Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing

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Introduction

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) are scholarly organisations that have seen an increase in the number, and broad range in the quality, of membership applications. Our organisations have collaborated to identify principles of transparency and best practice for scholarly publications and to clarify that these principles form the basis of the criteria by which suitability for membership is assessed by COPE, DOAJ and OASPA, and part of the criteria on which membership applications are evaluated by WAME. Each organisation also has their own, additional criteria which are used when evaluating applications. The organisations will not share lists of or journals that failed to demonstrate that they met the criteria for transparency and best practice.

This is the third version of a work in progress (published January 2018); the first version was made available by OASPA in December 2013 and a second version in June 2015. We encourage its wide dissemination and continue to welcome feedback on the general principles and the specific criteria. Background on the organisations is below.

Principles of Transparency

1. Website: A journal’s website, including the text that it contains, shall demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards. It must not contain information that might mislead readers or authors, including any attempt to mimic another journal/publisher’s site.

An ‘Aims & Scope’ statement should be included on the website and the readership clearly defined. There should be a statement on what a journal will consider for publication including authorship criteria (e.g., not considering multiple submissions, redundant publications) to be included. ISSNs should be clearly displayed (separate for print and electronic).

2. Name of journal: The Journal name shall be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal or that might mislead potential authors and readers about the Journal’s origin or association with other journals.

3. Peer review process: Journal content must be clearly marked as whether peer reviewed or not. Peer review is defined as obtaining advice on individual manuscripts from reviewers expert in the field who are not part of the journal’s editorial staff. This process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, shall be clearly described on the journal website, including the method of peer review used. Journal websites should not guarantee manuscript acceptance or very short peer review times.

4. Ownership and management: Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal shall be clearly indicated on the journal’s website. Publishers shall not use organizational or journal names that would mislead potential authors and editors about the nature of the journal’s owner.

5. Governing body: Journals shall have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal’s scope. The full names and affiliations of the journal’s editorial board or other governing body shall be provided on the journal’s website.

6. Editorial team/contact information: Journals shall provide the full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors on the journal website as well as contact information for the editorial office, including a full address.

7. Copyright and Licensing: The policy for copyright shall be clearly stated in the author guidelines and the copyright holder named on all published articles.  Likewise, licensing information shall be clearly described in guidelines on the website, and licensing terms shall be indicated on all published articles, both HTML and PDFs.  If authors are allowed to publish under a Creative Commons license then any specific license requirements shall be noted.  Any policies on posting of final accepted versions or published articles on third party repositories shall be clearly stated.

8. Author fees: Any fees or charges that are required for manuscript processing and/or publishing materials in the journal shall be clearly stated in a place that is easy for potential authors to find prior to submitting their manuscripts for review or explained to authors before they begin preparing their manuscript for submission.  If no such fees are charged that should also be clearly stated.

9. Process for identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconduct: Publishers and editors shall take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the publication of papers where research misconduct has occurred, including plagiarism, citation manipulation, and data falsification/fabrication, among others. In no case shall a journal or its editors encourage such misconduct, or knowingly allow such misconduct to take place. In the event that a journal’s publisher or editors are made aware of any allegation of research misconduct relating to a published article in their journal, the publisher or editor shall follow COPE’s guidelines (or equivalent) in dealing with allegations.

10. Publication Ethics: A journal shall also have policies on publishing ethics. These should be clearly visible on its website, and should refer to: i) Journal policies on authorship and contributorship; ii) How the journal will handle complaints and appeals; iii) Journal policies on conflicts of interest / competing interests; iv) Journal policies on data sharing and reproducibility; v) Journal’s policy on ethical oversight; vi) Journal’s policy on intellectual property; and vii) Journal’s options for post-publication discussions and corrections.

11. Publishing schedule: The periodicity at which a journal publishes shall be clearly indicated.

12. Access: The way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers and whether there are associated subscription or pay per view fees shall be stated.

13. Archiving: A journal’s plan for electronic backup and preservation of access to the journal content (for example, access to main articles via CLOCKSS or PubMedCentral) in the event a journal is no longer published shall be clearly indicated.

14. Revenue sources: Business models or revenue sources (e.g., author fees, subscriptions, advertising, reprints, institutional support, and organizational support) shall be clearly stated or otherwise evident on the journal’s website. Publishing fees or waiver status should not influence editorial decision making.

15. Advertising: Journals shall state their advertising policy if relevant, including what types of adverts will be considered, who makes decisions regarding accepting adverts and whether they are linked to content or reader behavior (online only) or are displayed at random. Advertisements should not be related in any way to editorial decision making and shall be kept separate from the published content.

16. Direct marketing: Any direct marketing activities, including solicitation of manuscripts that are conducted on behalf of the journal, shall be appropriate, well targeted, and unobtrusive.  Information provided about the publisher or journal is expected to be truthful and not misleading for readers or authors.

In the event that a member organization is found to have violated these best practices, or other specific requirements of the organization, OASPA/DOAJ/COPE/WAME shall in the first instance try to work with them in order to address any concerns that have been raised. In the event that the member organization is unable or unwilling to address these concerns, their membership in the organization may be suspended or terminated. OASPA/DOAJ/COPE/WAME have procedures for dealing with concerns raised about members.


The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is a membership organization committed to educating and supporting editors, publishers, universities, research institutes and all involved in publication ethics. COPE aims to move the culture of publishing towards one where ethical practices become a regular part of the culture itself. Our approach is firmly in the direction of influencing through education, resources and support of our members, alongside the fostering of professional debate in the wider community. COPE supports members worldwide from all academic fields. 

The Directory of Open Access Journals

(DOAJ) is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer reviewed journals.  DOAJ has more than one hundred carefully selected volunteers from among the community of libraries and other academic disciplines to assist in the curation of open access journals. This independent database contains over 18,100 journals covering all areas of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, arts and humanities in English and 80 other languages. DOAJ is financially supported worldwide by libraries, publishers, and other like-minded organizations. DOAJ services are free for all, and all data provided by DOAJ is free and harvestable.

The Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association

(OASPA) is a diverse community of organizations engaged in open scholarship. As an organization, we work to encourage and enable open access as the predominant model of communication for scholarly outputs. We are committed to our mission of developing and disseminating solutions that advance open access and ensure a diverse, vibrant, and healthy open access community. Our membership includes scholar-led and professional publishers of books and journals across varied geographies and disciplines, as well as infrastructure and other services. We apply rigorous criteria and in-depth review to all members, who must continue to exemplify high standards to remain part of OASPA.

The World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) is a global nonprofit voluntary association of editors of peer-reviewed medical journals who seek to foster cooperation and communication among editors, improve editorial standards, promote professionalism, and encourage research on the principles and practice of medical editing. WAME develops policies and recommendations for best practices for medical journal editors; has an active listserve for members to discuss important issues and seek input from other members; and a monthly newsletter, a compilation of articles, resources, and research of interest to medical journal editors. 

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