Our commitment to publishing ethics and research integrity

Publishing ethics and research integrity exist to ensure high-quality publications, public trust in research findings, and that people receive credit for their work.

We serve the academic community by ensuring the work we publish can be relied upon. Scholarly and scientific research is vital to our mission to foster human progress through knowledge – so protecting the integrity of our publishing is something we’re passionate about. As publishers of academic books and journals that directly impact human health and progress, we take publishing ethics very seriously.

We have a specialist in-house Publishing Ethics and Research Integrity team, focused on identifying and tackling unethical behavior. This page explains how we do that, and outlines some common issues that all stakeholders in the academic publishing process should be aware of. 

Taylor & Francis is a member of the STM Association, and we’re actively involved with the STM Integrity Hub. We’re also a member of the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE), a charity dedicated to promoting the integrity of peer reviewed publications, and a signatory to United2Act, an international multi-stakeholder group dedicated to addressing the challenge of paper mills in scholarly publishing. As part of the Informa group, Taylor & Francis also adheres to a strict Anti-Bribery and Corruption code.

Ethical guidance for journal editors, authors, and reviewers

At their core, publishing ethics are guidelines for publishers, authors, editors, and reviewers. Everyone involved in the publication process should promote fairness and equality, avoid bias and discrimination, protect the integrity of the academic record, respect the confidentiality of others, and be open about competing interests.

We operate a robust and well-regarded peer review process to ensure that content is always of the highest standard, and we’re committed to upholding the integrity of the work we publish. We also provide detailed guidance on ethics for journal editors, authors and reviewers.

  • Editors. Journal editors should give unbiased consideration to each manuscript submitted for publication, and keep the peer review process confidential. If you receive a credible allegation of misconduct, then you have a duty to investigate the matter with Taylor & Francis. We recommend journal editors join COPE and adhere to its principles to ensure the integrity of research. We also expect all editors to comply with the Taylor & Francis/Routledge Journal Editor Code of Conduct.
  • Authors. Having a book published, or a paper in a peer reviewed journal, is an essential part of the career of every academic or researcher. Benefits to you as an author – and to your funder and institution – come from the work done to make sure every article adheres to certain standards. For example, researchers must report their work accurately so that other people can make use of it and apply it. The Taylor & Francis Editorial Policies set out many of the guidelines for ethical publishing that you should understand and follow.
  • Reviewers. ​​Reviewers must give unbiased consideration to each manuscript submitted, declare any conflict of interest, and keep the peer review process confidential. As there’s been a steady rise in the number of journals using electronic peer review, there has unfortunately also been a rise in ethical concerns about the peer review process. See our guide to the ethics of peer review, and our ethical guidelines for peer reviewers.

Our guidance also extends to providing training and support. Our Ethics team conducts regular researcher webinars and workshops focused on research integrity and publishing ethics. In 2022 we delivered 26 webinars, reaching over 40,000 researchers.

For more information, visit our Editor Resources and Author Services websites.

What is research integrity?

Research integrity is sometimes confused with research ethics and data integrity. These are linked, but different.

  • Research ethics are specifically concerned with the ethical issues that may arise when conducting research involving animals or human subjects. We publish research ethics guidelines for STM and arts, humanities, and social science journals, which include topics such as ethical approval and informed consent.
  • Data integrity is the overall accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data. It also refers to the safety of data in regard to regulatory compliance – such as GDPR compliance – and data security. Data integrity cases, including image integrity, aren’t always due to fraud – they can be a result of data mismanagement or disputes over data ownership. Between 2017 and 2022, our Ethics team has seen an increase in data integrity cases of 20% – the top recurring case type over this period.
  • Research integrity means conducting research according to high professional and ethical standards, so that the results are trustworthy. In 2019 Professor Lex Bouter spoke at the Amsterdam Scholarly Summit, and shared his expertise on research integrity. Watch the video or read the transcript to learn more. 

What are publishing ethics?

Publishing ethics relate to the integrity of the publication process itself. The issues go broader than research ethics and integrity, to include authorship, plagiarism, paper mills, use of artificial intelligence (AI), bias and breaches of confidentiality. From fake news to paper mills to AI, these issues are numerous and growing. The need for publishers to have ethical frameworks, processes, and policies is therefore greater than ever. It’s something that we at Taylor & Francis have always been committed to.

Our Director of Publishing Ethics and Integrity, Dr Sabina Alam, explains more about her role, some of the issues, and how we work to uphold publishing ethics in this video.

Read the video transcript and audio description.

Sabina Alam’s 2023 paper in the Journal of Data and Information Science sets out why research integrity matters – and what we’re doing about it. Read Perspectives from a publishing ethics and research integrity team for required improvements to learn more.

Publishing ethics issues may include:

  • Data integrity – including image integrity
  • Authorship concerns – including authorship disputes
  • Plagiarism
  • Duplicate submissions or publication
  • Reuse of third-party content
  • Competing interests
  • Submissions from paper mills
  • Use of AI in research and writing
  • Bias, and breaches of confidentiality in peer review.

The most common ethics cases we see relate to data integrity, authorship concerns, and plagiarism. As technology evolves, we also need tools to tackle the evolution of paper mills, and policies around the use of generative AI. 

Authorship and plagiarism

Many of the issues we tackle happen due to suboptimal education or awareness about publishing ethics standards, rather than deliberate misconduct. We see real global variation in the understanding of plagiarism, which has been further complicated by the use of large language model tools, like ChatGPT. In addition, people aren’t always fully aware of the rights, roles, and responsibilities of authors.

Authorship disputes can arise when credit for work isn’t properly attributed. Where a book or paper has multiple authors, listing them tells readers who did the work and should ensure that the right people get the credit, and take responsibility for it. COPE has a useful guide for new researchers on how to handle authorship disputes.

We’ve seen a decrease in the number of standard plagiarism and authorship cases referred to the Ethics team since 2019, due to the implementation of training, resources, and detection tools. However, the cases have increased in complexity.

At Taylor & Francis we make a lot of effort to conduct outreach activities with authors and institutions to raise the awareness about publishing ethics standards. We also use CrossCheck, a tool that screens for unoriginal text. Authors submitting to a Taylor & Francis journal should be aware that their manuscript may be submitted to CrossCheck at any point during the peer review or production processes.

What are paper mills?

Paper mills are profit oriented, unofficial, and potentially illegal organizations that put fraudulent manuscripts together, submit them to journals and book publishers – and sell authorship to those articles and chapters. Paper mills are a threat to research integrity, and have a direct impact on society by spreading misinformation.

A ‘pressure to publish’ culture can drive the use of paper mills. Many academics and researchers need to publish regularly to progress their careers – and a small proportion seek alternative methods, such as using paper mills, to do so. We’re committed to detecting, investigating, and preventing fraudulent submissions. Things we’re doing include:

  • Preventative measures, to stop these articles and chapters getting published in the first place. We track and report evolving trends, to help us all keep on top of the problem. 
  • Training for editors and colleagues in best practices for detection and investigation.
  • Auditing journals and books that are identified as at risk – and taking swift action where necessary.
  • Participation in cross-publisher working groups and task forces within COPE and STM, focused on developing industry-wide guidance, policies, and tools. We’re a signatory to United2Act, an international multi-stakeholder group supported by COPE and STM, and dedicated to addressing the challenge of paper mills in scholarly publishing. We also work with other stakeholders, including institutions, developers, and regulators. 
  • Use of technology to detect these papers – which is really the only way to tackle this problem at scale. We’re piloting and testing a range of research integrity tools, including STM’s paper mill detection tool, image manipulation tools, and more.

Read more about how we’re tackling paper mills in Dealing with the perils of “paper mills”: How the Bioengineered journal fights fake science.

AI and ethics in publishing

The development of generative AI technologies such ChatGPT, and their increasing availability and use in research and writing, has raised new questions for publishing ethics. The issue of AI and authorship is one that’s being actively addressed by COPE, and by academic institutions and publishers, including Taylor & Francis.

AI tools, where used appropriately and responsibly, have the potential to augment research and thus foster progress through knowledge. However, such tools can’t meet the requirements for authorship, nor be listed as an author of a paper, since they have no legal standing. Authors are accountable for the originality, validity, and integrity of the content of their submissions. If you use AI tools, you must do so responsibly and in accordance with our AI policy and other editorial policies.

How we handle allegations of misconduct

Our Ethics team works to develop and embed editorial policies, and to investigate and resolve ethics and integrity issues, which may arise at any stage of the publishing process. Allegations of misconduct must be handled comprehensively, confidentially, and with caution. To ensure the findings of an investigation are fair and valid, we adhere to the following principles:

  • Assessment. Assess the merit of the concerns raised. What evidence is there and how does it impact the article or chapter? Are there competing interests?
  • Due diligence. Ensure appropriate due diligence at every step.
  • Objective. Make no assumptions and investigate with an open mind.
  • Care and attention. Ensure that any allegation is taken seriously, and all documentation is handled carefully.
  • Confidential. Ensure any sensitive information during an investigation remains confidential.
  • Professional tone. Ensure all correspondence remains professional and respectful.
  • Right of reply. Where possible, ensure that individuals are given an appropriate amount of time to reply to any concerns.
  • Anonymity. For complainants and reviewers who don’t wish to reveal their identity.

How we work collaboratively to uphold publishing ethics and research integrity

Since the issue of publishing ethics and research integrity concerns not only publishers but also the scholarly record as a whole, we need to face it collaboratively. We participate in cross-publisher working groups and task forces dedicated to developing industry-wide guidance, policies, and tools. We also work with universities, and provide training and guidance on publishing ethics to our authors.

  • Committee on Publication Ethics(COPE). We’re a member of COPE, which provides ethical guidelines and codes of conduct for publishers, journal editors, and reviewers. COPE provides education, resources, and support to its members, and fosters wider professional debate around publishing ethics. We encourage our editors, authors, and reviewers to refer to the COPE website and familiarize themselves with their best practice guidelines.
  • STM Integrity Hub. We’re actively involved with the STM Integrity Hub, which was launched in early 2022. As part of this project, Taylor & Francis, alongside other publishers, makes important contributions to research integrity through the editorial process, the peer review process, and building and maintaining a permanent record of scholarly information. Together, the STM integrity project is working on projects and development of software to address the problem of paper mills.
  • United2Act. We’re a founding signatory to United2Act, an international group of stakeholders across the industry, dedicated to tackling paper mills. Our Director of Publishing Ethics and Integrity, Dr Sabina Alam, is co-chair of its steering group, and several Taylor & Francis colleagues are part of the working groups. We’re committed to five key actions: education and awareness; improvements to post-publication corrections; more research on paper mills; enabling the development of trust markers; and facilitating dialogue between stakeholders to address key ways to tackle systematic manipulation of the publication process.
  • University Research Ethics Offices. Because publishing ethics and research integrity starts in universities and research settings, it’s important for us to work directly with the academic community too. We often work with university research ethics departments on individual cases, and provide mutual support to uphold standards of research and publishing ethics. We continue to work with relevant stakeholders to improve the communication between all parties to ensure resolution of cases can occur more quickly and smoothly. To learn more about our work in this area, read Sabina Alam’s co-authored paper Enhancing Partnerships of Institutions and Journals to Address Concerns About Research Misconduct.

It’s the collective responsibility of all stakeholders in the academic publishing process to uphold publishing ethics, promote awareness of the issues, and keep up with evolving technology. Together we can ensure the integrity of the scholarly record.

Further resources on publishing ethics

We encourage editors, authors, and reviewers to familiarize themselves with the following resources: