High standards of research integrity and publication ethics are central to our mission as a publisher. Researchers should be confident in trusting that published research has followed best practice and is an honest reflection of the science.
As publishers we are dedicated to ensuring that standards of publishing ethics and research integrity are upheld, our processes are working as intended, and that we continuously improve our practices to address new and emerging challenges. We have many teams working on this and these steps range from editorial screening teams, peer review stages with contributions from journal editors and discipline experts. Submitted manuscripts must pass each stage before moving to the next. Below we will explore some of the key ways in which we uphold research integrity.
Our Research Integrity processes
When an author first submits a manuscript, our screening team will check the manuscript for plagiarism. If this check is passed they will also review it to identify any authorship or editorial policy concerns –are the authors who they say they are and does the paper meet our publishing policies? If these checks bring to light minor inconsistencies or omissions, we will ask for amendments from the authors. However, if any of these checks highlight severe concerns, the paper will be rejected at this stage.
Often seen as the pillar of scientific credibility, peer review aims to ensure the quality and validity of new contributions to a field. It is an opportunity for reviewers, editors, and authors to collaborate to improve an article, or for reviewers to recommend rejection if there are insurmountable problems with the research. When assigning peer reviewers for a paper our Editorial Assistants will take care to minimize the risks of conflicts of interests between the reviewers and the author, for instance, by reviewing whether they are colleagues at the same institution. Our team of quality checkers also undertake a series of checks on completion of the peer review process to identify any concerning behaviors such as, citation manipulation, duplications, and unethical reviewer behavior.
Peer review evaluation
As our Special Issues operate with a greater degree of editorial independence, we have introduced this extra stage as an additional level of support to our external editorial boards to ensure that any concerning content is identified and addressed appropriately. When an Editor or Guest Editor accepts a manuscript submitted to a Journal or Special Issue, a specialized internal team complete an enhanced set of quality checks in addition to the routine post-peer review checks completed for all manuscripts. These checks are focused on identifying concerning hallmarks of paper mills and peer review manipulation and the team might recommend that the paper receives a new round of peer review or that the editor rejects the paper at this stage.
We are also increasing our ability and capacity to assess trends across multiple manuscripts, allowing us to spot patterns of behavior and inconsistencies that may not be suspicious in isolation but when repeated across several manuscripts may raise red flags. Disclosing exactly what we are looking for might tip off those seeking to manipulate the publishing process and help them bypass our integrity checks so we cannot list them here, but as our investigations continue and we learn more, we will continue to improve these processes. Papers flagged during this process are escalated to the Research Integrity team for further investigation. Where there are identified signs of misconduct or unethical behavior, manuscripts will be rejected.
Even with these processes in place, peer review is not foolproof and unfortunately has been the target of deliberate manipulation. We are learning, we are improving our processes, and we will continue to do so.
When the other parts of our processes haven’t worked as intended there is another step we can take to uphold and preserve the integrity of the scientific record – to publish retractions.
If issues become apparent post-publication, whether raised by the research community or brought to light by investigations of our Research Integrity team, we will take necessary action. In cases where it is clear that there has been a severe undermining of our processes, fabrication or falsification of data and results, for instance, or an investigation shows that an article’s conclusions are not valid, we will retract the article.
The research community
We are continually working to investigate issues raised to us and we’re using what we learn from investigations to strengthen our processes. Even so, systematic manipulation has had an impact across the research publishing industry, and it has become increasingly apparent that research integrity is a community effort that requires broad stakeholder engagement.
We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to everyone in the research community who is helping us uphold the integrity of the scientific record by making us aware of problem papers and to help close gaps in our processes. We have recently strengthened these processes, and this will remain an ongoing and iterative process as we continue to learn from our experience, from industry partners, and from conversations with other publishers and as we refine our system of checks; and no doubt, as the techniques used to subvert these processes also develop.
If you have any concerns about content in Hindawi journals, please let us know and we will investigate. Thank you.