Ethical Publishing Practice
PLOS is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). PLOS journals abide by COPE’s Code of Conduct and aim to adhere to its Best Practice Guidelines.
Authors, editors, and reviewers are expected to be aware of, and comply with, best practice in publication ethics.
Authors are expected to be aware of, and comply with, best practice in publication ethics including but not limited to those pertaining to authorship (for example avoidance of ghost or guest authorship), dual submission, attribution, plagiarism, image integrity and figure preparation, and competing interests. Authors must also comply with PLOS policies on research ethics (human subjects research, animal research, global research). Details are provided below or in linked documents.
Reviewers and editors are required to treat manuscripts fairly and in confidence, and to declare any competing interests. Editors should also abide by the code of conduct for editorial board members.
We encourage readers to discuss the scientific contents of PLOS articles directly with corresponding authors, either by emailing the corresponding author or posting a comment on the article’s PLOS webpage (see here for information about posting comments). Authors can request formal corrections to their PLOS publications by emailing the journal office.
If you have concerns about potential errors, research or publication ethics, misconduct, or other issues pertaining to the integrity, validity, or reliability of a PLOS article or submission, please contact PLOS directly. To do so, email the PLOS Publication Ethics team and cc the journal office. Do not rely solely on posts to blogs, social media, or other third-party websites to make us aware of concerns. When notifying PLOS of concerns, provide the full citation and DOI of the article in question, details as to your specific concerns, and a declaration of any potential competing interests you have with regard to the authors, funders, and/or sponsors of the article(s) in question.
PLOS will investigate concerns raised about PLOS submissions or publications regardless of the time since publication or study completion, and regardless of whether issues are raised internally, by authors, or by anonymous, pseudonymous, or named third parties. We will take steps to correct or clarify the scientific record if necessary, which may include issuing a correction, expression of concern, or retraction. If we anticipate a delayed or prolonged follow-up period PLOS may post an interim notice on the article(s) in question to make readers aware of the issues raised.
While PLOS values transparency in scientific communications, we also protect the confidentiality of those who raise publication ethics or research integrity concerns, where possible, so as to minimize personal and professional risks to those individuals. We consider information and materials received in ethics case follow-up discussions as confidential, but we reserve the right to share relevant information with others involved in the case (e.g. editors, reviewers, other journals, affected data repositories), discuss the case at a COPE forum, and/or contact authors’ institutions, funders or regulatory bodies, in accordance with COPE guidelines. We cooperate with institutions looking into issues that pertain to PLOS content, and in doing so we share information as needed to support the institution’s proceedings.
All who raise concerns to PLOS, inquire about issues raised to PLOS, or are otherwise involved in publication ethics cases must comply with the Standards for Professional Conduct policy.
PLOS Publication Ethics Team
PLOS has a central Publication Ethics team comprised of Senior Editors who have scientific and editorial expertise as well as specialized expertise in the policies, workflows, and industry-wide guidance pertaining to ethics and integrity issues (e.g. from COPE). The Publication Ethics team supports and collaborates with all PLOS journals, and follows up on concerns raised to PLOS that have implications for the integrity, validity, or reliability of submitted or published articles. The Publication Ethics team also contributes to the development of PLOS policies pertaining to research and reporting ethics.
To contact the Publication Ethics team, email email@example.com.
Plagiarism is not acceptable in PLOS submissions. Plagiarized content will not be considered for publication. If plagiarism is identified, we will follow COPE guidelines.
Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to:
- Directly copying text from other sources without attribution
- Copying ideas, images, or data from other sources without attribution
- Reusing text from your own previous publications without attribution or agreement of the editor (see the COPE guidelines on text recycling and the text recycling guidance released by the Text Recycling Research Project)
- Exception: Reusing text from the Methods section in the author’s previous publications, with attribution to the source, is acceptable
- Using an idea from another source with slightly modified language without attribution
PLOS uses Crossref Similarity Check (powered by iThenticate) to screen submitted content for originality. Each journal screens a proportion of manuscripts. We will do a follow-up investigation if the software raises any concerns.
If plagiarism is detected during the peer review process, the manuscript may be rejected. If plagiarism is detected after publication, we may issue a correction or retract the paper, as appropriate. We reserve the right to inform authors' institutions about plagiarism detected either before or after publication.
We expect that editors and reviewers will be vigilant in their evaluation of PLOS submissions and will notify the journal about any plagiarism identified.
We are committed to ensuring the integrity of the peer review process, in accordance with COPE guidelines. All submitted material should be treated as strictly confidential until published.
The peer review process is confidential to all parties. Correspondence as part of the review process is also to be treated confidentially by all parties, including authors.
Authors may provide basic details about the nature of the research presented in manuscripts currently under review.
Editors and reviewers are required to treat all submitted manuscripts in strict confidence and should not share information about submissions with any other parties unless previously agreed with the editor. The involvement of a third party in the review must be declared at the time of the submission of the review.
We expect that editors and reviewers will not make use of any material or take advantage of any information they gain through the peer review process.
We will follow up on any and all breaches of confidentiality. If there are any concerns about misconduct during the review process, we will follow COPE guidelines in investigating them.
Reviewers may identify themselves by signing their names at the time reviews are submitted, if they wish.
Submission and Publication of Related Studies
Upon submission of a manuscript, authors must indicate whether there are any related manuscripts under consideration or published elsewhere. If related work has been submitted or published elsewhere, authors must include a copy of it with their submission and describe its relation to the submitted work.
Prior publication of research as a thesis, presentation at medical or scientific conferences, or posting on preprint servers will not preclude consideration of your manuscript.
PLOS supports the public disclosure of all clinical trial results, as mandated, for example, by the 2007 FDA Amendments Act. Prior disclosure of results on a clinical trial registry site will not affect consideration.
Editor and reviewer requirements
Reviewers and editors should evaluate any related content and notify the journal of overlap. Editors and reviewers should alert the journal if they identify duplicate submissions or publications during the review process.
If related content is found to be too similar to the PLOS submission, or if a duplicate submission is discovered, we will reject the manuscript.
Duplicate content discovered after publication will be addressed depending on the degree of overlap. The journal may issue a correction or a retraction as appropriate.
Manipulation of the Publication Process
Systematic manipulation of the publication process (sometimes referred to as “paper mill” activity) is defined by COPE as an individual or group of individuals using dishonest or fraudulent practices to
- prevent independent assessment or inappropriately influence peer review outcomes,
- sell or misrepresent authorship, and/or
- publish fabricated or plagiarized research.
Authors should not use any third-party services that offer article content, authorship, or positive peer review outcomes.
Also, authors should not suggest/request handling editors or reviewers with whom there may be a potential competing interest (see here for our Competing Interests policy), and must not interfere with the review process whether directly or via third-party services.
PLOS will reject or retract articles suspected of any manipulation of the publication process, and may inform the relevant institution(s) (e.g. an author’s or reviewer’s employer) of our concerns. In discussing these cases with authors or other parties we may choose not to disclose detailed information about our assessment and specific concerns.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have concerns about the integrity of a PLOS article’s peer review process, potential paper mill activity involving PLOS content, or other issues involving manipulation of the publication process at PLOS.
Concerns About Data or Figures
When preparing figures, images should not be manipulated or adjusted in any way that could lead to misinterpretation of the information present in the original raw image data. Read more about our guidelines on Preparing Figures from Image Files.
When concerns are raised about reported results, PLOS requests the original underlying data for the experiment(s) in question. If the original data are not available or are not provided in a timely manner, we may take editorial action on the article based on our review of the materials in hand.
We recognize that some institutions and funding agencies only require retention of research data for a finite period after a project’s completion or publication. However, there are no such limits specified within the PLOS Data Availability Policy. Furthermore, in cases involving image issues or other data concerns, the original underlying data are instrumental in clarifying the issues raised and the reliability of the reported results. The unavailability of original data in such cases may impact editorial outcomes.
Biosecurity and Dual Use Research of Concern
PLOS staff and Editorial Boards are committed to the widespread dissemination of research while being sensitive to the issues of responsible publication standards. In this context, we assess the risks and benefits of publishing the research. If the risks outweigh the benefits, we will not publish it.
Authors are obligated to disclose potential bioethics/dual use concerns to the journal office at the time of initial submission.
Editor and reviewer requirements
Editors and reviewers are expected to evaluate potential risks and alert the journal with any concerns.
We follow standards set by national and public agencies, and may refer concerns to the PLOS Dual Use Committee for an assessment of the potential risks versus benefits of publication.
Manuscripts are checked at submission for any potential risks. Issues identified at submission may lead to rejection of the manuscript.
If risks are identified after publication of an article, we will take steps to minimize that risk in accordance with prevailing guidelines. We may follow up with authors’ institutions depending on the severity of the issues.
Standards for Professional Conduct
PLOS is committed to open scientific communications and professional conduct. We expect that all interactions with PLOS through any medium of communication, including correspondence, calls, posted Comments, and other forms of engagement like social media, will be courteous, respectful, and adherent to high standards of professionalism.
This policy outlines PLOS’ expectations for communications directed towards PLOS staff and/or contributors (authors, editors, reviewers) in the context of PLOS activities, and how PLOS will respond in cases where such expectations are not met.
PLOS will not tolerate any form of harassment or non-professional conduct directed to PLOS staff/contributors in the context of their work for PLOS, such as
- disparaging, insulting, or accusatory ad hominem remarks
- abusive, discriminatory, or hostile language or behavior
- threats targeting an individual
- repeated inquiries to PLOS challenging an editorial outcome, repeated resubmission or complaints after an appeal is declined, or excessive inquiries about an issue that is under investigation
In cases where we are aware that communications/interactions do not meet these expectations, PLOS will take steps as needed to address the situation, which may include one or more of the following:
- providing feedback to the individual(s) involved
- ceasing to engage or communicate on a particular issue
- making changes to the assigned editor/reviewer(s) for a submission
- declining a manuscript without further editorial consideration or peer review
- reviewing or changing an individual’s editorial board status
- seeking support of an individual’s affiliated institution/employer in addressing concerns about that individual’s behavior
- discussing the situation in anonymized form with Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) representatives or at a COPE forum
Please contact the relevant journal office if you experience interactions or receive verbal or written communications regarding your PLOS work that do not comply with this policy.
Comments posted on third-party sites
If appropriate, PLOS will apply this policy to interactions and comments on third party platforms via its social media channels (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn); however, PLOS is not responsible for content posted on third party platforms, and concerns about such content should be escalated via the relevant reporting/complaints process of the host site.
Research Conducted by PLOS
In our efforts to improve the peer review system and scientific communication, we have an ongoing research program on the processes we use in the course of manuscript handling at the PLOS journals. If you are a reviewer, author or editor at PLOS, and you wish to opt out of this research, please contact the relevant journal office. Participation does not affect the editorial consideration of submitted manuscripts, nor PLOS' policies relating to confidentiality of authors, reviewers or manuscripts.
Individual research projects will be subject to appropriate ethical consideration and approval and if necessary individuals will be contacted for specific consent to participate.