Publication Ethics

The Science Partner Journal (SPJ) Program advocates and adheres to the highest standards for accurate and ethical publication of science.

Authorship and Conflict of Interest


To be included as an “author,” a researcher must meet the criteria for authorship laid out in the definition of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which states that authorship should be based on whether an individual:

  1. Provided substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work.
  2. Participated in drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content.
  3. Participated in final approval of the version to be published.
  4. Provided 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.

The Science Partner Journals do not permit ghost, guest, or honorary authorship. “Ghost authorship” refers to any context where an individual has made author-level contributions to the paper but is not included in the author list. “Guest or honorary authorship” refers to any context when someone who has not met all criteria of authorship is listed as an author. Individuals who have participated in generation of the research paper but who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed in the Acknowledgments section of a paper alongside a brief indication of the nature of their contribution. 

All authors will also receive an email from the submission system asking them to confirm receipt and verify authorship of each paper that is submitted. Submission of a paper that has not first been approved by all authors listed will result in immediate rejection without appeal. Any changes in authorship following submission must be approved in writing by all of the original authors.

Conflict of Interest

The Science Partner Journals have a primary responsibility to its readers and to the public to provide in its pages clear and unbiased scientific results and analyses. We think that our readers should be informed of additional relationships of our authors that could pose a conflict of interest. Thus, for readers to evaluate the data and opinions presented in any Science Partner Journal, they must be informed of financial and other interests of our authors that may be at odds with unbiased presentation of data or analysis. 

Therefore, the Science Partner Journals believe that manuscripts should be accompanied by clear disclosures from all authors of their affiliations, funding sources, or financial holdings that might raise questions about possible sources of bias. 

Prior to publication each author listed on the manuscript must complete a copy of the Authorship and Conflict of Interest Form (located in the Information for Authors). This form asks authors to specify the nature and level of their contribution to the article, their understanding regarding the obligation to share data and materials, and any affiliations, funding sources or financial holdings that might raise questions about possible sources of bias.

Plagiarism and Duplicate Publication


All Science Partner Journals utilize iThenticate, a plagiarism detection tool that compares all submissions against millions of published articles and web pages. Authors should appropriately cite all quotations and not heavily lean upon large swaths of content from other publications, including your own publications. If there is significant overlap with existing sources (not including the submission’s preprint posting), the editorial office will evaluate the overlap and contact the authors for clarification or editing if needed. Authors must comply with any requests from the editorial office regarding the iThenticate report to proceed with the review process. Significant, verbatim overlap with published sources indicating clear plagiarism will result in immediate rejection.

Use of third-party materials (image permissions)

Papers may occasionally include images or figures created by a third-party (i.e., a non-author). Express permission must be received from the copyright holder prior to publication. The copyright holder, who could be a publisher, corporation, or individual, must complete the Image Permission form. Permission is only needed if the copyright holder is not an author on the paper. The form can be found in the Information for Authors.

Preprints and Prior Publication

Science Partner Journals will not consider any paper or component of a paper that has been published or is under consideration for publication elsewhere in any language. Distribution on the internet and conference proceedings may be considered prior publication and may compromise the originality of the paper, although we do allow posting on certain not-for-profit preprint servers such as ArXiv and bioRxiv. Please contact the editorial office with questions regarding this policy or allowable postings. In addition, copies of papers submitted to other journals by any of the authors that relate to a research article submitted to any Science Partner Journal must be included with the submission.

Data Sharing and Materials Availability

After publication, all data and materials (including computer codes) necessary to understand, assess and extend the conclusions of the manuscript must be available to any reader of the Science Partner Journals. All reasonable requests for data or materials must be fulfilled. Unreasonable restrictions on data or material availability may prevent publication.

Public data repositories

Before publication, large data sets must be deposited in a community approved database and an accession number or a specific access address must be included in the published paper. The DataCite Repository Finder can help authors find an appropriate repository for their data. 

Fossils or other rare specimens must be deposited in a public museum or repository and available for research.

Materials Sharing or Transfer Agreements

Any restrictions on the availability of data, codes, or materials, including fees and restrictions on original data obtained from other sources must be disclosed to the editors as must any Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) that place constraints on providing the data or materials used or produced in this research. Please disclose this information when completing the Authorship and Conflict of Interest Form. Material Transfer Agreements must be included in the acknowledgements. Patents (whether applications or awards to the authors or home institutions) related to the work should also be declared at submission.

Unpublished Data and Personal Communications

Citations to unpublished data and personal communications cannot be used to support claims in the paper. In press citations are allowed.


In research articles, the Materials and Methods section should provide sufficient detail to allow replication of the study.  

We also encourage authors to consider submitting their step-by-step protocols to online protocol repositories such as Bio-protocol and and to cite them in their submissions.

Ethical Experimental Design

Use of Animals

For all animal experimentation described in the manuscript, all Science Partner Journals require that authors state in the Methods section their adherence to the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals or the equivalent. Species, strain, sex, and age of laboratory animals should be provided in the main text or Supplementary Materials. 

For genetically modified animals and to avoid confounding effects of inbred strain background, littermate controls should generally be used, although exceptions may be allowed. Justification for other control animals should be included. Authors should fully describe the source of their animals and number of times backcrosses were performed.

Studies with Human Subjects

Informed consent must be obtained for studies on humans after the nature and possible consequences of the studies are explained. A statement that informed consent was obtained must also appear in the manuscript. All research on humans must have approval from the institutional IRB (Institutional Review Board) or an equivalent body. The editors reserve the right to request IRB documents associated with a particular paper. Gender and age of all subjects should be provided in the main text or Supplementary Materials.

Reporting Guidelines

Authors are encouraged to follow published standard reporting guidelines for their study discipline. Many guidelines can be found at the EQUATOR website.

Embargo Policy

Accepted papers will be published online in an unformatted version as an Article in Press while the paper undergoes production. This accepted version is fully citable as an in press article. 

If research is under an embargo that would be violated by such publication practices, please notify the editorial office upon acceptance.

Archiving Policy

All Science Partner Journals are archived in Portico, which provides permanent archiving for electronic scholarly journals, as well as via the LOCKSS initiative. All Science Partner journals operate a fully Open Access publishing model which allows open global access to its published content.

Security Concerns

Authors and reviewers are expected to notify editors if a manuscript could be considered to report dual use research of concern (DURC). The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has defined DURC as “life sciences research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, or national security”. Papers identified as possible DURC will be brought to the attention of the Editor-in-Chief for further evaluation. If necessary, outside reviewers with expertise in the area will be consulted.

Reporting Ethical Concerns

AAAS and all of its journals follow all COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) guidelines and we require all of our partnering institutions to do the same. All Science Partner Journals are committed to following these guidelines regarding ethical concerns including issues related to:

  • Scientific misconduct
  • Undisclosed conflicts of interest
  • Errors in published articles
  • Technical concerns in published articles

Any ethical concerns should be directed to the specific Science Partner Journal’s editorial office.

Post-Publication Corrections and Comments

All Science Partner Journals are committed to addressing and correcting errors in published papers through the following.

  • Erratum: Errata are issued when errors are discovered that do not affect the core conclusions of a paper but are still needed to correct the record of publication.
  • Editorial Expression of Concern: This is published when an institutional investigation of large-scale error or misconduct is under way regarding a published paper.
  • Retractions: A paper may be retracted if misconduct or errors that significantly change the conclusion of the study are discovered.

Errata, Expressions of Concern, and Retractions are completed at the discretion of the editors. They are published online and linked to the related published article. 

Authors or readers that discover an error in a published paper should contact the specific Science Partner Journal’s editorial office.

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