Research & publishing ethics
Find out more about publication ethics and our policies.
Emerald Publishing and our editors are fully committed to ethical publication practice. We act in accordance with the principles outlined by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and support the development, and practical application, of consistent ethical standards throughout the scholarly publishing community.
- Summary of our research & publishing ethics
- Ethics issues
- Our promise
- Get in touch
Summary of our research & publishing ethics
You should only submit your research to us if the following conditions apply:
- The research has been conducted with the highest standards of rigour and integrity.
- The article/chapter/book/case study is original.
- The work has not been submitted elsewhere and is not under consideration with any other publication. See our preprint and conference paper policies for exceptions.
- The work does not include libellous, defamatory or unlawful statements.
- Permission has been cleared for any third-party material included.
- Proof of consent has been obtained for any named individuals or organisations.
- Authorship has been agreed prior to submission and no one has been ‘gifted’ authorship or denied credit as an author (ghost authorship).
If your research is published and we find that any of these conditions have not been met, we may take action in line with the COPE guidelines, which may result in one of the following correction notices, or we may remove or retract the article or book chapter from our database. For legal reasons, or when an article or chapter forms evidence in an independent hearing, we may not be able to take action until all matters have been fully resolved.
We can only accept submissions featuring clinical trials if the following applies:
- The trial is registered in a publicly-accessible database. This must have been done prior to the start of the trial or enrolment of the participants. Examples of publicly-accessible databases include these sites by the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization. When submitting your work to Emerald, please include the name of your trial register and your clinical trial registration number.
- You can demonstrate you obtained clearance from your institutional ethics board for the trial.
When it comes to listing the authors of your paper, we understand that it can be tempting to include everyone who has assisted you in your work. It’s also easy to forget someone who may have been involved at the very start of the process.
Authorship issues vary, but include:
- Ghost authorship – exclusion of a contributor from the list of authors.
- Gift/guest authorship – Inclusion of someone who hasn’t contributed to the paper, or who has chosen not to be associated with the research.
- Disputes over the order of the authors and the level of contribution that each has made to the paper.
These issues can overshadow your work, and potentially lead to retractions, so it’s important to agree authorship prior to submitting your paper.
At Emerald, we subscribe to the authorship principles outlined by the International Council of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). These state that for someone to be considered an author, they must have:
- Made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
- Drafted the work or revised it critically for important intellectual content; AND
- Given final approval of the version to be published; AND
- Agreed 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.
If an individual is solely responsible for obtaining the research grant that funded the research, this does not constitute authorship. If a contributor does not meet all four of the ICMJE criteria, they should be included in the acknowledgements instead.
Any authors listed should be able to identify which co-author wrote which section of the paper and have full confidence in the integrity of their co-author’s work.
If you have any doubts about meeting the above criteria, please discuss these with your co-authors or with your institution’s Research Integrity Officer, prior to submission.
When authorship disputes arise, we always try to help the parties involved reach an agreement. However, as it relates to the research stage, it’s not possible for us or our editors to comment on the level of contribution by each author. Please refer to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) website for the processes we follow.
If your article has a medical focus and there is a human subject involved, you must obtain clearance from your institutional ethics board and confirm recognised standards (for example the Declaration of Helsinki) have been followed to minimise harm to the individuals taking part.
Citations and referencing are important when writing any research, however, researchers should be mindful of the following behaviours:
Authors should not indulge in excessive self-citations of their own previously published works. Included citations must be relevant, add value to the article, and should not be included just to increase the citation score of that author.
If discussing methodologies or literature reviews, authors should keep their self-citations to a minimum.
During the peer-review process, you may be referred to papers the reviewer believes can further develop and improve your ideas. While there may be legitimate reasons to reference other publications, 'coercive citation' is unethical (this is where a reference is included as a condition of acceptance or without academic justification).
We are an advocate of both author freedom and editorial independence. If you feel you have been pressured to include a particular reference in your article, or that an editor is unclear on best ethical practice, please contact us on [email protected]
'Citation pushing' is where an author includes superfluous or irrelevant references with the intention of boosting another specific individual’s citation score; this often occurs amongst groups of individuals who aim to boost each other’s citation scores. This kind of behaviour is monitored across all of our publications.
Emerald takes this behaviour very seriously and will act in accordance with the guidelines set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics, including escalation to the author’s institution as appropriate.
Animals in research
If your research involves animals, we expect you to follow the 3R principles:
- Replacement of animals in research, wherever possible
- Reduction of animal use, i.e. minimising the number involved
- Refinement: Improving the welfare of any animals you work with.
You will be asked to provide a statement confirming that your study received institutional and national ethical approval and followed all relevant guidelines and regulations. For example, the study should comply with the ARRIVE guidelines and the following, depending on the location of the research:
- UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (SI 2012/3039)
- EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes
- US Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and, as applicable, the Animal Welfare Act.
You are required to obtain written proof of consent for studies about named organisations or people before you submit your work.
If inaccurate, unsubstantiated or emotive statements are made about organisations or people in a submission, we may ask you to change the text, or reject the work prior to publication.
Critiques and reviews of products and services are acceptable, but comments must be constructive and not malicious. If statements made in work published by Emerald are found to be defamatory, a retraction notice will be published. In some cases, and when legally required, the paper will be withdrawn from the online version of the journal or book.
We advise all authors of case studies to inform the subject (person or organisation) and to seek their consent. If we think the study is potentially libellous or contains sensitive information, we will require written proof of consent before placing the paper in the production process.
The content you submit to a publisher should be based on your own research and expressed in your own words. If it isn’t, that could be considered plagiarism. Emerald editors have access to the plagiarism detection service Crossref Similarity Check, which compares submissions against a database of 49 million works from 800 scholarly publishers. This, combined with our knowledgeable reviewers and editors, means it’s increasingly hard for plagiarised work to go unnoticed. There are various forms plagiarism can take.
An exact copy of, or a significant passage or section of text taken from, another person's work without acknowledgement, references or use of quotation marks.
More than one sentence within a paragraph or section of text has been changed, or sentences have been rearranged, without appropriate attribution. Significant improper paraphrasing without appropriate attribution is treated seriously as verbatim copying.
Re-using parts of a work without attribution
For example, using a figure, table or paragraph without acknowledgement, references or the use of quotation marks. It is your responsibility as the author to obtain the necessary permissions from the copyright holder. See our guide to obtaining permissions
Self-plagiarism or text recycling
You are expected to submit original content to Emerald publications. Research should only be repeated if it leads to different or new conclusions, or you want to compare it with new data. If any element of your latest submission has been published previously, you must ensure that the original work is fully referenced and make this clear to the editor or publisher at the point of submission. Find out more on our pre-print and conference paper policies page
Handling allegations of plagiarism
A plagiarism allegation can have a serious negative effect on a researcher's career. If we are approached by a third party with an allegation of plagiarism, we always seek a response from the original author(s) or copyright holder(s) before we decide on a course of action. We remain unbiased and will not be influenced by other parties. All allegations will be handled in accordance with the COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) guidelines.
We are not obliged to discuss individual cases of alleged plagiarism with third parties. And, we reserve the right not to proceed with a case if the complainant presents a false name or affiliation or acts in an inappropriate or threatening manner towards Emerald editors and staff.
If you are concerned about plagiarism or want to know more about our approach to handling allegations of misconduct, please get in touch.
To fabricate or manipulate data is fundamentally wrong and a breach of research integrity. We may review data or request the original data files. If there is reason to suspect that the data is not plausible, we reserve the right to reject that paper, and to notify your institution, as appropriate.
Also known as dual publication. Any work you submit to us must be original and previously unpublished. It is unacceptable academic practice to submit to more than one journal at the same time – you are expected to wait until receiving a decision from one journal before submitting to the next.
Figure or image manipulation
Image manipulation falls into two categories:
- Inappropriate manipulation: the adjustment of an image or figure, which violates established research guidelines, but does not impact the interpretation of the data shown.
- Fraudulent manipulation: the deliberate adjustment or manipulation of an image or figure to affect the interpretation of the data.
Manipulation may include the addition or removal of elements from a figure, or adjustments to image formatting designed to obscure or highlight a particular result.
Images or figures submitted to Emerald journals should be minimally processed. We may screen images and if there is evidence of potential manipulation, editors will request the original data. If intentional manipulation is found, we reserve the right to reject the paper and contact your institution, as per the COPE guidelines.
As all research is conducted prior to the work being submitted to Emerald, it is not possible for us or the editors to adjudicate in all cases. We will try to help the parties involved reach a resolution and will refer the matter to the authors' institutions, if appropriate. Please refer to the relevant COPE flowcharts for further details on the processes we follow.
You should cite any previous publication or presentation of the ideas featured in your current submission. This includes conference papers, workshop presentations and listserv communications. This ensures that a complete history of the work is documented.
References to other publications should be in Harvard style for Emerald journals – you will find further details in your chosen journal’s author guidelines. All references should be carefully checked for completeness, accuracy and consistency.
Conflicts of interest
Authors, reviewers and editors all have a duty to report possible conflicts of interest. In the case of authors, you should declare anything that may have influenced your research or could influence the review process or the publication of your article. If you are unsure whether it’s a conflict of interest, always check with the editor or publisher ahead of submission.
Possible conflicts of interest include:
- A prior relationship between author and editor.
- A financial or personal interest in the outcomes of the research.
- Undisclosed financial support for the research by an interested third party.
- A financial or personal interest in the suppression of the research.
- A pending patent.
When submitting your work, you should include a note providing the background to any financial support for the research from third parties and highlight any other possible conflict of interest.
If you are concerned the editor or reviewer handling your submission might have a conflict of interest, please let the journal publisher or book commissioning editor at Emerald know. In all cases, we will follow the COPE guidelines. If we find there is a conflict of interest, the editor or reviewer will no longer be involved with your manuscript.
Emerald appreciates that there are times when things can go wrong and wants to give authors the opportunity to tell us when things haven’t gone quite right.
When you make a complaint, Emerald will treat you professionally with respect, and in return, we would request that you treat Emerald staff with the same courtesy. Any abuse or harassment of Emerald staff or editorial teams will not be tolerated, and your complaint may no longer be considered.
Complaint about an editorial decision
Emerald supports editorial independence and will not comment on the decision made by a journal editor, unless there is evidence the article was not handled in accordance with best practice.
If your article has been rejected and you believe there are grounds to appeal the decision, such as new evidence or a reviewer’s misunderstanding of your article, you may appeal the editorial decision.
To do this, you must follow the following process:
- The complaint must be submitted in writing to the Editor of the journal;
- The complaint will be considered by the journal editorial team;
- The complaint will be acknowledged within 10 days of receipt and we aim to resolve it within 60 days;
- The decision will be in writing and will be final. You may not appeal more than once about the same article.
Complaint about the editorial management of a journal
Should you have a complaint about the editorial management of the journal, such as you believe the journal process has been compromised or an editorial stakeholder has a conflict of interest, please contact [email protected]
Emerald promises that your complaint will be handled in confidence and we will review the complaint objectively.
We will aim to be transparent in all of our correspondence and to keep you informed as we handle the complaint. There may be times where we unable to comment if something is subject to legal dispute. We will aim to acknowledge your email within 10 days of receipt.
Whenever a research or publishing ethics issue arises, we promise to:
- Act professionally and efficiently.
- Be fair and objective.
- Always approach the accused party to establish their position before making a decision or committing to a course of action.
- Ensure that we provide sufficient time for all parties to respond.
- Keep all parties informed of decisions, including the copyright owners, editors and authors.
- As members of the Committee on Publication Ethics, follow the processes highlighted in the flowcharts presented by COPE.
- Protect authors' moral rights (to be acknowledged as the author and not to be misrepresented) and to ensure the correct record of the literature.
We reserve the right to withdraw and rescind any acceptance should a case of ethical misconduct be discovered prior to publication.