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Peer Assessment Week 2022: Analysis Integrity

This week (September 19-23) is Peer Assessment Week, and the theme this 12 months is “Analysis integrity: creating and supporting belief in analysis”. It is a matter very near Growth’s coronary heart – as a key journal for the group we recognise the significance in making certain, to the most effective of our skills, that our papers are reliable and we satisfaction ourselves on publishing content material that stands the check of time.

I believed it is likely to be attention-grabbing for readers of the Node to seek out out a bit extra about what we do at Growth to attempt to defend the integrity of the scientific report. You too can hear extra about The Firm of Biologists’ actions on this entrance over on the Firm twitter feed, the place we’re spotlighting a few of our actions and the folks behind them.

Analysis integrity points are available in many flavours, from unreported conflicts of curiosity and authorship disputes by way of to plagiarism and information manipulation. And within the nearly 14 years (wow, can it actually be that lengthy?!) that I’ve been within the publishing enterprise, we’ve seen folks attempting to cheat the system in ever extra elaborate methods – from papermills to faux peer evaluate. It’s profoundly miserable {that a} publication may be so necessary to somebody’s profession that they could go to such lengths to faux one, however by some means that is the world by which we discover ourselves.

Fortuitously, we don’t encounter that many issues at Growth, and people we do can usually be resolved with out an excessive amount of issue (although I’ve been threatened with authorized motion for libel on at the very least two events). So what are the primary sorts of points we do must take care of, and what processes do we now have in place? The overwhelming majority of circumstances we deal with are to do with information presentation – blots which have been cropped, spliced or in any other case altered, photos which can be duplicated between figures and so forth. Usually these are picked up by our in-house acceptance checks. Our manufacturing workforce screens all figures for potential points – each by eye and utilizing the Proofig software program, which picks up full or partial duplications each inside and between determine panels. The place potential points are detected, these are handed on to our ethics workforce (manufacturing editors educated in dealing with ethics circumstances) who talk with the authors to grasp and – hopefully – resolve the issue. Fortuitously, most of those points are the results of trustworthy error on the a part of the authors and may simply be mounted previous to publication. The place the case is extra difficult, that is normally the place I become involved and the place, as applicable, we might have to speak with the authors’ establishment to provoke a wider investigation. We don’t publish papers till we’re as assured as we may be that the information behind them are reliable.

Coping with ethics circumstances at The Firm of Biologists

After all, our processes usually are not good and I’d be mendacity if I pretended that Growth has by no means printed a paper with picture integrity points. Put up-publication, we’re typically alerted to potential issues by readers; we’re grateful for these studies and we do at all times examine . This may, nevertheless, take a very long time, notably the place we’d like the institute to analyze, and it’s not at all times potential to achieve a definitive conclusion on the integrity of the work, particularly in circumstances the place the paper could be very previous and unique data might not nonetheless be accessible. We usually attempt to alert readers to potential issues with a paper even earlier than an investigation has concluded, and – the place issues are confirmed – we then act to appropriate the literature or, in extreme circumstances, to retract a paper.

Whereas information presentation issues signify the majority of the integrity points we now have to deal with, they don’t seem to be the one ones. We additionally display all accepted papers for potential plagiarism utilizing the iThenticate software program – typically, any textual content copying is minor and we are able to work with the authors to make sure that the unique supply is appropriately cited. We sometimes must deal with authorship disputes, although we strive to make sure that authorship is appropriately attributed at an early stage utilizing the CRediT taxonomy and by requiring all authors to substantiate any modifications to authorship which may happen whereas a paper is into consideration with us. Fortuitously, Growth has not been a giant goal for papermill papers, however my colleagues at Biology Open have encountered their justifiable share of papermill submissions and now have rigorous processes in place to attempt to establish and exclude them.

Most of what I’ve outlined above depends on the work of our in-house employees. However this put up was prompted by Peer Assessment Week, so how does peer evaluate assist to make sure analysis integrity? In some circumstances, referees alert us to points resembling potential picture manipulation or inappropriate use of statistics and we’re vastly grateful to our devoted referees who choose up these issues at an early stage within the course of. However extra usually, I might argue that the method of detailed peer evaluate helps to establish potential flaws in and caveats with a paper, and offers authors the chance to deal with these previous to formal publication. I’m not going to say that this course of is something near good, however I do consider that the majority papers are improved by peer evaluate and that the ultimate product is usually extra rigorous, higher managed and therefore extra reliable than the preliminary submission. As we glance to the way forward for publishing and take into account new fashions, it’s price remembering that – given the huge sums of taxpayer and charity cash that go in direction of funding science – we’d like programs in place to make sure analysis is disseminated in a accountable means. Peer evaluate and journal publication is probably not the one option to obtain this, and for positive it has its limitations, however I’ve but to be satisfied that there’s a higher one!

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