Editorial and publishing policies

Click on the section indicated to jump straight to the relevant policy. If your question is not answered below, you are welcome to contact the editorial team.

Submission policies

Submission to the journal is taken to imply that the submitted manuscript has not already been published elsewhere. If similar or related work has been published or submitted elsewhere, then the authors must provide a copy with the submitted article. Authors may not submit elsewhere while the manuscript is under consideration at this journal.

The primary affiliation for each author should be the institution where the majority of their work was done. If an author has subsequently moved, the current address may also be stated. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. 

Prior to publication the corresponding author is alerted when a proof of the paper is ready. Contributors will be able to correct major errors or inaccuracies in the title or author list, but the journal reserves the right to limit the scope of changes.

The journal reserves the right to reject a paper even after it has been accepted if it becomes apparent that there are serious problems with the content or with violations of our publishing policies.

Online submission

Submissions cannot be made by email. All submissions must be made via our online submission system. Authors can upload manuscript files directly and check on the status of their manuscripts during the review process. In addition, reviewers can access the manuscript (in a highly secure fashion that maintains referee anonymity) over a direct internet link, which speeds up the review process.

Guest-edited Collections

The journal publishes Guest-edited Collections comprising original primary research, reviews and comment articles.

All manuscripts judged suitable for a Collection are assessed according to our standard editorial criteria and are subject to the standard journal policies. The standard article processing charge (APC) policy applies.

Manuscripts submitted to an open Collection may be considered unsuitable for inclusion, in particular, if they fall outside the scope of the Collection. In such cases, the authors will be notified by the editorial office and their manuscript can be considered as a regular submission, if applicable.

Collection Editors and Advisory Editors may be called upon to act as peer reviewers or to make editorial decisions on submitted papers provided the journal’s competing interests conditions are met. Where conflicts exist, alternative editors and reviewers are invited to oversee editorial processes.

The journal’s in-house Editors reserve the right to assume responsibility for the management of a Collection at any stage.

Publication costs

The journal uses an open access model, offering free and immediate online access to all articles published. To provide this service, an article-processing charge (APC) is levied for each article accepted for publication (see APC FAQs). The APC is a flat, one-off charge and authors are not faced with additional charges for longer articles or particular numbers of pages, tables or figures.

Details of the current APC pricing can be found here. A waiver and discount policy applies for qualifying authors.  For assistance in locating funding that may be available to you to cover open access publication visit our funding support service page.

Ethics policy

This journal is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics. We expect all prospective authors to read and understand the journal’s editorial and publishing policies before submitting a manuscript to this journal.

All submitted manuscripts are subject to checks using the iThenticate service, in conjunction with CrossCheck, in order to detect instances of overlapping and similar text. The iThenticate software checks submissions against millions of published research papers, documents on the web, and other relevant sources. If plagiarism or misconduct is found, consequences are detailed in the policy.

Additional information on authors’, editors’ and reviewers’ responsibilities is outlined here.

Studies involving human participants

For research involving human participants, authors must identify the committee that approved the research, confirm that all research was performed in accordance with relevant guidelines/regulations, and include in their manuscript (preferably in the Methods, or equivalent, section) a statement confirming that informed consent was obtained from all participants and/or their legal guardians. 

Identifying information

Human participants' names and other HIPAA identifiers must be removed from all sections of the manuscript, including supplementary information. Written informed consent must be obtained for the publication of any other information that could lead to identification of a participant (e.g. images and videos). A statement confirming that informed consent to publish identifying information/images was obtained must be included in the methods section. Identifying images/video/details that authors do not have specific permission to use must be removed from the manuscript. Please note that the use of coloured bars/shapes to obscure the eyes/facial region of study participants is not an acceptable means of anonymisation.

Author responsibilities

Being an author

We do not require all authors of a paper to sign the cover letter upon submission, nor do we impose an order on the list of authors. Submission to the journal is taken to mean that all the listed authors have agreed to all of the contents. The corresponding (submitting) author is responsible for having ensured that this agreement has been reached, and for managing all communication between the journal and all co-authors, before and after publication.

Those listed as authors must satisfy all these 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.

Responsibilities of senior members of multi-group collaborations

The journal assumes that at least one member of each collaboration, usually the most senior member of each submitting group or team, has accepted responsibility for the contributions to the manuscript from that team. This responsibility includes, but is not limited to: (1) ensuring that original data or materials upon which the submission is based is preserved and retrievable for reanalysis; (2) approving data presentation as representative of the original data; and (3) foreseeing and minimising obstacles to the sharing of data or materials described in the work.

Consortia

Inclusion of a consortium in the author list indicates that all members of the consortium have contributed sufficiently to the work to justify authorship status. The consortium name ONLY – not the names of each consortium member – should be included in the main author list in the manuscript (when submitting a manuscript, the consortium name should also be entered as an author in the online submission system, together with the contact details of a nominated consortia representative). In a separate section at the end of the manuscript (after the ‘References’ section) under the heading ‘Consortium’, the names of each consortium member should be listed. Affiliations of consortium members should be indicated by superscript numbers (as per the main author list); consortium affiliations continue numerically from the main author list (and do not duplicate affiliations). Names of individual authors should appear either in the main author list OR in the separate list of consortium members, not in both. See this paper for an example.

If not all members of the consortium have contributed sufficiently to the work to justify authorship status, the name of the consortium should not appear in the main author list. The names of individual consortium members who are authors should appear in the main author list; their consortium membership can be indicated in their affiliation. Non-author consortium members and/or the consortium itself can be acknowledged in the ‘Acknowledgements’ section.

Author contributions

The journal permits the designation of up to six equally contributing authors, up to six joint supervisors, and up to three corresponding authors. Any requests to include more equally contributing, supervising, or corresponding authors are reviewed by the Managing Editor. When applicable, equally contributing and jointly supervising authors should be clearly indicated in the manuscript, using the exact wording: "These authors contributed equally to this work"; "These authors jointly supervised this work". For corresponding authors the following wording should be used: "Corresponding author" followed by "Correspondence to:".

Corresponding author – prepublication responsibilities

The corresponding (submitting) author is solely responsible for communicating with the journal and for managing communication between coauthors. Before submission, the corresponding author ensures that all authors are included in the author list, its order has been agreed by all authors, and that all authors are aware that the paper was submitted.

After acceptance, the proof is sent to the corresponding author, who deals with the journal on behalf of all coauthors; we will not necessarily correct errors after publication if they result from errors that were present on a proof that was not shown to coauthors before publication. The corresponding author is responsible for the accuracy of all content in the proof, in particular that names of coauthors are present and correctly spelled, and that addresses and affiliations are current.

Corresponding author – responsibilities after publication

We regard the corresponding author as the point of contact for queries about the published paper. It is this author's responsibility to inform all coauthors of matters arising and to ensure such matters are dealt with promptly. This author does not have to be the senior author of the paper or the author who actually supplies materials; this author's role is to ensure enquiries are answered promptly on behalf of all the coauthors. The name and e-mail address of this author (on large collaborations there may be two) is published in the paper.

Correcting the record

Authors of published material have a responsibility to inform the publication promptly if they become aware of any part that requires correcting.

A confidential process

We treat the submitted manuscript and all communication with authors and referees as confidential. Authors must also treat communication with the journal as confidential: correspondence with the journal, referee reports and other confidential material must not be posted on any website or otherwise publicised without prior permission from the publishing team, regardless of whether or not the submission is eventually published. Our policies about posting preprints and postprints, and about previous communication of the work at conferences or as part of a personal blog or of an academic thesis, are described in the Confidentiality section.

Referee suggestions

Authors are welcome to suggest suitable independent referees when they submit their manuscripts, but these suggestions may not be used by the journal. Authors may also request that the journal excludes a few (usually not more than two) individuals. The journal sympathetically considers such exclusion requests and usually honours them, but our decision is final.

Competing interests

In the interests of transparency and to help readers to form their own judgements of potential bias, authors must declare any competing financial and/or non-financial interests in relation to the work described.

Definition of a competing interest

For the purposes of this policy, competing interests are defined as financial and non-financial interests that could directly undermine, or be perceived to undermine, the objectivity, integrity and value of a publication, through a potential influence on the judgements and actions of authors with regard to objective data presentation, analysis and interpretation.

Financial competing interests include any of the following:

  • Funding: Research support (including salaries, equipment, supplies, and other expenses) by organizations that may gain or lose financially through this publication. A specific role for the funder in the conceptualization, design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, should be disclosed;
  • Employment: Recent (while engaged in the research project), present or anticipated employment by any organisation that may gain or lose financially through this publication;
  • Personal financial interests: Stocks or shares in companies that may gain or lose financially through publication; consultation fees or other forms of remuneration (including reimbursements for attending symposia) from organizations that may gain or lose financially; patents or patent applications (awarded or pending) filed by the authors or their institutions whose value may be affected by publication. For patents and patent applications, disclosure of the following information is requested: patent applicant (whether author or institution), name of inventor(s), application number, status of application, specific aspect of manuscript covered in patent application.

It is difficult to specify a threshold at which a financial interest become significant, but note that many US universities require faculty members to disclose interests exceeding $10,000 or 5% equity in a company (see, for example, B. Lo et al. New Engl. J. Med. 343, 1616-1620; 2000). Any such figure is necessarily arbitrary, so we offer as one possible practical alternative guideline: "Any undeclared competing financial interests that could embarrass you were they to become publicly known after your work was published."

We do not consider diversified mutual funds or investment trusts to constitute a competing financial interest.

Non-financial competing interests

Non-financial competing interests can take different forms, including personal or professional relations with organisations and individuals. We would encourage authors and referees to declare any unpaid roles or relationships that might have a bearing on the publication process. Examples of non-financial competing interests include (but are not limited to):

  • Unpaid membership in a government or non-governmental organization;
  • Unpaid membership in an advocacy or lobbying organisation;
  • Unpaid advisory position in a commercial organisation;
  • Writing or consulting for an educational company;
  • Acting as an expert witness.

Application to authors

The corresponding author is responsible for submitting a competing interests statement on behalf of all authors of the paper. This statement must be included in the submitted article file, following the 'Author Contributions' section in 'Additional Information', under the heading 'Competing interests'. The corresponding author will also be required to indicate the existence of a competing interest within the submission system.

We recognise that some authors may be bound by confidentiality agreements. In such cases the publishing team will investigate further and may at their discretion invite the authors to state in the online version, in place of itemised disclosure: "The authors declare that they are bound by confidentiality agreements that prevent them from disclosing their financial interests in this work."

We do not require authors to state the monetary value of their financial interests.

Application to peer-reviewers

The journal invites peer-reviewers to exclude themselves in cases where there is a significant conflict of interest, financial or otherwise. However, just as financial interests need not invalidate the conclusions of an article, nor do they automatically disqualify an individual from evaluating it. We ask peer-reviewers to inform the editors of any related interests, including financial interests as defined above, which might be perceived as relevant. Editors will consider these statements when weighing peer-reviewers' recommendations.

Application to Editorial Board members

The journal’s Editorial Board members are required to declare any interests that might influence, or be perceived to influence, their editorial activities. In particular, they should exclude themselves from handling manuscripts in cases where there is a conflict of interest, financial or otherwise. This may include—but is not limited to—having previously published with one or more of the authors, and sharing the same institution as one or more of the authors.

Application to editors

All Springer Nature journal editorial staff are required to declare to their employer any interests—financial or otherwise—that might influence, or be perceived to influence, their editorial practices. Failure to do so is a disciplinary offence.

Confidentiality and pre-publicity

Confidentiality

The journal keeps all details about a submitted manuscript confidential and does not comment to any outside organization about manuscripts that are either under consideration or that have been rejected.

After a manuscript is submitted, correspondence with the journal, referees' reports and other confidential material, regardless of whether or not the submission is eventually published, must not be posted on any website or otherwise publicised without prior permission. The Editorial Board members themselves are not allowed to discuss manuscripts with third parties or to reveal information about correspondence and other interactions with authors and referees.

Referees of manuscripts submitted to the journal undertake in advance to maintain confidentiality of manuscripts and any associated supplementary data.

Pre-publicity

Our policy on the posting of particular versions of the manuscript is as follows:

  • You are welcome to post pre-submission versions or the original submitted version of the manuscript on a personal blog, a collaborative wiki or a recognised preprint server at any time. The website and URL must be identified in the cover letter accompanying submission of the paper;
  • Material in a paper submitted to the journal may also have been published as part of a PhD or other academic thesis;
  • Papers published in the journal are open access and can replace the original submitted version immediately, on publication, as long as a publication reference and URL to the published version on this journal’s website are provided.

The journal supports open communication between researchers, whether on a recognised preprint server, through discussions at research meetings, or via online collaborative sites such as wikis.  Neither conference presentations nor posting on recognised preprint servers constitute prior publication. 

Researchers are welcome to respond to requests from the media in response to a preprint or conference presentation, by providing explanation or clarification of the work, or information about its context. In these circumstances, media coverage will not hinder editorial handling of the submission.

Researchers should be aware that such coverage may reduce or pre-empt coverage by other media at the time of publication. We also advise that researchers approached by reporters in response to a preprint make it clear that the paper has not yet undergone peer review, and that the content is provisional. Details of peer review should be kept confidential.

We believe it important that the final published version of a paper be publicly available when the work is discussed in the media. For that reason, we strongly discourage the direct solicitation of media coverage to appear ahead of publication of the final version of a paper. 

Availability of materials and data

An inherent principle of publication is that others should be able to replicate and build upon the authors' published claims. Therefore, a condition of publication is that authors are required to make materials, data and associated protocols promptly available to readers without undue qualifications. Any restrictions on the availability of materials or information must be disclosed to the publishing team at the time of submission. Any restrictions must also be disclosed in the submitted manuscript, including details of how readers can obtain materials and information. If materials are to be distributed by a for-profit company, this must be stated in the paper.

Supporting data must be made available to the journal and peer-reviewers at the time of submission for the purposes of evaluating the manuscript. Peer-reviewers may be asked to comment on the terms of access to materials, methods and/or datasets; the journal reserves the right to refuse publication in cases where authors do not provide adequate assurances that they can comply with the publication's requirements for sharing materials.

After publication, readers who encounter refusal by the authors to comply with these policies should contact the publishing team. In cases where we are unable to resolve a complaint, the matter may be referred to the authors' institution or funding institution and/or a formal statement of correction may be published, attached online to the publication, stating that readers have been unable to obtain necessary materials to replicate the findings.

All original articles should include a data availability statement. This should, wherever possible, include a link to and citation of any datasets analysed or generated in the study, when these are available in an appropriate public repository.

The preferred way to share datasets is via specialised public repositories, if one exists, or through a general data repository that can assure permanence and unique identification of deposited datasets.

Authors who make their datasets publicly available should use the most broadly supported and recognised repository for their research community. Public repositories that can be used by include:

Repositories for sensitive data that cannot be made public for individual privacy or other legitimate reasons include:

Some of these repositories offer authors the option to host data associated with a manuscript confidentially, and provide anonymous access to peer-reviewers before public release. Some of these repositories coordinate public release of the data with the journal's publication date. This option should be used when possible, but it is the authors' responsibility to communicate with the repository to ensure that public release is made promptly on the publication date. In the unlikely event there is no public repository to accommodate supporting datasets, they must be made available as Supplementary Information files that will be freely accessible on the journal website upon publication. In cases where it is technically impossible for such files to be provided to the journal, the authors must make the data available to the journal and peer-reviewers at submission, and directly upon request to any reader on and after the publication date, the authors providing a URL or other unique identifier in the manuscript.

The journal’s data availability policies are compatible with the standardised research data policies set out by Springer Nature.

Sharing datasets

A condition of publication is that authors are required to make materials, data and associated protocols promptly available to others without preconditions.

Datasets must be made freely available to readers from the date of publication, and must be provided the journal and peer-reviewers at submission, for the purposes of evaluating the manuscript.

Citing datasets

Citing datasets in an equivalent way to citing journal articles and other types of publication helps enable researchers to earn appropriate credit for the collection and publication of datasets. Data citation also makes reuse and verification of scholarly research more efficient, and can help measure the impact and reuse of datasets. We recommend authors cite, in their reference list, any public datasets that are used or produced in any work described, provided the datasets have been assigned a persistent identifier. When citing datasets the format preferred by DataCite should be used, where persistent identifiers, such as digital object identifier (DOI) names, are displayed as linkable, permanent URLs. Visit the references section for more information.

Pre-registration of studies

The journal encourages pre-registration of studies, where appropriate databases exist, as a means of making research more discoverable. Authors who have pre-registered their study in an independent registry (e.g. American Economic Association's registry for randomized controlled trials, Center for Open Science, Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP)  registry, and The Registry for International Development Impact Evaluations) are requested to indicate this clearly in the manuscript, such as in the abstract and an appropriate footnote.

Code sharing

We request that authors, where applicable, make available, to editors and reviewers, any previously unreported custom computer code used to generate results that are reported in the paper and central to its main claims. Upon publication, authors are encouraged to release custom computer code in a way that allows readers to repeat the published results. For all studies using custom code that is deemed central to the conclusions, a statement must be included in the paper (e.g. as a footnote), indicating whether and how the code can be accessed, including any restrictions to access.

Authors may supply code as Supplementary Information files or submit it to the journal’s own repository, hosted by Dataverse, when code must be kept private during peer review. Before final publication, however, authors are encouraged to release their code in a public repository that can assign it a DOI, such as Dataverse or Figshare. In addition, for sufficiently complex software, we recommend using an open version control system (VCS), such as GitHub, in combination with a DOI-providing repository to provide permanent access to a usable instance of code (information on how to archive GitHub code at figshare). Code with an assigned DOI may be formally cited and listed in the References section of the manuscript.

Digital image integrity and standards

All digitised images submitted with the final revision of the manuscript should be 300 DPI if possible.

A certain degree of image processing is acceptable for publication (and for some experiments, fields and techniques is unavoidable), but the final image must correctly represent the original data and conform to community standards. The guidelines below will aid in accurate data presentation at the image processing level; authors must also take care to exercise prudence during data acquisition, where misrepresentation must equally be avoided. Manuscripts should include an 'equipment and settings' section with their Methods that describes for each figure the pertinent instrument settings, acquisition conditions and processing changes, as described in this guide.

  • Authors should list all image acquisition tools and image processing software packages used. Authors should document key image-gathering settings and processing manipulations in the Methods;
  • Images gathered at different times or from different locations should not be combined into a single image, unless it is stated that the resultant image is a product of time-averaged data or a time-lapse sequence. If juxtaposing images is essential, the borders should be clearly demarcated in the figure and described in the legend;
  • The use of touch-up tools, such as cloning and healing tools in Photoshop, or any feature that deliberately obscures manipulations, is to be avoided;
  • Processing (such as changing brightness and contrast) is appropriate only when it is applied equally across the entire image and is applied equally to controls. Contrast should not be adjusted so that data disappear. Excessive manipulations, such as processing to emphasise one region in the image at the expense of others (for example, through the use of a biased choice of threshold settings), is inappropriate, as is emphasizing experimental data relative to the control.

When submitting revised final figures upon conditional acceptance, authors may be asked to submit original, unprocessed images.

Corrections and retractions

The journal operates the following policy for making corrections to its peer-reviewed content.

Publishable amendments must be represented by a formal online notice because they affect the publication record and/or the scientific accuracy of published information. Where these amendments concern peer-reviewed material, they fall into the following categories:

Publisher Corrections (formerly Errata) concern the amendment of mistakes introduced by the journal in production, including errors of omission such as failure to make factual proof corrections requested by authors within the deadline provided by the journal and within journal policy. Publisher Corrections are generally not published for simple, obvious typographical errors, but are published when an apparently simple error is significant (e.g. a greek mu for an ‘m' in a unit, or a typographical error in the corresponding author's name).

If there is an error in the lettering on a figure, the usual procedure is to publish a sentence of rectification. A significant error in the figure itself is corrected by publication of a new corrected figure as a Publisher Correction. The figure is republished only if the Editors consider it necessary for a reader to understand it.

Author Corrections (formerly Corrigenda) are judged on their relevance to readers and their importance for the published record. Author Corrections are published after discussion among the Editorial Board Members, Editorial Advisory Panel and the publishing team. All co-authors must sign an agreed wording.

Author Corrections submitted by the original authors are published if the academic accuracy or reproducibility of the original paper is compromised; occasionally, on investigation, these may be published as Retractions. In cases where some co-authors decline to sign an Author Correction or Retraction, we reserve the right to publish it with the dissenting author(s) identified. The journal publishes Author Corrections if there is an error in the published author list, but not for overlooked acknowledgements.

Readers wishing to draw the journal's attention to a significant published error should contact the publishing team.

Retractions are judged according to whether the main conclusion of the paper no longer holds or is seriously undermined as a result of subsequent information coming to light of which the authors were not aware at the time of publication. In the case of experimental papers, this can include further experiments by the authors or by others that do not confirm the main experimental conclusion of the original publication. Readers wishing to draw the Editors’ attention to published work requiring retraction should first contact the authors of the original paper and then write to the publishing team, including copies of the correspondence with the authors (whether or not the correspondence has been answered). The publishing team and Editorial Board Member will seek advice from referees if they judge that the information is likely to draw into question the main conclusions of the published paper.

Addenda (singular: Addendum) are notifications of additional information about a paper, usually in response to readers' requests for clarification. Addenda, including Editorial Expressions of Concern, are published when the in-house editors decide that the addendum is crucial to the reader's understanding of a significant part of the published contribution.

Editorial decision-making

Decisions about types of correction are made by the journal's in-house editors, sometimes with the advice of referees, Editorial Board members. This process involves consultation with the authors of the paper, but the in-house editors make the final decision about whether an amendment is required and the category in which the amendment is published.

When an amendment is published, it is linked bi-directionally to and from the article being corrected.

Authors sometimes request a correction to their published contribution that does not affect the contribution in a significant way or impair the reader's understanding of the contribution (e.g. a spelling mistake or grammatical error). The journal does not publish such corrections. The online article is part of the published record and hence its original published version is preserved. The journal does, however, correct the online version of a contribution if the wording in the html version does not make sense when compared with the PDF version (e.g. 'see left' for a figure that is an appropriate phrase for the PDF but not for the html version). In these cases, the fact that a correction has been made is stated in a footnote so that readers are aware that the originally published text has been amended.

Supplementary information

Author Corrections to Supplementary Information (SI) are made only in exceptional circumstances (e.g. major errors that compromise the conclusion of the study). Published corrections to SI are usually linked to the Author Correction statement. Authors cannot update SI because new data have become available or interpretations have changed, as the SI is a peer-reviewed and integral part of the paper, and hence part of the published record.

SI cannot be amended between acceptance and publication unless a change made for technical reasons by the journal in order to publish the material on the website has introduced a significant error.

We do not require authors to assign copyright of their published original research papers to the journal. Articles are published under a CC BY license (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License), which allows for maximum dissemination and re-use of open access materials and is preferred by many research funding bodies. Under this license users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit) and remix (adapt) the contribution including for commercial purposes, providing they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor (read full legal code).

Visit our open research site for more information about Creative Commons licensing.

Embargo policy and press releases

Material submitted to the journal should not be discussed with the media, except in the case of accepted contributions, which can be discussed with the media only once an embargo date has been set and agreed.

Papers that are deemed especially newsworthy may be selected by our communications department for a press release. Journalists are encouraged to read the full version of any papers they wish to cover, and are given names and contact details of corresponding authors. Authors are, therefore, made aware that they may receive calls or emails from the media after a press release has been sent out. Authors whose papers are scheduled for publication may also arrange their own publicity (for instance through their institutional press offices), but they must adhere to our media embargo and are advised to coordinate their own publicity with our communications department.

For questions please contact Anne Korn.  

Duplicate publication

Material submitted to the journal must be original and not published or submitted for publication elsewhere. This rule applies to material submitted elsewhere simultaneously.

Authors submitting a contribution to the journal who have related material under consideration or in press elsewhere should upload a clearly marked copy at the time of submission, and draw attention to it in their cover letter. Authors must disclose any such information while their contributions are under consideration by the journal–for example, if they submit a related manuscript elsewhere that was not written at the time of the submission under consider by this journal.

If part of a contribution that an author wishes to submit has appeared or will appear elsewhere, the author must specify the details in the covering letter accompanying the submission. Consideration by this journal is possible if the main result, conclusion, or implications are not apparent from the other work, or if there are other factors, for example if the other work is published in a language other than English.

We are happy to consider submissions containing material that has previously formed part of a PhD or other academic thesis, which has been published according to the requirements of the institution awarding the qualification.

We allow and encourage prior publication on recognised community preprint servers for review by other academics in the field before formal submission to a journal. The details of the preprint server concerned and any accession numbers should be included in the cover letter accompanying submission of the manuscript.

We are happy to consider submissions containing material that has previously formed, and continues to form, part of an online academic collaboration such as a wiki or blog.

If an author of a submission is re-using a figure or figures published elsewhere, or that is copyrighted, the author must provide documentation that the previous publisher or copyright holder has given permission for the figure to be re-published. We consider all material in good faith and that the publication has full permission to publish every part of the submitted material, including any illustrations.

Plagiarism and fabrication

Plagiarism is unacknowledged copying or an attempt to misattribute original authorship, whether of ideas or text. As defined by the ORI (Office of Research Integrity), plagiarism can include, “theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another's work”. Plagiarism can be said to have clearly occurred when large chunks of text have been cut-and-pasted without appropriate and unambiguous attribution. Such manuscripts would not be considered for publication in this journal. Aside from wholesale verbatim re-use of text, due care must be taken to ensure appropriate attribution and citation when paraphrasing and summarising the work of others. 'Text recycling' or re-use of parts of text from an author’s previous research publication is a form of self-plagiarism. Here, too, due caution must be exercised. When re-using text, whether from the author's own publication or that of others, appropriate attribution and citation is necessary to avoid creating a misleading perception of unique contribution for the reader.    

Duplicate publication occurs when an author re-uses substantial parts of his or her own published work without providing the appropriate references. This can range from getting an identical paper published in multiple journals, to 'salami-slicing', where authors add small amounts of new data to a previous paper.  

The journal’s Editors and Editorial Board members assess all such cases on their individual merits. When plagiarism becomes evident post-publication, we may correct or retract the original publication depending on the degree of plagiarism, context within the published article and its impact on the overall integrity of the published study.

We are part of CrossCheck, an initiative to help editors verify the originality of submitted manuscripts. As part of this process, the journal editors spot check submitted manuscripts to be scanned and compared with the CrossCheck database.

Due credit for others' work

Discussion of unpublished work: Manuscripts are sent out for review on the condition that any unpublished data cited within are properly credited and the appropriate permission has been sought. Where licensed data are cited, authors must include at submission a written assurance that they are complying with originators' data-licensing agreements.

Referees are encouraged to be alert to the use of appropriated unpublished data from databases or from any other source, and to inform the journal of any concerns they may have.

Discussion of published work: When discussing the published work of others, authors must properly describe the contribution of the earlier work. Both intellectual contributions and technical developments must be acknowledged as such and appropriately cited.

Appeals

Even in cases where the journal does not invite resubmission of a manuscript, some authors may ask the journal to reconsider a rejection decision. Only one appeal is permitted for each manuscript, and appeals can only take place after peer review. Final decisions on appeals will be made by the Editor.

Additional information can be found in the peer review policies section.