Handbook for Research
Section III: Guidelines for Reporting Research Results

Articles in Scientific Journals

1. Contents

Scientific advances depend on the dissemination of new research results. Although the peer review system guards against substandard publication practices, such review is inevitably imperfect and many publications are not peer reviewed. Therefore, researchers themselves bear the major responsibility for proper scientific reporting. Experimental results should be published only after they are firmly verified, and should be presented with sufficient information for the findings to be reproduced. The text must clearly distinguish interpretations from facts and speculations from experimentally supported theories. Adherence to proper practices does not preclude the possibility of the occasional, unintended reporting of misinformation. In such instances, the author(s) must be prepared to publish a timely correction of the error or to withdraw the article.

Practices which, though not fraudulent, are unacceptable include: dividing the results of the same piece of work into an inappropriately large number of papers, and repetitive publication of essentially the same data. These practices entail multiple indexing and abstracting which, in addition to wasting resources, can cause readers to misjudge the evidential value of the data presented. For example, if results of a drug test on the same 10 patients are reported in three different papers, then a literature search may give the misleading impression that 30 (rather than 10) cases had been studied.

2. Citations

Scientific discoveries are made in a continuum where the author's achievement is made possible by the findings and ideas of other researchers. It is thus an ethical and professional obligation to provide references that place the new piece of work in its historical context and acknowledge those who made previous contributions. Citations also direct the reader to additional sources of information, and help future workers track down discrepancies or assess the direction in which scientific thought and technology are developing.

Plagiarism includes:

  • The verbatim copying, without quotation marks and attribution, or unreferenced paraphrasing of another's text.
  • Failure to give formal credit to ideas, methods, data or diagrams taken from another publication, even of one's own work.

While neglecting to acknowledge unpublished sources of ideas, methods, etc., is not a direct act of plagiarism, credit should be given to individuals whose lectures, lecture notes, computer programs, or discussions at scientific meetings have significantly benefitted the author's work.

3. Authorship

Scientific studies necessarily require the collaboration of individuals with different specialties and roles in the research process. A question that frequently arises, therefore, is: who qualifies as an author of a research article? Participants in a given research project should discuss authorship before preparing a manuscript. This is particularly important if the project involves collaboration with investigators from other departments or institutions or the participation of more than one faculty member or trainee.

The Icahn School of Medicine adheres to the guidelines on authorship defined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. The guidelines were agreed to by over 400 journals and were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 324, 424-428, 1991. These guidelines read:

"Authorship

All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship. The order of authorship should be a joint decision of the coauthors. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content.

Authorship credit should be based only on substantial contributions to (a) conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data; and to (b) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and on (c) final approval of the version to be published. Conditions (a), (b), and (c) must all be met. Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship. General supervision of the research group is also not sufficient for authorship. Any part of an article critical to its main conclusions must be the responsibility of at least one author.

Acknowledgments

At an appropriate place in the article (title-page footnote or appendix to the text; see journal's requirement) one or more statements should specify (a) contributions that need acknowledging but do not justify authorship,such as general support by a departmental chairman; (b) acknowledgments of technical help; (c) acknowledgments of financial or material support, specifying the nature of the support; (d) financial relationships that may pose a conflict of interest.

Persons who have contributed intellectually to the paper but whose contributions do not justify authorship may be named and their function or contribution described - for example, 'scientific adviser', 'critical review of study proposal', 'data collection,' or 'participation in clinical trial'. Such persons must have given their permission to be named. Authors are responsible for obtaining written permission from persons acknowledged by name, because readers may infer their endorsement of the data and conclusions.

Technical help should be acknowledged in a paragraph separate from those acknowledging other contributions."