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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Editorial duty and misconduct - keeping an eye

P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Veer Savarkar Marg, Mahim, Mumbai 400 016, India

Correspondence Address:
Barun K Nayak
P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Veer Savarkar Marg, Mahim, Mumbai 400 016
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0301-4738.21606

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How to cite this article:
Nayak BK. Editorial duty and misconduct - keeping an eye. Indian J Ophthalmol 2006;54:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Nayak BK. Editorial duty and misconduct - keeping an eye. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2006 [cited 2021 Feb 27];54:1-2. Available from: https://www.ijo.in/text.asp?2006/54/1/1/21606

An editor of a biomedical journal has to perform an important and responsible duty of disseminating the latest scientific developments to the rest of the world. Although the reviewers and editorial board members do guide the editor in the publication matters, it is the editor who ultimately has to ensure the quality and relevance of the published material. The previous editorials have highlighted some of the possible misconduct at the hands of reviewers[1] as well as authors.[2] However, misconduct by the editors is also not unknown, and should be kept under vigil. The purpose of this editorial is to provoke a thought-process in the reader's mind regarding the editorial complexity.

The role of the editor is to ensure accuracy of the material published for which he has to rely on the authors as well as an efficient review process. Whenever an inaccuracy is detected before a research is published it can be rectified or the manuscript can be rejected, however, if the same is detected after publication, it should be notified immediately in the journal with due prominence. If the inaccuracy is of a fraudulent nature, with major flaws the article should be retracted promptly, with the word "RETRACTION" used in the title, so that it is picked up by the indexing system, as well. All the cogent and critical response to any published article should be published in the form of a 'Letter to Editor', unless the editors have a convincing reason for not doing so. Considering the limited space available in the print journal, the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology (IJO) has created an option for unrestricted, unlimited and unedited response on the website (www.ijo.in) towards any article.

Ethical issues are next in line to the editor. Though it is mandatory for the authors to submit the ethical clearance or approval by the ethics committee for any research work, it is still the responsibility of the editor to check out, if any, unethical work is submitted for publication. Editors should also protect the confidentiality of information obtained due to doctor-patient relationship. A written consent from the patients is mandatory, if the confidentiality is likely to get broken.

The disclosure of conflicting interests of the authors is of paramount importance and is published along with the article, but any one else's (involved in the processing of a manuscript)disclosure of conflicting interests should be obtained by the editor and is kept in the editor's office, on record. The journal needs finance to run the publication. However, any financial consideration for acceptance of any manuscript should also be viewed as misconduct.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has published a draft code of conduct for medical editors,[3] wherein the editor is duty bound to pursue adequate proper enquiry in cases of any reported misconduct. Usually editors are the first one to have information about any misconduct by all those involved in the course of publication of any article. Failure to scrutinize and investigate may be considered as a shortcoming on the editor's part.

It is worth mentioning a few interesting instances wherein the editors have been pulled up for serious malfunctioning. Antonio Arnaiz-Villena, a guest editor for Human Immunology , was invited to edit a theme issue on anthropology and genetic markers. The problem arose when the words and phrases in the article seemed political and he was fired.[4] Another case of interest is that of Malcolm Pearce, assistant editor of the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, under whom two fraudulent papers were published in one issue. It was also noted that Geoffrey Chamberlain, the editor, was a co-author in one of the two papers published.[5] Serious professional misconduct was levelled against Pearce which lead to resignation of Chamberlain. Yet another case, of George Lundberg who was sacked as the editor of Journal of American Medical Association, for speedy processing for the publication of an article that concluded that American students did not view oral sex as sex.[6] The timing of the study was found relevant as Bill Clinton, the then President of United States of America was to be impeached. Lastly I would like to cite the very famous case[7] where an aggrieved author complained to the World Association of Medical Editors' (WAME's) ethics committee about how the then newly appointed editor of, British Medical Journal (BMJ), Richard Smith, decided not to publish a previously accepted paper for lack of space in the print and also because there was a long line of pending articles to be published. The WAME's members, as well as those following the case on the web, unanimously felt that the editor's decision was inappropriate and ultimately the BMJ published the article.

The editors are expected to be courteous and quick in their response. Intentional delay in processing of an article is not acceptable. Bias of any nature cropping up in the editorial decision should be considered as misconduct. Harassment of any kind to the authors should be avoided.

There has to be proper redressal of all complaints to the editorial office. Some of the journals, like Lancet and Canadian Medical Association Journal, have taken a bold step and appointed an Ombudsperson for further redressal, if the redressal by the editorial office is not found to be satisfactory. However, there are inherent merits and demerits in this system which have been briefly discussed by Horton.[8] The Indian journal of Pharmacology is the first Indian biomedical journal to appoint an Ombudsperson in 2001,[9] however in the next three years he had to be active only once.

It can be concluded with this editorial that even the editor's conduct and action can be subjected to scrutiny, if a need arises. I would like to take this opportunity to assure the readers of the IJO that should such a situation arise, the editorial office would not lag behind in proceeding further in this direction.

  References Top

Nayak BK. The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Peer-review Process. Indian J Ophthalmol 2005;53:153-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
Nayak BK, Moreker S, Pawar D. ABC of Authorship: Aims, Banes and Credits. Indian J Ophthalmol 2005;53:223-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
Committee on Publication Ethics. Guidelines on good publication practice.http://www. publicationethics.org.uk/reports/1999/index_html (accessed 28 February 2006)  Back to cited text no. 3
Shashock K. Pitfalls of editorial miscommunication. BMJ 2003;326:1262-4.  Back to cited text no. 4
Lock S. Lessons from the Pearce affair: handling scientific fraud. BMJ 1995;310:1547-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
Smith R. The firing of brother George. The AMA has damaged itself by sacking JAMA's editor. BMJ 1999;318:210.  Back to cited text no. 6
Goldee F. Dealing with editorial misconduct. BMJ 2004;329:1301-2.  Back to cited text no. 7
Horton R. The journal ombudsperson: a step toward scientific press oversight. JAMA 1998;280:298-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
Satyanarayan K. The role of the Ombudsman in biomedical journals. J Postgrad Med 2002;48:292-6  Back to cited text no. 9


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