Publication and Authorship

Publishing (and getting credit for) your work is a subject of key importance for all researchers; as such, it is also an area that often presents challenges, and can result in disagreements.

The information and resources provided in this page provide advice and guidance on good practices in the various aspects of publication, from deciding who should be given the status of author on a paper, to managing the challenges that can arise when editing an academic journal. They aim to help you ensure that you are aware of your own obligations, and to avoid the pitfalls that can arise when publishing your work.

In addition, the following resources may be useful for improving your overall understanding of the integrity challenges that can arise in relation to research as a whole, including publication and authorship:

Epigeum’s online Research Integrity course.

‘The Dilemma Game’, a game that facilitates discussion between staff and students about common research integrity challenges; many of the dilemmas relate to publication and authorship.

‘The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct’, an interactive training video from the US Research Integrity Office that covers a range of integrity issues including publication and authorship

'Integrity Factor', an interactive training video coving a range of integrity issues in a European context

Good practices in Publication

Publishing includes:

  • publishing in peer-reviewed journals and books
  • conference presentations, posters presented at conferences
  • reports commissioned by external organisations
  • promotional reports and materials on research
  • articles in the media, publication in web-based journals, on project websites, and other specific outputs aimed at a lay readership, including media recordings.

As a leading research-intensive University researchers are encouraged to publish in highly prestigious and externally peer-reviewed publications, wherever possible, to ensure opportunities for dissemination of our research are maximised. Suitable outlets will vary by research discipline and senior staff in departments will be able to advise colleagues earlier in their careers in this respect.

The University’s expectations with respect to publishing your work are set out here:

The University's minimal acceptable practices in publication (Word)

Useful external sources of guidance with respect to publication practices:

COPE’s Guidelines on Good Publication Practice

Nature's Reporting Checklist for Life Sciences Articles

Advice on image manipulation from the Journal of Cell Biology: ‘What’s in a picture? The temptation of image manipulation’

COPE’s guidance on retractions (NB. most retractions are required due to honest error, not misconduct!)

Article from Nature Neuroscience: ‘The Science of Retraction’

Open science

‘Open Science’ is the term given to a ‘new approach to the scientific process based on cooperative work and new ways of diffusing knowledge by using digital technologies and new collaborative tools’ (European Commission, 2016b:33).

Its benefits include:
- greater efficiency in the research process
- higher quality research
- greater impact – research outputs and data available to more people
- creation of opportunities for collaboration
- quicker progression from research to innovation activities

More details on the benefits, and other guidance and training resources on Open Science, can be found on the EU-funded FOSTER project website.

Open Science includes open access to scientific publications, and open access to data. The University has an Open Access Policy which sets out its commitment to the principles of open access to research outputs, in order to ensure that its world-class research is available as widely as possible to maximize its impact within both the academic research community and more widely within society. The Library provides guidance and resources on this area: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/openaccess.

The Library also provides advice and guidance on open access to data, and supports ORDA, an open access repository for archiving and publishing digital research data and associated metadata records according to Horizon 2020’s ‘FAIR’ data management guidelines (‘findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable’), and a registry – a public catalogue of published research data created by University of Sheffield researchers. For more details see the Research Data Management webpages.

Below are some other external tools/resources that aim to facilitate Open Science:

  • Pre-registration: Researchers register what they are planning to test with a journal in advance of the data collection by submitting their study design BEFORE they publish. This is a process mainly designed to reduce bias when the researcher intends to apply statistical inference techniques to collected data. The number of journals offering this service is increasing. The Center for Open Science is currently holding a ‘Pre-registration challenge’ and is offering $1,000 to researchers (including those in the UK) who pre-register using their Open Science Framework, to encourage researchers to practice this way of working and enable them to see the benefits (e.g. increasing the credibility of results; enabling you to stake your claim to ideas earlier)
  • Registered Reports: Researchers submit their study protocol for peer review PRIOR TO data collection. Provisional acceptance for publication is often granted to high quality studies (52 journals have currently adopted the registered reports format). Peer review helps to enhance the quality of the research design, moves the incentive to producing the most accurate results, and eliminates bias against negative results – more information can be found on the Centre for Open Science website.
  • Protocol Exchange: an Open Repository from Springer Nature for the deposition and sharing of protocols for scientific research, for comment by the scientific community.
  • Open Science Framework: a free online project management tool for collaborative research that makes it easy to share information, and links to other key services (e.g. Figshare, Google Drive etc.)
  • Pre-prints: a research output that has not completed a typical publication pipeline but is of value to the community and deserving of being easily discovered and accessed. Researchers post a draft of a paper online BEFORE formal peer review and publication, to obtain feedback and constructive criticism early on with the aim of enhancing quality – various servers are available, depending on your discipline (e.g. www.arxiv.org). A short explanatory video can be found on the website of the ASAPbio pre-print server. A useful discussion of the value of pre-prints, tackling a range of common misunderstandings, can be found in this article.
  • PubPeer – A website that enables post-publication comment on research publications, a kind of research community evaluation, independent of journals. It aims to ensure the accuracy of research record. Issues can be raised and discussed online anonymously, and a range of safeguards are in place (e.g. comments are moderated and must be verifiable; authors have the right to reply, and can provide supporting data etc.)
Good practices in authorship

Decisions about authorship (e.g. the criteria for deciding who can be named as an author and the author sequence) and about acknowledgement (i.e. people who have contributed but who do not fulfil the authorship criteria) normally result from a process of ongoing communication, reflection and/or revision as the project evolves over its duration.

The University trusts its researchers, as in all other matters, to remain professional and reasonable when communicating on this subject; the goal being to ensure that all individuals who fulfil authorship criteria are named as authors and all other contributors are acknowledged.

Open discussion with colleagues and collaborators at an early stage is advised to avoid problems arising later on.

The following links provide further information about the University’s expectations, and guidance on how to negotiate the challenges of agreeing who should be named as an author on a publication.

A series of discussion case studies and other resources from the US Office of Research Integrity:

Good practices in peer review

The University's minimal acceptable practices in peer review

COPE’s Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers

Sense about Sciences’ ‘Peer Review the Nuts and Bolts’ – a guide by, and for, early career researchers

A 30 minute online tutorial on peer review from the University of Manchester: www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/learning-objects/mre/peer-review/

Discussion case studies from the US Office of Research Integrity on aspects of peer review:

Case One Pandering to the Public

Case Two Getting a Fair Shake?

Case Three Getting Scooped by a Reviewer

Role Play Mysteriously Similar Articles

Video case study from the US Office of Research Integrity: ‘Biased Peer Review or Flawed Methodologies'

Guidance for Journal Editors

Useful resources for journal editors from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE):

A 30 minute online tutorial for journal editors from the University of Manchester: www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/learning-objects/mre/editing-articles/

Publication and authorship – what NOT to do….

The following are practices that the University defines as unacceptable practices in publication and authorship (full details are in the University’s Good Research & Innovation Practices policy - Annex 2)

Gift, guest or honorary authors - naming as authors those who took little or no part in the research in order to improve the chances research will be published or to increase the perceived status of a publication or to enhance an individual’s career development; also, including individuals as authors (e.g. as lead author or co-author) without their agreement or permission to be named as authors.

Ghost authorship - not naming as authors those who did take part in the research.

Salami slicing – undisclosed duplication of publication - breaking a publication down into least publishable units so as to be able to present a larger number of published titles.

Plagiarism - general misappropriation or use of others’ ideas, IP or work (written or otherwise), and submitting them as your own without acknowledgement or permission), including double submission /self-plagiarism - resubmitting previously submitted work on one or more occasions (without proper acknowledgement); and collusion - where two or more people work together to produce a piece of work, all or part of which is then submitted by each of them as their own individual work.

Misrepresentation of data (e.g. knowingly presenting a flawed interpretation of data).

Improper conduct in peer review of research proposals or results (including manuscripts submitted for publication) (e.g. failure to disclose conflicts of interest; inadequate disclosure of limited competence; misappropriation of the content of material; rejecting a paper in order to suppress a contrary opinion; and breach of confidentiality or abuse of material provided in confidence/taking undue or calculated advantage of knowledge obtained during the peer review process).