SUBMISSION OF THE MANUSCRIPT TO THE JOURNAL?

Redundant or Duplicate Publication

Redundant or duplicate publication is publication of a paper that overlaps substantially with one already published.

Readers of primary source periodicals deserve to be able to trust that what they are reading is original unless there is a clear statement that the article is being republished by the choice of the author and editor. The bases of this position are international copyright laws, ethical conduct, and cost-effective use of resources.

Most journals do not wish to receive papers on work that has already been reported in large part in a published article or is contained in another paper that has been submitted or accepted for publication elsewhere, in print or in electronic media. This policy does not preclude the journal from considering a paper that has been rejected by another journal, or a complete report that follows publication of a preliminary report such as an abstract or poster displayed for colleagues at a professional meeting. Nor does it prevent journals from considering a paper that has been presented at a scientific meeting but not published in full or that is being considered for publication in a proceedings or similar format.

Press reports of scheduled meetings will not usually be regarded as breaches of this rule, but such reports should not be amplified by additional data or copies of tables and illustrations. When submitting a paper, an author should always make a full statement to the editor about all submissions and previous reports that might be regarded as redundant or duplicate publication of the same or very similar work.

The author should alert the editor if the work includes subjects about whom a previous report has been published. Any such work should be referred to and referenced in the new paper. Copies of such material should be included with the submitted paper to help the editor decide how to deal with the matter.

If redundant or duplicate publication is attempted or occurs without such notification, authors should expect editorial action to be taken. At the least, prompt rejection of the submitted manuscript should be expected. If the editor was not aware of the violations and the article has already been published, then a notice of redundant or duplicate publication will probably be published with or without the author's explanation or approval.

Preliminary release, usually to public media, of scientific information described in a paper that has been accepted but not yet published violates the policies of many journals. In a few cases, and only by arrangement with the editor, preliminary release of data may be acceptable — for example, if there is a public health emergency.

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SUBMISSION OF MANUSCRIPTS

Summary of Technical Requirements

• Double-space all parts of manuscripts.

• Begin each section or component on a new page.

• Review the sequence: title page, abstract and key words, text, acknowledgments, references, tables (each on separate page), and legends.

• Illustrations (unmounted prints) should be no larger than 203 × 254 mm (8 × 10 in.).

• Include permission to reproduce previously published material or to use illustrations that may identify human subjects.

• Enclose transfer-of-copyright and other forms.

• Submit the required number of paper copies.

• Keep copies of everything submitted.

Preparation of the Manuscript

The text of observational and experimental articles is usually (but not necessarily) divided into sections with the headings Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Long articles may need subheadings within some sections (especially the Results and Discussion sections) to clarify their content. Other types of articles, such as case reports, reviews, and editorials, are likely to need other formats. Authors should consult individual journals for further guidance.

Type or print out the manuscript on white bond paper, 216 × 279 mm (8 1/2 × 11 in.), or ISO A4 (212 × 297 mm), with margins of at least 25 mm (1 in.). Type or print on only one side of the paper. Use double-spacing throughout, including for the title page, abstract, text, acknowledgments, references, individual tables, and legends. Number pages consecutively, beginning with the title page. Put the page number in the upper or lower right-hand corner of each page.

Manuscripts on electronic carriers

For papers that are close to final acceptance, some journals require authors to provide a copy in electronic form (on a disk); they may accept a variety of word-processing formats or text (ASCII) files.

When submitting disks, authors should:

• Be certain to include a printout of the version of the article that is on the disk;

• Put only the latest version of the manuscript on the disk;

• Name the file clearly;

• Label the disk with the format of the file and the file name; and

• Provide information on the hardware and software used.

Authors should consult the journal's instructions to authors for acceptable formats, conventions for naming files, number of copies to be submitted, and other details.

Title Page

The title page should carry (a) the title of the article, which should be concise but informative; (b) the name by which each author is known, with his or her highest academic degree(s) and institutional affiliation; (c) the name of the department(s) and institution(s) to which the work should be attributed; (d) disclaimers, if any; (e) the name and address of the author responsible for correspondence about the manuscript; (f) the name and address of the author to whom requests for reprints should be addressed or a statement that reprints will not be available from the authors; (g) source(s) of support in the form of grants, equipment, drugs, or all of these; and (h) a short running head or foot line of no more than 40 characters (count letters and spaces) at the foot of the title page.

Authorship

All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content.

Authorship credit should be based only on substantial contributions to:

1.  conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data;

2.  drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content;

3.  final approval of the version to be published.

Conditions 1, 2 and 3 must all be met. Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship. General supervision of the research group is not sufficient for authorship. Any part of an article critical to its main conclusions must be the responsibility of at least one author.

Editors may ask authors to describe what each contributed; this information may be published.

Increasingly, multicenter trials are attributed to a corporate author. All members of the group who are named as authors, either in the authorship position below the title or in a footnote, should fully meet the above criteria for authorship. Group members who do not meet these criteria should be listed, with their permission, in the Acknowledgments or in an appendix (see Acknowledgments).

The order of authorship should be a joint decision of the coauthors. Because the order is assigned in different ways, its meaning cannot be inferred accurately unless it is stated by the authors. Authors may wish to explain the order of authorship in a footnote. In deciding on the order, authors should be aware that many journals limit the number of authors listed in the table of contents and that the National Library of Medicine lists in MEDLINE only the first 24 plus the last author when there are more than 25 authors.

Abstract and Key Words

The second page should carry an abstract (of no more than 150 words for unstructured abstracts or 250 words for structured abstracts). The abstract should state the purposes of the study or investigation, basic procedures (selection of study subjects or laboratory animals; observational and analytic methods), main findings (giving specific data and their statistical significance, if possible), and the principal conclusions. It should emphasize new and important aspects of the study or observations.

Below the abstract authors should provide, and identify as such, 3 to 10 key words or short phrases that will assist indexers in cross-indexing the article and may be published with the abstract. Terms from the medical subject headings (MeSH) list of Index Medicus should be used; if suitable MeSH terms are not yet available for recently introduced terms, present terms may be used.

Introduction

State the purpose of the article and summarize the rationale for the study or observation. Give only strictly pertinent references and do not include data or conclusions from the work being reported.

Study Methods

Describe your selection of the observational or experimental subjects (patients or laboratory animals, including controls) clearly. Identify the age, sex, and other important characteristics of the subjects. The definition and relevance of race and ethnicity are ambiguous. Authors should be particularly careful about using these categories.

Identify the methods, apparatus (give the manufacturer's name and address in parentheses), and procedures in sufficient detail to allow other workers to reproduce the results. Give references to established methods, including statistical methods (see below); provide references and brief descriptions for methods that have been published but are not well known; describe new or substantially modified methods, give reasons for using them, and evaluate their limitations. Identify precisely all drugs and chemicals used, including generic name(s), dose(s), and route(s) of administration.

Reports of randomized clinical trials should present information on all major study elements including the protocol (study population, interventions or exposures, outcomes, and the rationale for statistical analysis), assignment of interventions (methods of randomization, concealment of allocation to treatment groups), and the method of masking (blinding).

Authors submitting review manuscripts should include a section describing the methods used for locating, selecting, extracting, and synthesizing data. These methods should also be summarized in the abstract.

Ethics aspects

When reporting experiments on human subjects, indicate whether the procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional or regional) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 1983. Do not use patients' names, initials, or hospital numbers, especially in illustrative material. When reporting experiments on animals, indicate whether the institution's or a national research council's guide for, or any national law on, the care and use of laboratory animals was followed.

Statistics

Describe statistical methods with enough detail to enable a knowledgeable reader with access to the original data to verify the reported results. When possible, quantify findings and present them with appropriate indicators of measurement error or uncertainty (such as confidence intervals). Avoid relying solely on statistical hypothesis testing, such as the use of P values, which fails to convey important quantitative information. Discuss the eligibility of experimental subjects. Give details about randomization. Describe the methods for and success of any blinding of observations. Report complications of treatment. Give numbers of observations. Report losses to observation (such as dropouts from a clinical trial). References for the design of the study and statistical methods should be to standard works when possible (with pages stated) rather than to papers in which the designs or methods were originally reported. Specify any general-use computer programs used.

Put a general description of methods in the Methods section. When data are summarized in the Results section, specify the statistical methods used to analyze them. Restrict tables and figures to those needed to explain the argument of the paper and to assess its support. Use graphs as an alternative to tables with many entries; do not duplicate data in graphs and tables. Avoid nontechnical uses of technical terms in statistics, such as “random” (which implies a randomizing device), “normal,” “significant,” “correlations,” and “sample.” Define statistical terms, abbreviations, and most symbols.

Study Results and Discussion

Present your results in logical sequence in the text, tables, and illustrations. Do not repeat in the text all data in the tables or illustrations; emphasize or summarize only important observations.

Emphasize the new and important aspects of the study and the conclusions that follow from them. Do not repeat in detail data or other material given in the Introduction or the Results section. Include in the Discussion section the implications of the findings and their limitations, including implications for future research. Relate the observations to other relevant studies.

Link the conclusions with the goals of the study but avoid unqualified statements and conclusions not completely supported by the data. In particular, authors should avoid making statements on economic benefits and costs unless their manuscript includes economic data and analyses. Avoid claiming priority and alluding to work that has not been completed. State new hypotheses when warranted, but clearly label them as such. Recommendations, when appropriate, may be included.

Acknowledgments

At an appropriate place in the article (the title-page footnote or an appendix to the text; see the journal's requirements) one or more statements should specify:

- contributions that need acknowledging but do not justify authorship, such as general support by a departmental chair;

- acknowledgments of technical help;

- acknowledgments of financial and material support, which should specify the nature of the support;

- relationships that may pose a conflict of interest.

Persons who have contributed intellectually to the paper but whose contributions do not justify authorship may be named and their function or contribution described — for example, “scientific advisor,” “critical review of study proposal,” “data collection,” or “participation in clinical trial.” Such persons must have given their permission to be named. Authors are responsible for obtaining written permission from persons acknowledged by name, because readers may infer their endorsement of the data and conclusions.

Technical help should be acknowledged in a paragraph separate from those acknowledging other contributions.

References

References should be numbered consecutively in the order in which they are first mentioned in the text. Identify references in text, tables, and legends by Arabic numerals in parentheses. References cited only in tables or in legends to figures should be numbered in accordance with the sequence established by the first identification in the text of the particular table or figure.

Use the style of the examples below, which are based on the formats used by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) in Index Medicus. The titles of journals should be abbreviated according to the style used in Index Medicus. Consult the List of Journals Indexed in Index Medicus, published annually as a separate publication by the library and as a list in the January issue ofIndex Medicus. The list can also be obtained through the library's web site of NLM http://www.nlm.nih.gov.

Avoid using abstracts as references. References to papers accepted but not yet published should be designated as “in press” or “forthcoming”; authors should obtain written permission to cite such papers as well as verification that they have been accepted for publication. Information from manuscripts submitted but not accepted should be cited in the text as “unpublished observations” with written permission from the source.

Avoid citing a “personal communication” unless it provides essential information not available from a public source, in which case the name of the person and date of communication should be cited in parentheses in the text. For scientific articles, authors should obtain written permission and confirmation of accuracy from the source of a personal communication.

The references must be verified by the author(s) against the original documents.

The “Uniform Requirements” style (the Vancouver style) is based largely on an ANSI standard style adapted by the NLM for its data bases. Notes have been added where Vancouver style differs from the style now used by NLM.

Articles in Journals

1.Standard journal article

List the first six authors followed by et al. (Note: NLM now lists up to 25 authors; if there are more than 25 authors, NLM lists the first 24, then the last author, then et al.)

Vega KJ, Pina I, Krevsky B. Heart transplantation is associated with an increased risk for pancreatobiliary disease. Ann Intern Med 1996 Jun 1;124(11):980-3.

As an option, if a journal carries continuous pagination throughout a volume (as many medical journals do) the month and issue number may be omitted. (Note: For consistency, the option is used throughout the examples in “Uniform Requirements.” NLM does not use the option.)

Vega KJ, Pina I, Krevsky B. Heart transplantation is associated with an increased risk for pancreatobiliary disease. Ann Intern Med 1996;124:980-3.

More than six authors:

Parkin DM, Clayton D, Black RJ, Masuyer E, Friedl HP, Ivanov E, et al. Childhood leukaemia in Europe after Chernobyl: 5 year follow-up. Br J Cancer 1996;73:1006-12.

2. Organization as an author

The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. Clinical exercise stress testing. Safety and performance guidelines. Med J Aust 1996;164:282-4.

3. No author given

Cancer in South Africa [editorial]. S Afr Med J 1994;84:15.

4.Article is not in English

(Note: NLM translates the title to English, encloses the translation in square brackets, and adds an abbreviated language designator.)

Ryder TE, Haukeland EA, Solhaug JH. Bilateral infrapatellar seneruptur hos tidligere frisk kvinne. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 1996;116:41-2.

5. Volume with supplement

Shen HM, Zhang QF. Risk assessment of nickel carcinogenicity and occupational lung cancer. Environ Health Perspect 1994;102 Suppl 1:275-82.

6. Issue with supplement

Payne DK, Sullivan MD, Massie MJ. Women's psychological reactions to breast cancer. Semin Oncol 1996;23(1 Suppl 2):89-97.

7. Volume with part

Ozben T, Nacitarhan S, Tuncer N. Plasma and urine sialic acid in non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Ann Clin Biochem 1995;32(Pt 3):303-6.

8. Issue with part

Poole GH, Mills SM. One hundred consecutive cases of flap lacerations of the leg in ageing patients. N Z Med J 1994;107(986 Pt 1):377-8.

9. Issue with no volume

Turan I, Wredmark T, Fellander-Tsai L. Arthroscopic ankle arthrodesis in rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Orthop 1995;(320):110-4.

10. No issue or volume

Browell DA, Lennard TW. Immunologic status of the cancer patient and the effects of blood transfusion on antitumor responses. Curr Opin Gen Surg 1993:325-33.

11. Pagination in Roman numerals

Fisher GA, Sikic BI. Drug resistance in clinical oncology and hematology. Introduction. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 1995 Apr;9(2):xi-xii.

12. Type of article indicated as needed

Enzensberger W, Fischer PA. Metronome in Parkinson's disease [letter]. Lancet 1996;347:1337.

Clement J, De Bock R. Hematological complications of hantavirus nephropathy (HVN) [abstract]. Kidney Int 1992;42:1285.

13. Article containing retraction

Garey CE, Schwarzman AL, Rise ML, Seyfried TN. Ceruloplasmin gene defect associated with epilepsy in EL mice [retraction of Garey CE, Schwarzman AL, Rise ML, Seyfried TN. In: Nat Genet 1994;6:426-31]. Nat Genet 1995;11:104.

14. Article retracted

Liou GI, Wang M, Matragoon S. Precocious IRBP gene expression during mouse development [retracted in Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1994;35:3127]. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1994;35:1083-8.

15. Article with published erratum

Hamlin JA, Kahn AM. Herniography in symptomatic patients following inguinal hernia repair [published erratum appears in West J Med 1995;162:278]. West J Med 1995;162:28-31.

Books and Other Monographs

(Note: Previous Vancouver style incorrectly had a comma rather than a semicolon between the publisher and the date.)

16. Personal author(s)

Ringsven MK, Bond D. Gerontology and leadership skills for nurses. 2nd ed. Albany (NY): Delmar Publishers; 1996.

17. Editor(s), compiler(s) as author

Norman IJ, Redfern SJ, editors. Mental health care for elderly people. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 1996.

18. Organization as author and publisher

Institute of Medicine (US). Looking at the future of the Medicaid program. Washington (DC): The Institute; 1992.

19. Chapter in a book

(Note: Previous Vancouver style had a colon rather than a p before pagination.)

Phillips SJ, Whisnant JP. Hypertension and stroke. In: Laragh JH, Brenner BM, editors. Hypertension: pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management. 2nd ed. New York: Raven Press; 1995. p. 465-78.

20. Conference proceedings

Kimura J, Shibasaki H, editors. Recent advances in clinical neurophysiology. Proceedings of the 10th International Congress of EMG and Clinical Neurophysiology; 1995 Oct 15-19; Kyoto, Japan. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 1996.

21. Conference paper

Bengtsson S, Solheim BG. Enforcement of data protection, privacy and security in medical informatics. In: Lun KC, Degoulet P, Piemme TE, Rienhoff O, editors. MEDINFO 92. Proceedings of the 7th World Congress on Medical Informatics; 1992 Sep 6-10; Geneva, Switzerland. Amsterdam: North-Holland; 1992. p. 1561-5.

22. Scientific or technical report

Issued by funding/sponsoring agency:

Smith P, Golladay K. Payment for durable medical equipment billed during skilled nursing facility stays. Final report. Dallas (TX): Dept. of Health and Human Services (US), Office of Evaluation and Inspections; 1994 Oct. Report No.: HHSIGOEI69200860.

Issued by performing agency:

Field MJ, Tranquada RE, Feasley JC, editors. Health services research: work force and educational issues. Washington: National Academy Press; 1995. Contract No.: AHCPR282942008. Sponsored by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research.

23. Dissertation

Kaplan SJ. Post-hospital home health care: the elderly's access and utilization [dissertation]. St. Louis (MO): Washington Univ.; 1995.

24. Patent

Larsen CE, Trip R, Johnson CR, inventors; Novoste Corporation, assignee. Methods for procedures related to the electrophysiology of the heart. US patent 5,529,067. 1995 Jun 25.

Electronic Material

33. Journal article in electronic format

Morse SS. Factors in the emergence of infectious diseases. Emerg Infect Dis [serial online] 1995 Jan-Mar [cited 1996 Jun 5];1(1):[24 screens]. Available from: URL:http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/eid.htm.

34. Monograph in electronic format

CDI, clinical dermatology illustrated [monograph on CD-ROM]. Reeves JRT, Maibach H. CMEA Multimedia Group, producers. 2nd ed. Version 2.0. San Diego: CMEA; 1995.

35. Computer file

Hemodynamics III: the ups and downs of hemodynamics [computer program]. Version 2.2. Orlando (FL): Computerized Educational Systems; 1993.

Tables

Type or print out each table with double spacing on a separate sheet of paper. Do not submit tables as photographs. Number tables consecutively in the order of their first citation in the text and supply a brief title for each. Give each column a short or abbreviated heading. Place explanatory matter in footnotes, not in the heading. Explain in footnotes all non-standard abbreviations that are used in each table. For footnotes use the following symbols, in this sequence: *, †, ‡, §, , ¶, **, ††, ‡‡, etc.

Identify statistical measures of variation such as standard deviation and standard error of the mean.

Do not use internal horizontal and vertical rules.

Be sure that each table is cited in the text.

If you use data from another published or unpublished source, obtain permission and acknowledge the source fully.

The use of too many tables in relation to the length of the text may produce difficulties in the layout of pages. Examine issues of the journal to which you plan to submit your paper to estimate how many tables can be used per 1000 words of text.

The editor, on accepting a paper, may recommend that additional tables containing important backup data too extensive to publish be deposited with an archival service, such as the National Auxiliary Publications Service in the United States, or made available by the authors. In that event an appropriate statement will be added to the text. Submit such tables for consideration with the paper.

Illustrations (Figures)

Submit the required number of complete sets of figures. Figures should be professionally drawn and photographed; freehand or typewritten lettering is unacceptable. Instead of original drawings, x-ray films, and other material, send sharp, glossy, black-and-white photographic prints, usually 127 × 178 mm (5 × 7 in.) but no larger than 203 × 254 mm (8 × 10 in.). Letters, numbers, and symbols should be clear and even throughout and of sufficient size that when reduced for publication each item will still be legible. Titles and detailed explanations belong in the legends for illustrations, not on the illustrations themselves.

Each figure should have a label pasted on its back indicating the number of the figure, author's name, and top of the figure. Do not write on the back of figures or scratch or mar them by using paper clips. Do not bend figures or mount them on cardboard.

Photomicrographs should have internal scale markers. Symbols, arrows, or letters used in photomicrographs should contrast with the background.

If photographs of people are used, either the subjects must not be identifiable or their pictures must be accompanied by written permission to use the photograph (see Protection of Patients' Rights to Privacy).

Figures should be numbered consecutively according to the order in which they have been first cited in the text. If a figure has been published, acknowledge the original source and submit written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce the material. Permission is required irrespective of authorship or publisher, except for documents in the public domain.

For illustrations in color, ascertain whether the journal requires color negatives, positive transparencies, or color prints. Accompanying drawings marked to indicate the region to be reproduced may be useful to the editor. Some journals publish illustrations in color only if the author pays the extra cost.

Legends for Illustrations

Type or print out legends for illustrations using double-spacing, starting on a separate page, with Arabic numerals corresponding to the illustrations. When symbols, arrows, numbers, or letters are used to identify parts of the illustrations, identify and explain each one clearly in the legend. Explain the internal scale and identify the method of staining in photomicrographs.

 

Units of Measurement

Measurements of length, height, weight, and volume should be reported in metric units (meter, kilogram, or liter or their decimal multiples).

Temperatures should be given in degrees Celsius. Blood pressures should be given in millimeters of mercury.

All hematologic and clinical chemistry measurements should be reported in the metric system in terms of the International System of Units (SI). Editors may request that alternative or non-SI units be added by the authors before publication.

 

Abbreviations and Symbols

Use only standard abbreviations. Avoid abbreviations in the title and abstract. The full term for which an abbreviation stands should precede its first use in the text (unless it is a standard unit of measurement).
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SENDING THE MANUSCRIPT TO THE JOURNAL

Send the required number of copies of the manuscript in a heavy-paper envelope, enclosing the copies and figures in cardboard, if necessary, to prevent photographs from being bent. Place photographs and transparencies in a separate heavy-paper envelope.

Manuscripts must be accompanied by a covering letter signed by all coauthors. This must include (a) information on prior or duplicate publication or submission elsewhere of any part of the work, as defined earlier in this document; (b) a statement of financial or other relationships that might lead to a conflict of interest; (c) a statement that the manuscript has been read and approved by all the authors, that the requirements for authorship as stated earlier in this document have been met, and that each author believes that the manuscript represents honest work; and (d) the name, address, and telephone number of the corresponding author, who is responsible for communicating with the other authors about revisions and final approval of the proofs. The letter should give any additional information that may be helpful to the editor, such as the type of article in the particular journal that the manuscript represents and whether the author(s) would be willing to meet the cost of reproducing color illustrations.

The manuscript must be accompanied by copies of any permissions to reproduce published material, to use illustrations or report information about identifiable people, or to name people for their contributions.

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STATEMENTS

Definition of a peer reviewed journal

A peer reviewed journal is one that has submitted most of its published articles for review by experts who are not part of the editorial staff. The number and kind of manuscripts sent for review, the number of reviewers, the reviewing procedures, and the use made of the re­viewers' opinions may vary, and therefore each journal should publicly disclose its policies in its instructions to authors for the benefit of readers and potential authors.

Editorial freedom

Owners and editors of medical journals have a common endeavour - the publication of a reliable and readable journal, produced with due respect for the stated aims of the journal and for costs. The functions of owners and editors, however, are different. Owners have the right to appoint and dismiss editors and to make im­portant business decisions, in which editors should be involved to the fullest extent possible. Editors must have full authority for determining the editorial content of the journal. This concept of editorial freedom should be resolutely defended by editors even to the extent of their placing their positions at stake. To secure this freedom in practice, the editor should have direct ac­cess to the highest level of ownership, not only to a delegated manager.

Editors of medical journals should have a contract that clearly states the editor's rights and duties in ad­dition to the general terms of the appointment and that defines mechanisms for resolving conflict.

An independent editorial advisory board may be useful in helping the editor establish and maintain ed­itorial policy.

All editors and editors' organisations have the obli­gation to support the concept of editorial freedom and to draw major transgressions of such freedom to the attention of the international medical community.

Conflict of interest

Conflict of interest for a given manuscript exists when a participant in the peer review and publication process - author, reviewer, and editor - has ties to activities that could inappropriately influence his or her judgment, whether or not judgment is in fact affected. Financial relationships with industry (for example, through em­ployment, consultancies, stock ownership, honoraria, expert testimony), either directly or through immediate family, are usually considered to be the most important conflicts of interest. However, conflicts can occur for other reasons, such as personal relationships, academic competition, and intellectual passion.

Public trust in the peer review process and the credibility of published articles depends in part on how well conflict of interest is handled during writing, peer review, and editorial decision making. Bias can often be identified and eliminated by careful attention to the scientific methods and conclusions of the work. Fi­nancial relationships and their effects are less easily detected than other conflicts of interest. Participants in peer review and publication should disclose their con­flicting interests, and the information should be made available so that others can judge their effects for themselves. Because readers may be less able to detect bias in review articles and editorials than in reports of original research, some journals do not accept reviews and editorials from authors with a conflict of interest.

Authors

When they submit a manuscript, whether an article or a letter, authors are responsible for re­cognising and disclosing financial and other conflicts of interest that might bias their work. They should ac­knowledge in the manuscript all financial support for the work and other financial or personal connections to the work.

Reviewers

External peer reviewers should disclose to editors any conflicts of interest that could bias their opinions of the manuscript, and they should disqualify themselves from reviewing specific manuscripts if they believe it appropriate. The editors must be made aware of reviewers' conflicts of interest to interpret the reviews and judge for themselves whether the reviewer should be disqualified. Reviewers should not use knowledge of the work, before it publication, to further their own interests.

Editors and staff

Editors who make final decisions about manuscripts should have no personal financial involvement in any of the issues they might judge. Other members of the editorial staff, if they participate in editorial decisions, should provide editors with a current description of their financial interests (as they might relate to editorial judgments) and disqualify themselves from any decisions where they have a con­flict of interest. Published articles and letters should include a description of all financial support and any conflict of interest that, in the editors' judgment, readers should know about. Editorial staff should not use for private gain the information gained through working with manuscripts.

Corrections, retractions, and expressions of concern about research findings

Editors must assume initially that authors are reporting work based on honest observations. Nevertheless, two types of difficulty may arise.

Firstly, errors may be noted in published articles that require the publication of a correction or erratum of part of the work. It is conceivable that an error could be so serious as to vitiate the entire body of the work, but this is unlikely and should be handled by editors and authors on an individual basis. Such an error should not be confused with inadequacies exposed by the emer­gence of new scientific information in the normal course of research. The latter require no corrections or withdrawals.

The second type of difficulty is scientific fraud. If substantial doubts arise about the honesty of work, ei­ther submitted or published, it is the editor's respon­sibility to ensure that the question is appropriately pursued (including possible consultation with the au­thors). However, it is not the task of editors to conduct a full investigation or to make a determination; that responsibility lies with the institution where the work was done or with the funding agency. The editor should be promptly informed of the final decision, and, if a fraudulent paper has been published, the journal must print a retraction. If this method of investigation does not result in a satisfactory conclusion, the editor may choose to publish an expression of concern, with an explanation.

The retraction or expression of concern, so labelled, should appear on a numbered page in a prominent section of the journal, be listed in the contents page, and include in its heading the title of the original article. It should not simply be a letter to the editor. Ideally, the first author should be the same in the retraction as in the article, although under certain circumstances the editor any accept retractions by other responsible peo­ple. The text of the retraction should explain why the article is being retracted and include a bibliographic reference to it.

The validity of previous work by the author of a fraudulent paper cannot be assumed. Editors may ask the authors' institution to assure them of the validity of earlier work published in their journals or to retract it. If this is not done they may choose to publish an an­nouncement to the effect that the validity of previously published work is not assured.

Confidentiality

Manuscripts should be reviewed with due respect for authors' confidentiality. In submitting their manu­scripts for review, authors entrust editors with the re­sults of their scientific work and creative effort on which their reputation and career may depend. Authors' rights may be violated by disclosure of the confidential details of the review of their manuscript. Reviewers also have rights to confidentiality, which must be respected by the editor. Confidentiality may have to be breached if dis­honesty or fraud is alleged but otherwise must be honoured.

Editors should not disclose information about manuscripts (including their receipt, their content, their status in the reviewing process, their criticism by re­viewers, or their ultimate fate) to anyone other than the authors themselves and reviewers.

Editors should make clear to their reviewers that manuscripts sent for review are privileged communi­cations and are the private property of the authors. Therefore, reviewers and members of the editorial staff should respect the authors' rights by not publicly dis­cussing the authors' work or appropriating their ideas before the manuscript is published. Reviewers should not be allowed to make copies of the manuscript for their files and should be prohibited from sharing it with others, except with the permission of the editor. Editors should not keep copies of rejected manuscripts.

Opinions differ on whether reviewers should remain anonymous. Some editors require their reviewers to sign the comments returned to authors, but most either request that reviewers' comments not be signed or leave the choice to the reviewer. When comments are not signed the reviewers' identity must not be revealed to the author or anyone else.

Some journals publish reviewers' comments with the manuscript. No such procedure should be adopted without the consent of the authors and reviewers.

However, reviewers' comments may be sent to other reviewers of the same manuscript, and reviewers may be notified of the editor's decision.

Medical journals and Mass Media

The public's interest in news of medical research has led the popular media to compete vigorously to get information about research as soon as possible. Re­searchers and institutions sometimes encourage the reporting of research in the popular media before full publication in a scientific journal by holding a press conference or giving interviews.

The public is entitled to important medical infor­mation without unreasonable delay, and editors have a responsibility to play their part in this process. Doctors, however, need to have reports available in full detail before they can advise their patients about the reports' conclusions. In addition, media reports of scientific research before the work has been peer reviewed and fully published may lead to the dissemination of inac­curate or premature conclusions.

Editors may find the following recommendations useful as they seek to establish policies on these issues.

1. Editors can foster the orderly transmission of medical information from researchers, through peer reviewed journals, to the public. This can be accom­plished by an agreement with authors that they will not publicise their work while their manuscript is under consideration or awaiting publication, and an agree­ment with the media that they will not release stories before publication in the journal, in return for which the journal will cooperate with them in preparing ac­curate stories (see below).

2. Very little medical research has such clear and urgently important clinical implications for the public's health that the news must be released before full pub­lication in a journal. In such exceptional circumstances, however, appropriate authorities responsible for public health should make the decision and should be re­sponsible for the advance dissemination of information to physicians and the media. If the author and the ap­propriate authorities wish to have a manuscript con­sidered by a particular journal, the editor should be consulted before any public release. If editors accept the need for immediate release, they should waive their policies limiting prepublication publicity.

3. Policies designed to limit prepublication publicity should not apply to accounts in the media of presen­tations at scientific meetings or to the abstracts from these meetings (see Redundant or duplicate publica­tion). Researchers who present their work at a scientific meeting should feel free to discuss their presentations with reporters, but they should be discouraged from offering more detail about their study than was pre­sented in their talk.

4. When an article is soon to be published editors may wish to help the media prepare accurate reports by providing news releases, answering questions, supply­ing advance copies of the journal, or referring reporters to the appropriate experts. This assistance should be contingent on the media's cooperation in timing their release of stories to coincide with the publication of the article.

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Advertising

Most medical journals carry advertising, which gener­ates income for their publishers, but advertising must not be allowed to influence editorial decisions. Editors must have full responsibility for advertising policy. Readers should be able to distinguish readily between advertising and editorial material. The juxtaposition of editorial and advertising material on the same products or subjects should be avoided, and advertising should not be sold on the condition that it will appear in the same issue as a particular article.

A journal should not be dominated by advertising, but editors should be careful about publishing adver­tisements from only one or two advertisers as readers may perceive that the editor has been influenced by these advertisers.

Journals should not carry advertisements for prod­ucts that have proved to be seriously harmful to health - for example, tobacco. Editors should ensure that existing standards for advertisements are enforced or develop their own standards. Finally, editors should consider for publication all criticisms of advertise­ments.

The role of the section "Letters to the Editor"

All biomedical journals should have a section carrying comments, questions, or criticisms about articles they have published and where the original authors can re­spond. Usually, but not necessarily, this may take the form of a correspondence column. The lack of such a section denies readers the possibility of responding to articles in the same journal that published the original work.

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