To ensure scientific publications are of the highest quality, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) have established a series of international ethical standards and guidelines. These guidelines provide advice to editors and publishers on all aspects of publication ethics and, in particular, how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct. COPE also acts as a forum for editors and publishers of peer-reviewed journals to discuss all aspects of publication ethics.

Dove Medical Press is a member of COPE and subscribes to COPE’s Core Practices and Best Practice Guidelines to ensure the highest standards in publication ethics are upheld. Every effort is made to ensure publication ethics are followed and all manuscripts submitted to Dove Medical Press undergo thorough pre-publication screening including iThenticate anti-plagiarism software checks. Authors are also required to complete conflict of interest (COI) forms and confirmation of authorship. 

Dove Medical Press will investigate any allegation of publication misconduct and follows COPEs Core Practices and Flowcharts when dealing with such matters. Authors should be aware of several major ethical issues when submitting an article to Dove Medical Press for publication. These issues are outlined below:

All manuscripts submitted to Dove Medical Press must be original and not published or in consideration for publication elsewhere. This includes articles previously published in another language. Authors must clearly state to the editor whether aspects of the work contained in the current submission has been reported in a similarly related submission or publication. Dove Medical Press will accept submissions which share characteristics of an author's thesis or dissertation; however, the manuscript must have been substantially reworded and contain unique aspects not included in the thesis.

Where duplication involves reporting the exact same data in two or more publications, redundancy involves presenting substantially overlapping data in two or more publications. This includes borrowing or recycling from the authors previous work and publishing it again with some additional data. Another form of redundancy is known as ‘salami-slicing’. It refers to the breaking up or segmenting of a larger study into two or more parts and submitting them to one or more journals. As a rule, if a study contains considerably similar hypotheses, population, and methods as another it may be considered redundant and will not be considered for publication, especially if the other work has not been adequately cited.

Plagiarism occurs when an author presents data, text or the ideas of others as their own without the proper attribution or credit. Plagiarism generally occurs when large pieces of data or text have been copied from another source without the appropriate citation. Any such manuscript submitted to Dove Medical Press will not be considered for publication. Authors must take care in ensuring they correctly attribute the work of others in all submissions. Reusing or recycling the author’s previous work without the correct attribution is considered a form of self-plagiarism and such cases will also not be considered for publication. Note that all manuscripts submitted to Dove Medical Press are run through iThenticate anti-plagiarism software.

Data falsification/fabrication
Falsification of research includes changing or omitting data in order to make it fit with a desired outcome. Fabrication of research involves making up and reporting data. Both are considered forms of research fraud. When submitting a manuscript to Dove Medical Press, authors must ensure all data contained within their manuscript is accurate and correctly represents their work. To help assist Dove Medical Press with manuscript evaluation, authors are expected to retain all raw data represented in their manuscripts. If the original data cannot be produced on request, acceptance of a manuscript may be declined.

Image manipulation
Dove Medical Press expects all images contained within manuscripts to be accurate and free from manipulation. Specific features within an image may not be enhanced, obscured, moved, removed or introduced without adequate notification of what the alteration is. Adjustments to the brightness, contrast or color balance of an image are acceptable if they do not obscure, eliminate or misrepresent information present in the original. Grouping images from different parts of gels, western blots or microscope images must be made explicit in the arrangement of the figure or in the text of the figure legend. Similar to data fabrication, if the original images cannot be produced on request, acceptance of a manuscript may be declined.

Authorship must be strictly limited to those who have made a considerable contribution to the conception, planning, execution and writing of the study. Dove Medical Press observes the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) authorship recommendations and will not consider manuscripts suspected of ghost, gift or guest authorship. Ghost authorship occurs when a qualifying author is omitted from the manuscripts authorship list, whereas gift or guest authorship occurs when someone who did not qualify for authorship is listed as an author. Please note that Dove Medical Press journal editors are not in a position to adjudicate authorship disputes before or after publication. If disagreements cannot be resolved between the authors, they should take the matter to the authors relevant institutional authority.

Conflicts of interest
A conflict of interest or competing interest involves a situation that has the potential to influence or bias someone’s judgements or views. They arise when a personal judgement concerning a primary interest (such as patient welfare or research results) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). While there is nothing unethical about having a conflict of interest, not declaring one is considered a form of misconduct. Dove Medical Press will not consider manuscripts that are suspected of having an undisclosed conflict of interest.
There are various kinds of conflict of interest that fall under several broad headings including, financial ties, academic viewpoints, personal relationships, institutional affiliations and legal involvement. If an author is in doubt over whether they need to disclose a conflict of interest, they should consult with their institution or someone in a position of authority, such as the journal Editor-in-chief, who can guide them on the right course of action.

Ethical issues with a submitted manuscript
Ethical misconduct in research generally occurs when researchers fail to comply with the legislative and regulatory requirements affecting their work. This includes the substantial or persistent violation of relevant local, national or international regulations and laws. In most cases these violations relate to the use of funds, care of animals, human participants, pharmaceuticals and biological or chemical materials.
Dove Medical Press takes its role in ensuring all publications meet ethical requirements seriously. Manuscripts will not be considered for publication where evidence exists that a study was not suitably approved by an International Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee. Similarly, submissions will not be considered where concerns are raised over a lack of patient consent, improper patient identification protection or a lack of animal ethical approval and improper animal experimentation procedures.

Appropriation of an author's ideas or data by a reviewer
The peer review system is an essential part of the academic publication process. Peer reviewers are given privileged access to the unpublished work of others and they are entrusted in this role. In very rare instances peer reviewers may breach this trust and appropriate the work they were assigned to review. Despite cases of this being extremely rare, Dove Medical Press recognizes the damage such actions would cause on the peer review process. All peer reviewers at Dove Medical Press are advised to read and consider the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers before accepting to review a manuscript. Any reviewer found to have committed misconduct by appropriating the work of others will be permanently removed from the peer review database and reported to other relevant authorities.

Article Retraction
The retraction of an article by its authors or the Editor happens when COPE guidelines proceed to this conclusion:

  • A retraction titled "(article title) Retraction" signed by the authors and/or the Editor is published in a subsequent entry
  • A link on the retraction is supplied to the original article (and vice versa)
  • The original article is watermarked "Retracted"
  • The original HTML version is removed

Guidelines for patient consent and ethical approval


Patient identity/Informed consent
Dove Medical Press requires authors to confirm that all patients or participants (or that person’s parent or legal guardian, if the study participant is under 18 years of age) of any research, clinical trials or case studies have provided written informed consent for their details to be used in the manuscript. Similarly, any manuscript containing data, images or videos relating to an individual or group of individuals must have written patient consent for the publication of these details. Authors must also ensure all identifying patient data is anonymized and any nonessential identifying information should be omitted from the article. This includes but is not limited to the patient’s name, address, place of employment, date of birth, telephone number, email address, medical records and patient ID, account numbers, license number, IP address and full or comparable photographic image or video. Dove Medical Press instructs all authors to read and follow the ICMJE guidelines for the Protection of Research Participants.
Where informed consent has been obtained, it must be indicated in the published article and authors must be able to provide details of this if requested by the editor. The forms must contain all the elements generally expected to be included in a patient consent form. The WHO provides useful informed consent form templates which can be adapted by investigators to suit the needs of their specific studies. It is also the responsibility of the authors to ensure they have adequately archived patient consent forms and inform the journal of this. If any doubt exists about patient identification the Publisher at Dove Medical Press will be the final arbiter.

Case reports/Case series/Clinical datasets
Dove Medical Press considers a case report to be the diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment follow-up of a single patient. In comparison, a case series is considered a group of case reports involving patients who were all given similar treatment. A clinical dataset is a list of well-defined variables collected during the course of ongoing patient care or as part of a clinical trial program. It includes electronic health records, administrative data, patient registries, and clinical trial data.
In some instances, a case report or case series containing information on less than three patients may not require IRB approval. This is because a case series of less than three subjects may not be considered generalized knowledge or research. However, this requirement is dependant on the institution, country or region implementing it and authors must ensure they have followed the correct regulatory requirements of their respective institution or country. Outside this requirement, all case reports, case series or clinical datasets must have IRB approval and authors must be aware that IRB approval cannot be given retroactively. A statement declaring IRB approval must be included in the manuscript. Details of Journals’ Best Practices for Ensuring Consent for Publishing Medical Case Reports can be found on COPEs website.

Ethical approval of human research
All planning conduct and reporting of human research must be in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. This includes any study involving human subjects, medical records and human tissues. Authors should also seek the approval to conduct research from an independent local, regional or national review board (e.g. Institutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee). Any considerations or approvals made by this committee must not reduce or eliminate the protections for research subjects set out by the Declaration of Helsinki. If doubt remains whether the research was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, the author must demonstrate the rationale for the independent local, regional or national review boards decision. A statement declaring review board approval must be included in the manuscript.

Ethical approval of animal research
All manuscripts involving animal research must show the work followed international, national and institutional guidelines for the ethical and legal treatment of animals. Authors must show the study was approved by an ethics review committee from the same institution at which the study was conducted. For non-human primate studies and veterinary studies using client-owned animals, it must be demonstrated the work meets the standards set out in NC3Rs primates guidelines and follows veterinary care best practices guidelines. For veterinary studies informed client consent must also be provided. Dove Medical Press advises all authors conducting animal research to read and follow NC3Rs ARRIVE guidelines. The guidelines set out the currently accepted procedures for the reporting of research using animals and are available in various translations including Chinese Mandarin. A statement declaring the ethical review committee’s approval must be included in the manuscript. 

Ethics FAQ for authors
Q: Do I need ethics approval for retrospective patient data?
A: Yes. Approval from a formally constituted review board (Institutional Review Board or Ethics committee) is required for all studies involving people, medical records, and human samples.
Q: Do I need patient consent for the use of retrospective data?
A: Informed consent by participants should always be sought. If not possible, an institutional review board must decide if this is ethically acceptable. A statement should be included in the Materials and Methods section of your manuscript, regarding the IRB decision.
Q: Do I need ethics approval for a review article or meta-analysis article?
A: No. This will have been obtained by the original authors.
Q: Do I need ethics approval for using samples sourced from commercial providers?
A: Yes. Approval from a formally constituted review board (Institutional Review Board or Ethics committee) is required for all studies involving people, medical records, and human samples.
Q: If ethics approval was not required, what statement should I include in my manuscript?
A: For those investigators who do not have access to formal ethics review committees, the principles outlined in the Declaration of Helsinki should be followed. If the study is judged exempt, a statement from the ethics committee is required. A statement should be included in the Materials and Methods section of your manuscript, regarding the decision.
Q: Do I need ethical approval when reporting on veterinary clinical cases?
A: No. For studies using client-owned animals, a high standard (best practice) of veterinary care and involves informed client consent statement should be included in the Materials and Methods section.
Q: Do I need ethics approval for studies involving live animals?
A: Yes. You must specify in the Materials and Methods section of your manuscript, the ethical review committee approval, and the international, national, and/or institutional guidelines followed regarding the animals welfare.
Q: Do I need approval for cells that have been sourced from an accredited commercial provider?
A: No. However, if cells have been gifted, or not sourced from an accredited commercial provider, we require confirmation that the research has been approved by a named institutional review board or ethics committee.

Updated 17 August 2018