Publishing Ethics

This document describes the Royal Society’s position on the major ethical principles of academic publishing.  We are committed to promoting the highest ethical publication practices across all its journals.

  1. 1. Openess

  2. 2 Misconduct

  3. 3 Editorial standards and processes

  4. 4 Research ethics and animal treatment

  5. 5. Intellectual Property

1. Openess

1.1 Source of funding 

The source of funding for a research project or the publication of an article should always be clear.

  • The source of the research funds should be listed on all research papers.  Authors should acknowledge all significant funders of the research pertaining to their article and list all relevant conflicts of interest.
  • Funding for any type of publication, from whatever source, private, government or commercial, should be stated within the publication. This applies to all types of papers (including, for example, research papers, review papers, letters, editorials, commentaries).
  • Other sources of support for publications should be clearly identified in the manuscript, usually in an acknowledgement. For example, these might include funding the article processing charge for an EXiS Open Choice publication, or funding for writing, language editing or editorial assistance.  

1.2 Authorship 

The list of Authors should accurately reflect who carried out the research and who wrote the article.

  • The list of Authors should correspond to the following criteria;  1) substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) final approval of the version to be published. Authors should meet all three of these conditions.
  • All Authors must meet these criteria for authorship and conversely, no-one should be omitted from the list if he/she meets these criteria.
  • We will attempt to resolve any disputes of authorship arising after publication if asked to do so. We may consider publishing a correction should this be deemed appropriate. 

1.3 Dual Publication   

It is important to ensure that research work is only published once. If it is published more than once, the scientific literature can be unjustifiably weighted by the appearance that one study has been replicated. It might also mean that the study is inadvertently entered twice into a meta-analysis, for example, or cause problems in systems which use the number of publications to assess an individual’s or an institute’s research output.

There may be situations (e.g. review  articles) where previously published work can be included in summary form, but it must be made clear to the Editor on submission that this is the case.

  • The submitted work and its essential substance may not previously have been published and may not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.  At the journal’s discretion, articles based on material presented at Royal Society Discussion meetings may be an exception to this.  In such circumstances, the authors must inform The Royal Society that this is the case.
  • If a primary research report is published and later found to be a duplicate (i.e. has been published before), we will contact the Authors and consider publishing a notice of redundant publication.  

1.4 Conflicts of interest 

All Authors and Referees must declare any conflicts of interest relating to a given article.

  • Authors must list all relevant conflicts of interest in the paper.
  • Referees are asked to declare their conflicts of interest when returning their report on a paper.
  • If a member of the editorial team feels a conflict of interest in making a decision on a paper, he/she should return the paper to the office and request that it is transferred to an alternative Editor. 


2 Misconduct

If misconduct is suspected (for example, data fabrication, falsification or plagiarism) journal Editors will act in accordance with the relevant COPE guidelines:  

In cases of suspected misconduct, we will proceed on the following path: 

a)  Referees will be asked to comment on any evidence of scientific misconduct in papers they review 

b)  If we encounter an accusation of plagiarism or dual publication, it will be investigated and verified 

c)  A response will be sought from the Authors. If this is satisfactory and a mistake or misunderstanding has taken place, the matter can be resolved. If not, the following steps will be taken; 

i)  The Editors of all the journals concerned will act together and impose a ban on that individual's publication in their journals for a period, say three years. 

ii)  The Editors will also contact the Author's head of department/employer and their funding body and tell them what has happened. 

iii)  In cases of plagiarism or dual publication, an announcement will be made in both journals explaining the situation, including 'retractions' if work is proven to be fraudulent. 


3 Editorial standards and processes

3.1 Peer-review systems 

We do all we can to ensure the peer-review process is fair and we aim to minimize bias.

  • All papers submitted to Royal Society research journals are peer-reviewed in a single-blind fashion (Author names are not concealed, but Referee names are).
  • For submissions to the Philosophical Transactions journals, the guest Editor of the issue manages the review process and is encouraged to seek at least two Referees for each paper.  Guest Editors produce a report on the review process that each paper has undergone.
  • If discussions between an Author, Editor, and Referee have taken place in confidence they will remain in confidence unless explicit consent has been given by all parties or there are exceptional circumstances.
  • Editors or board members are never involved in editorial decisions about their own work and in these cases papers may be referred to other Editors or the Editor-in-chief.  

3.2 Appeals 

Authors have a right to appeal editorial decisions.

  • The author should submit the grounds for their appeal to the Editor.
  • Following an appeal, all editorial decisions are final.
  • Editors will mediate all exchanges between Authors and Referees during the peer-review process (i.e. prior to publication). If agreement cannot be reached, Editors may consider inviting comments from additional Referee(s) if appropriate. 

3.3 Editorial independence 

Editorial independence is respected.  The content of Royal Society journals is entirely independent to the Society’s views on any scientific or policy issues. The Editor’s decision is final and will not be influenced or compromised in any way by the Society. 

3.4 Standards of Accuracy 

We have a duty to publish corrections when errors could affect the interpretation of data or information, whatever the cause of the error (i.e. arising from author errors (corrigenda) or from editorial mishaps (errata)). Likewise, journals will publish 'retractions' (notification of invalid results) if work is proven to be fraudulent and ‘notices of redundent publication’.

  • Corrections will be published online as a ‘notice of correction’ and will reference the original article (the online version of the original article will be corrected). In addition, the correction (errata or corrigenda, as relevant) will be published at the end of the printed volume.
  • Retractions will be published online as a ‘notice of retraction’ and will reference  the now retracted article. In addition, the retraction will be published at the end of the printed volume.
  • Notices of redundent publication will be published online and reference the duplicate article. In addition, the notice will be published at the end of the printed volume.
  • They should enable the reader to identify and understand the correction in context with the errors made, or should explain why the article is being retracted, or should explain the Editor's concerns about the contents of the article.
  • They will be linked electronically with the original electronic publication, wherever possible.
  • They will be in a form that enables indexing and abstracting services to identify and link corrections and retractions

3.5 Open criticism and debate 

We encourage academic debate and constructive criticism of the research published in our journals.

  • We invite Authors to respond to any editorial correspondence before publication. However, Authors do not have a right to veto unfavorable comments about their work and they may choose not to respond to criticisms. Any appeals must be dealt with according to 3.2 above.
  • No referee comment or published correspondence may contain a personal attack on any of the Authors. Criticism of the work (not the researcher) is encouraged and Editors should edit (or reject) personal or offensive statements.


4 Research ethics and animal treatment

Articles will be accepted only if they are considered ethically sound in the judgement of the Editor. 

  • For experiments involving human subjects, the committee approving the experiments should be identified and the research conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki ( The Authors should confirm that informed consent was obtained from all subjects.
  • All Authors should include details of animal welfare (such as species, number, gender, age, weight, housing conditions, welfare, training and the fate of the animals at the end of the experiment) and steps taken to ameliorate suffering in all published papers that involve non-human primate research.  These details should be included in the Methods section of the article. 
  • Articles describing work with animals will be accepted only if the procedures used are clearly described and conform to the legal requirements of the country in which the work was carried out and to all institutional guidelines.  A brief statement identifying the institutional and/or licensing committee approving the experiments must be included at the end of the article.
  • Research relating to animal behaviour must follow the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour / Animal Behavior Society Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research (published on the Animal Behaviour website), the legal requirements of the country in which the work was carried out, and all institutional guidelines.
  • In addition, Referees are invited to express any ethical concerns regarding animal experimentation, human studies, conservation issues or potential risk of misuse or maltreatment of animals. 


5. Intellectual Property

5.1 Plagiarism, copyright and intellectual property 

All Authors are required to grant us an exclusive publishing license before their work can be published.  This license is available here and also contains the warranty that the work is the author’s original work. 

5.2 Referee conduct and intellectual property 

Authors are entitled to expect that Referees or other individuals privy to the work an Author submits to a journal will not steal their research ideas or plagiarize their work.

  • We require all Referees to treat submitted material in confidence until it has been published.
  • Any allegations of theft or plagiarism must be substantiated and will be treated seriously.
  • We strive to protect Referees from Authors and, even if Referee identities are revealed, will discourage Authors from contacting Referees directly, especially if misconduct is suspected. 


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