Research Integrity in Publishing

Declaring Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest (COI) refer to "a set of conditions in which professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as a patient’s welfare or the validity of research) tends to be unduly influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain)"1. In principle, COI are not problematic as long as they are managed transparently. COI can take many forms (e.g., personal, professional). Financial conflicts of interest (fCOI) tend to garner the most attention. For more information on fCOI we refer you to the EQUATOR website, which hosts a Financial Conflicts of Interest Checklist for clinical research studies.

COI can take many forms (e.g., personal, professional). Financial conflicts of interest (fCOI) tend to garner the most attention. For more information on fCOI we refer you to the EQUATOR website, which hosts a Financial Conflicts of Interest Checklist for clinical research studies.

Most journals require a COI statement to be made during the submission process. Please read the instructions for authors section of the journal you are submitting to in order to ensure you are compliant. Please remember, COI may be both real and perceived and not reporting a potential COI relationship can raise red flags. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors maintains a standard COI form that is used by a number of journals.

OHRI has its own conflict of interest policy and publications guideline

Who qualifies for authorship on a manuscript?

Deciding who to include as an author on your manuscript can be a sensitive issue. Authorship is one of the top consult topics received by the Publications Officer. It is also one of the major concerns raised at COPE forum discussions.

OHRI has produced an internal Authorship Guideline to assist researchers in this respect. It is important to remember that you are responsible for the work on any manuscript to which your name appears. This message is echoed in an article entitled: "Along with the privilege of authorship come important responsibilities".

It is good practice to discuss authorship and author order upfront when you are at the initial stages of planning research so as to avoid potential future conflicts. Ana Marušić recently published a framework for clinical trial authorship, which may help authors decide on authorship a priori. The process she describes is short and easily implemented.

There are a number of different ways of misattributing authorship that you should be sure to avoid. Some inappropriate types of authorship described in the literature include:

Ghost authorship: Ghost authorship refers to a situation where someone makes a substantial contribution to the project (e.g., does data analysis or writing), but they are not subsequently listed as a co-author or otherwise acknowledged in the manuscript.

Gift authorship: Gift authorship, sometimes referred to as ‘honorary authorship’, refers to a situation in which an author is included on a manuscript as a result of an insignificant or indirect involvement in the project.

Guest authorship: Guest authorship refers to a situation in which an author is included on a manuscript solely because it is perceived that the inclusion of their name will increase the perception of the work. In cases of guest authorship, the ‘guest’ does not meet the criteria for authorship because they did not make any/sufficient contribution to the manuscript.

The Council of Science Editors has an authorship and authorship responsibilities page that is a great resource if you would like to read more in this area.

For examples of various authorship issues, and their resolutions, please see the cases section of the COPE website.

If you have any questions about authorship or would like to discuss an authorship issue one-on-one, please contact the publications officer, kcobey@toh.on.ca.

Distinguishing authors on a manuscript

Researchers are encouraged to complete an author contribution section when publishing, where possible. The Credit Taxonomy may be a helpful tool to use to distinguish research components. This allows readers to know who in the team was responsible for which aspects of the study. It can also help prevent issues like ghost authorship and guest authorship.

Acknowledging your affiliations appropriately

While formatting and practices between journals may vary, you should generally provide your organization name, department/program, postal code, city and country for each affiliation. It is expected that you consistently mention the OHRI, TOH, and uOttawa (when affiliations exist at each location) in your publications.

The Ottawa Hospital and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have developed an author affiliation guideline, in partnership with the University of Ottawa, to ensure researchers appropriately credit their affiliations in publications. Doing this correctly is important to ensure that your work is correctly attributed and indexed to your institution(s). Please see examples below.

Example1:
Dr. John Smith a,b
a The Ottawa Hospital, Department of Medicine, Postal Code, Ottawa, Canada
b University of Ottawa, Department of Medicine, Postal Code, Ottawa, Canada

Example 2:
Dr. John Smith a,b
a The Ottawa Hospital, Department of Medicine, Postal Code, Ottawa, Canada
b Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Chronic Disease Program, Postal Code, Ottawa, Canada

Permissions

It is important that you identify whether permission is needed for any published material that you wish to reproduce in your own work. As a rule of thumb, reproduction of any material typically requires written permission. Permission may even be required when a researcher wants to re-publish or re-use their own published work, as it may be that the researcher has signed over their copyright privileges.

Copyright refers to the entity that holds the rights to the published work – it is the copyright holder (e.g., publisher, author) that you will have to contact in order to gain permission to reproduce or use published work. You can read about different types of copyright on the Creative Commons Canada Website. Creative Commons is an organization that provides copyright licenses.

Most mainstream publishers have a ‘permissions’ section (see for example, Elsevier, Springer, Wiley) on their website which explains their specific rules and how you can go about requesting use of their various published materials.

When work is published in an open access format, it is more likely that the author retains the copyright, but this does vary. If you would like to re-use something that is published open access, please refer to the PLOS ‘How open is it’ open access spectrum to determine whether you should be contacting the author or the publisher.

Please note that if you would like to create a new and original figure from data used in a previously published manuscript, you would typically just acknowledge the author(s) and permission may not be required.

Steps to obtaining re-use permission


  1. Determine who holds the copyright (e.g., author, journal, publisher)
  2. Determine the format of the copyright license
  3. 1. Request permission for re-use (in needed) and ensure proper citation of the work when using it

Research misconduct in reporting

Research misconduct can take a variety of different formats. Below some common types of research misconduct are outlined.

Fabrication: To report data or results that have been made up.

Falsification: To manipulate or misrepresent an aspect of a study’s methods or results without providing justification.

Plagiarism: To use someone else’s words, ideas, or process without giving appropriate credit. Note that this includes your own work: self-plagiarism is when an author uses their own words, ideas or processes without referencing a previous publication.

The definitions above have been obtained from the Office of Research Education Training at The University of Miami. This website also hosts a useful list of examples of each of the above types of research misconduct.

There are a number of other significant research issues related to the above forms of misconduct For example, selective reporting, and non-reporting more generally, reduce the reliability of the published literature. There is evidence non-reporting remains problematic2, in spite of the fact its adverse consequences were noted more than 30 years ago3. This represents a significant waste of time and money as well as potential knowledge exchange. An increasing number of journals are accepting null results. Every effort should be made to comprehensively report research outcomes irrespective of the results obtained.

If you have any questions pertaining to research misconduct, don’t hesitate to contact the publications officer.