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Ethics policies



Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) 

We are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and have adopted their best practice guidance to ensure that articles in our journals adhere to high ethical and editorial standards. This includes the COPE Principles of Transparency, which reinforce the Society’s own values of being welcoming to anyone interested in microbes, their effects and their uses; transparent and professional in everything we do, and dedicated to our charitable aims.

COPE have ten core practices, covering allegations of misconduct, authorship and contributorship, complaints and appeals, conflicts of interest and competing interests, data and reproducibility, ethical oversight, intellectual property, journal management, the peer review process, and post-publication discussions and corrections.

Most of these guidelines are covered in other parts of the Information for Authors pages, so this page outlines how we handle allegations of misconduct, complaints and appeals, and post-publication issues. If you suspect any kind of violation of these ethics policies, please contact the relevant journal team by email:

Encompassed within COPE’s Principles of Transparency is a requirement for adherence to the World Association of Medical Editors definition of editorial independence. The Society fully endorses the principle of editorial independence, which means that our Editors have full authority over the scientific content of their journals; we provide them with administrative support, but do not take part in the evaluation or selection of articles for publication.

Allegations of misconduct

Allegations of misconduct include matters like suspected plagiarism and reviewer misconduct. We take all such concerns extremely seriously. If anyone suspects misconduct, we ask them to contact the journal team immediately, providing sufficient detail for us to undertake an investigation. The precise workflow we follow after receiving an allegation of misconduct will depend on the specifics of the case, such as whether the article is still under review or already published, and the nature of the allegation. However, we always acknowledge receipt of allegations and keep the person who raises the issue informed of the progress and outcomes of our investigations.

In the specific case of an allegation of plagiarism we make use of tools such as iThenticate as part of our investigation, as well as asking the Editor-in-Chief of the journal to review the article and judge whether it may be plagiarised.

Duplicate publications

Manuscripts submitted to any Microbiology Society journal or platform must be original. We encourage authors to deposit their articles in preprint servers like biorXiv, as per our Editorial 'In praise of preprints' (10.1099/mic.0.000785), but in line with the policies of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors with regards to overlapping publications, neither the manuscript, nor substantial parts of it, should be under consideration or published by any other journal or platform. Authors should cite any overlapping publications.

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Complaints and appeals

We welcome feedback on everything we do, and that includes complaints. These should be addressed to the relevant journal email, and a member of the team will respond as quickly as possible.

Authors have the right to appeal an Editor’s decision on their article. If you wish to appeal a decision, you need to email the journal with a substantial explanation of why you think the decision should be overturned. If reviewer reports were included with the previous rejection letter then these criticisms should also be responded to. All appeals are sent to the journal’s Editor-in-Chief who will assess your article and the details of the peer review process before making a decision about your appeal. We try to manage appeals as quickly as possible, but they can be complex so we ask authors to be patient. As with any complaint, we will of course acknowledge receipt and keep you informed during the appeals process.

Microbiology Society journals do not accept uninvited re-submissions of previously rejected articles. Revising a manuscript in response to Editors comments does not justify an appeal.

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Post-publication issues

While we strive to ensure that every article published in our journals is entirely accurate, there are instances where problems are raised after publication. In line with best practice, as outlined by the STM Association, we aim to maintain the scholarly archive as a permanent, historic record, and as such articles that have been published are not removed from our site but remain available and unaltered to the maximum extent possible. Therefore, when a problem arises in a published article, we may publish a correction or separate item to notify readers of the errors in the original article. These fall into different categories, and result in different responses:

  • Where the publication process has introduced an error into the article which impacts the understanding or discoverability of the article, or the scientific content, we will consider publishing a correction (Corrigendum or Erratum).
  • Where there are issues which may affect the validity of the scientific record, such as suspected image manipulation, but the authors are not willing to publish a correction, we will publish an Expression of Concern.
  • Where there are major issues affecting the validity of the scientific record, such as duplicate publication or proven plagiarism, we will publish a Retraction.

Errata, Corrigenda, Expressions of Concern, and Retractions are published articles, are free to view and digitally linked to the original published article both on our site and in third-party sites which collect our metadata (e.g. PubMed, Web of Science, and Google Scholar).

We follow COPE guidelines wherever possible and necessary, but every case is different.

In all cases we work in collaboration with the authors, and we may also work the Editor who managed the article’s peer review, the Editor-in-Chief or the Chair of the Publishing Panel, to determine the best solution. If the issue was raised by a third party, they are also kept informed. 

Where authors are required to respond, either to check proofs or to offer a rebuttal, we will predominantly contact through email. We will chase at least three times, and attempt to contact through phone where email is proving unresponsive. Following this process, if responses remain unreceived, the office will make a decision on whether to close the case, issue a publisher’s note or proceed with a correction or retraction.

If anyone suspects a post-publication issue, we ask them to contact the Editorial Office immediately, providing sufficient detail for us to undertake an investigation.

For authors wishing to change their name on a published article, we have developed a policy specifically to allow this. Please see our Post-acceptance and publication page for more information.

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Preprints and peer reviews on Access Microbiology

We have developed specific policies to deal with potential issues that may arise with preprints and peer reviews posted on the open research platform, Access Microbiology. Please see the platform homepage for more information.

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Research involving humans and animals

For any research involving humans or animals, authors should consult the Author statements section on our Prepare an article page for the relevant requirements.

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Biosecurity

The World Health Organization defines dual use research of concern (DURC) as “life sciences research that is intended for benefit, but which might easily be misapplied to do harm”, and they have a helpful guidance document which we encourage all authors to check. In a similar biosecurity context, Gain of Function research indicates the manipulation of pathogenic species to introduce new functions, such as enhanced transmissibility, which is similarly open to misapplication.

In line with the Society’s position on biosecurity, we support the principle that DURC and Gain of Function studies may have legitimate scientific purposes and all of our journals will therefore consider these types of articles, subject to additional steps during peer review. We ask all authors to disclose any potential DURC or Gain of Function implications during submission. Our team will flag the article to the Editor-in-Chief and a member of the Editorial Board who specialises in the same field as the article, who will discuss the article in detail and potentially seek external advice before proceeding to full peer review. The reviewers’ comments will then be discussed by the Editor and Editor-in-Chief before a decision is reached. If the article is published, it may be accompanied by an Editorial explaining the reason for publication.

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Parachute research

Parachute research (a.k.a. helicopter research) is a commonly used term describing the practice of researchers from the wealthy Global North conducting primary research within a host country, often a developing country, and subsequently publishing findings without adequate recognition, credit, or engagement of local researchers, staff and/or the supporting infrastructure.

The Microbiology Society has collected feedback from the microbiological community, and this will inform the Society’s future efforts to prevent the publication and dissemination of parachute research.

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Research metrics

We are a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and believe that while metrics form part of a holistic assessment of research, no metric should be used in isolation to assess the value of research. To this end:

  • We make a range of metrics available to the community to allow assessment of the impact of individual articles as well as the journals in which they are published.
  • We encourage responsible authorship practices, including use of ORCiD and the provision of information about the contributions of each author.
  • We have signed up to the Initiative for Open Citations, allowing free reuse and mining of reference lists.
  • Our self-archiving and sharing policies are simple and liberal, making it easy for researchers to share their work.

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