Resources for journal editors

Resources Journal Editors

What do editors do?

Biomedical journal editors are recruited, hired, sign contracts and get paid. But what do they actually do?  How does an Editor in Chief learn how to do their job effectively?  What are the metrics that measure improvement?  The Resources for Editors webpage was developed by editors for editors, as a resource for all current and prospective journal editors. 

One of the best examples of the roles and responsibilities of a biomedical journal editor is on The BMJ website.  Click on the link below to see more detail on each of the topics below. 

  • Overview
  • Ambassadorship
  • Strategy and Budget
  • Editorial Board
  • Ethical Duties and Responsibilities 
  • Publication Team
  • Complaints and Concerns

COPE is the Committee on Publication Ethics. New editors should get familiar with the COPE website and guidelines. Experienced editors follow COPE guidelines when investigating expressions of concern for a potential retraction. COPE helps editors determine difference between honest error, naivety of the rules, or blatant misconduct.

  • Visit ICJME for Roles and Responsibilities of Authors, Contributors, Reviewers, Editors, Publisher, and Owners:
    • Defining the role of authors and contributors
    • Disclosure of financial and non-financial relationships and activities, and conflicts of interest
    • Responsibilities in the submission and peer review process  
    • Journal owners, society leaders, and editorial freedom 
    • Protection of research participants 

What are paper mills?

Paper mills, defined by COPE are organisations that prepare manuscripts and seek to sell them. In some cases, they sell the authorship before publication, they then handle the submission and the peer review process. Other organisations sell the authorship after the manuscript has been accepted for publication in a legitimate scientific journal. When this scenario occurs, the organisation includes the author or authors who bought the authorship on the list of named authors, which amounts to a (sometimes total) change in authorship.  

COPE: Potential Paper Mills and what to do about them. A publishers perspective: 

Publishers use tools and software such as iThenticate to spot plagiarism, self plagiarism and paper mill generated papers.  See: Checking for plagiarism and paper mills with Content Review.

Retraction Watch is a database of retracted papers managed by the Center for Scientific Integrity. The mission of the Center for Scientific Integrity, is to promote transparency and integrity in science and scientific publishing, and to disseminate best practices and increase efficiency in science.See: Revealed: The inner workings of a paper mill

The Scholarly Kitchen is the official blog of the Society of Scholarly Publishing. See: Guest Post — Addressing Paper Mills and a Way Forward for Journal Security

Where are paper mills located? See: Candal-Pedreira C, Ross J S, Ruano-Ravina A, Egilman D S, Fernández E, Pérez-Ríos M et al. Retracted papers originating from paper mills: cross sectional study BMJ 2022; 379 :e071517 doi:10.1136/bmj-2022-071517 

Authorship criteria: Who should be listed on a paper?

Authorship confers credit and has important academic, social, and financial implications. Authorship also implies responsibility and accountability for published work.

The ICMJE recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

In addition to being accountable for the parts of the work he or she has done, an author should be able to identify which co-authors are responsible for specific other parts of the work. In addition, authors should have confidence in the integrity of the contributions of their co-authors.  For more information on authorship, see the ICMJE guidelines on authorship:

What if I have an ethical problem?

  • COPE Members can bring specific (anonymized) publication ethics issues to the COPE Forum for discussion and advice. More than 650 cases are archived on the COPE website.  Topics include:
    • Allegations of misconduct 
    • Authorship and Contributorship
    • Conflicts of Interest/Competing Interest
    • Complaints and Appeals
    • Data and reproducability 
    • Ethical oversight
    • Intellectual property 
    • Journal Management
    • Peer review process
    • Post Publication discussions and corrections