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RESPONSIBLE SCIENCE: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process
of the importance of giving credit to the accomplishments of others are the same. The use of ideas or information obtained from peer review is not acceptable because the reviewer is in a privileged position. Some organizations, such as the American Chemical Society, have adopted policies to address these concerns (ACS, 1986).
Additional Concerns. Other problems related to authorship include overspecialization, overemphasis on short-term projects, and the organization of research communication around the “least publishable unit.” In a research system that rewards quantity at the expense of quality and favors speed over attention to detail (the effects of “publish or perish”), scientists who wait until their research data are complete before releasing them for publication may be at a disadvantage. Some institutions, such as Harvard Medical School, have responded to these problems by limiting the number of publications reviewed for promotion. Others have placed greater emphasis on major contributions as the basis for evaluating research productivity.
As gatekeepers of scientific journals, editors are expected to use good judgment and fairness in selecting papers for publication. Although editors cannot be held responsible for the errors or inaccuracies of papers that may appear in their journals, editors have obligations to consider criticism and evidence that might contradict the claims of an author and to facilitate publication of critical letters, errata, or retractions.21 Some institutions, including the National Library of Medicine and professional societies that represent editors of scientific journals, are exploring the development of standards relevant to these obligations (Bailar et al., 1990).
Should questions be raised about the integrity of a published work, the editor may request an author's institution to address the matter. Editors often request written assurances that research reported conforms to all appropriate guidelines involving human or animal subjects, materials of human origin, or recombinant DNA.
In theory, editors set standards of authorship for their journals. In practice, scientists in the specialty do. Editors may specify the. terms of acknowledgment of contributors who fall short of authorship status, and make decisions regarding appropriate forms of disclosure of sources of bias or other potential conflicts of interest related to published articles. For example, the New England Journal ofMedicine has established a category of prohibited contributions from authors engaged in for-profit ventures: the journal will not allow