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Ethical policies

Ethical Policies

Authors’ warranties

On submission authors will be required to warrant that their articles represent original, unpublished research, and contain nothing libellous, or otherwise illegal within them. Although editors are required to report any concerns of such content to the publisher, neither the publisher nor the editors take responsibility for the content of the articles.


All Discover STM journals adhere to the ICMJE authorship criteria. Full details can be found here:

In summary, only individuals who fulfil all four criteria below (from the ICMJE website) should be included as authors:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND    
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement

Plagiarism is the unattributed copying of material and is considered a serious ethical offence. Copying of any material (including figures) without permission of the copyright owner is an infringement of copyright law.

Permissions are not required for materials that have been published under open licences where the copyright owner has permitted such copying, for example by using a Creative Commons licence.

Articles submitted to all our journals will be scrutinized for plagiarism and evidence of such duplication will lead to rejection of any unpublished article, and correction or retraction of any published article. Serious plagiarism (e.g. entire articles or sections of an article) may be reported to the authors’ institutions.

Authors are responsible for obtaining suitable copyright permissions for any reproduced materials and be able to provide these if required.

Any material which is reproduced in an article must be fully acknowledged and cited.

Note: The publisher (Discover STM Publishing Ltd) provides iThenticate® service to all the participating journals to check submissions for plagiarism prior to start processing or sending for peer review. We follow COPE Guidelines to manage the process if plagiarism is detected. (See: )

Redundant publication

Each article must contain sufficient information to make it a valid contribution to scholarly knowledge. Salami-slicing or redundant publication undertaken in order to inflate an author’s output is considered unethical, and such articles will be rejected.

Redundant publication occurs when “When the same (or substantially overlapping) data is presented in more than one publication without adequate cross-referencing/justification, particularly when this is done in such a way that reviewers/readers are unlikely to realise that most or all the findings have been published before.” From COPE:

Reporting guidelines

All Discover STM journals are strongly encouraged to require authors to adhere to appropriate Reporting Guidelines, such as CONSORT. These ensure complete reporting of research to a high standard. We refer authors to the collective website, where the relevant guidelines and other assistance can be located.

Data availability

We strongly encourage all authors to make their research data freely available, either as a part of their article (for small data sets that can be provided as an appendix) or lodged in a repository (e.g. the authors’ institutional repository or a bespoke data repository such as or

We strongly encourage authors to include a data availability statement in their articles, for example:

  • No data is available for this article.
  • The background data may be requested from the author.
  • The research data is available at <full citation>

Individual journals may mandate data deposit, and if so this will be indicated in their author guidelines. Note that some authors may be required to place their data in a repository as part of their funding agreement: this is the responsibility of the authors.

Conflict of Interest

Authors are required to declare any conflict of interest (COI) that may affect their research and their article. Editors and reviewers are required to declare any COI that may affect their judgement when deciding if a submission is worth publishing and to withdraw from handling such articles. Such COIs include funding, personal relationships, working in competing labs or research, recent collaboration with authors/reviewers/editors, etc.

We strongly encourage (but do not require) our journals to adopt the ICMJE Disclosure form from all submissions (see

In all our medical journals we strongly encourage our journals to ensure that a COI statement is included at the end of each article.

We strongly encourage (but do not require) our journals to add COI statements against members of the Editorial Boards.

Patient confidentiality and patient consent

Patient consent is required for any content where the identity of the patient can be ascertained from any part of the article (images, data or descriptions). Written consent from patients or their guardians must be provided if requested by the editor. Note that such consent is not the same as consent for medical treatment. Patients (or their guardians) should be aware of how their personal details will be presented in the article.

Consent is also required from a relative if the patient is deceased.

It is recommended that anonymising the patient is always preferable to obtaining consent, and should be done where possible.

Patient consent to participate in research is considered under ethical approval.

Ethics approval and human and animal rights

Any research involving human or animal subjects should normally have obtained ethical approval from a formal body within the authors’ institution. The need for ethical approval may differ between countries, and the journals may decide whether to accept the requirements made in the author’s country, or impose the ethical standards of the editor’s country.

Such approval should be noted in the published article, and if such approval was not required, this should also be noted in all medical journals. Case reports and review articles do not normally require ethical approval.

Retrospective ethics approval is not normally acceptable without detailed explanation of why it could not be obtained in advance. Equally patient consent (to participate in the study) should be obtained in advance.

Discover STM journals will not publish any research that infringes the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki – Ethical Principles For Medical Research Involving Human Subjects.

All research must adhere to these principles and if the editors or reviewers consider the reported research to have infringed these principles they have a duty to reject the article, and to report the authors to their institution(s).

When reporting experiments on animals, authors should indicate whether institutional and national standards for the care and use of laboratory animals were followed. Further guidance on animal research ethics is available from the International Association of Veterinary Editors’ Consensus Author Guidelines on Animal Ethics and Welfare.

Funding declarations

Authors in receipt of research funding should declare this in the article, naming the funder, and the grant number is applicable.

Image manipulation

Where any image (e.g. western blots) has been adjusted to clarify what it is intended to show, the original (unedited) image should also be submitted for the information of the editor and reviewers.

Undeclared image editing is considered unethical, and potentially fraudulent, practice.

Research misconduct

If there is a concern that authors have behaved unethically, or fraudulently, this will be investigated by the editors in partnership with their parent organization and/or the publisher.