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Corrections, retractions and editorial expressions of concern

The Company of Biologists will take all necessary steps to maintain the accuracy and quality of the papers published in their journals.

The Company of Biologists investigates all potential issues reported to it or of which it becomes aware. In some cases, this will require the involvement of authors’ institutes and sometimes the appointment of independent experts. The majority of cases are resolved pre-publication, but some do relate to published articles. Should investigations find that no action is required, it is usual practice not to make any public statement about the investigation. If, however, investigations find that action is required relating to a published article, this will be made clear through the published record, for example in the form of a Correction, Retraction, Expression of Concern and/or Publisher’s Note.

Corrections and retractions

Should an author discern a significant error or inaccuracy in their article, they are responsible for notifying the journal, and should work together with the journal (and, where appropriate, the institute) to correct the paper. If the journal learns that a published article contains a potential error, the author will be asked to assist verification by the journal of the correctness of the original paper or correct the error. In cases of serious error or scientific misconduct, it might be necessary to ask the authors to retract their paper or to impose a retraction on them.

Where an investigation into an issue with a published paper is likely to take considerable time – or a case is particularly serious – a Publisher’s Note might be published to explain the issues to the reader while the matter is being resolved.

Corrections

Should an error appear in a published article that affects scientific meaning or author credibility but does not affect the overall results and conclusions of the paper, the policy is to publish a Correction. If an error is introduced by the publishing staff during the editing and/or proofing stages, the journal takes responsibility and a Correction is published, with appropriate apologies to authors and readers.

All Corrections are published prominently in the journal on numbered pages, listed on the table of contents and have their own doi. They will be clearly labelled and contain a full reference to the original article to ensure that they are picked up by indexing systems for reciprocal online linking. The text will explain the changes being made and/or the reasons for action being taken. For articles that are posted online ahead of publication, the Correction will be made and a new version of the article is posted. There is usually no accompanying Correction article.

Retractions

Should a published paper contain one or more significant errors or inaccuracies that change the overall results and conclusions of the paper, the entire paper should be retracted. The word ‘Retraction’ will be used in the title of the Retraction to ensure that it is detected by indexing systems. The journal will request an explanation from the author(s) as to how the errors or inaccuracies occurred, and if they are not satisfied with the response they will ask the employers of the authors or some other appropriate body to investigate, and particularly to consider the possibility of fraudulent behaviour. The journal will make all reasonable attempts to ensure that such an investigation is carried out with due diligence.

Notices of retraction will mention the reasons and basis for the retraction. They will be clearly labelled and contain a full reference to the original article. The Retraction notice is linked to the original article online. The PDF of the retracted article will be stamped with the words ‘Retracted’, and other views of the article will be clearly marked as retracted. Should an Accepted manuscript be retracted, the Retraction notice will replace the withdrawn article, and will subsequently be published in an issue.

Informed consent policy

For research involving human subjects or human tissue, authors must name the committee(s) that approved the experiments in the Materials & Methods section of the paper and include with their submission a statement to confirm that informed consent was obtained from all subjects or tissue donors. Authors are encouraged to submit a sample of a patient consent form, and may require submission on particular occasions. For work involving human eggs or embryos, any financial recompense to donors must be declared. All clinical investigation must have been conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki.

Peer review policy

Unbiased independent critical assessment is of vital importance in scholarly publishing. The Company of Biologists’ peer review policies adhere to the guidelines on publishing objective and unbiased scientific information set by COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics.

Confidentiality

Editors and reviewers are expected to treat articles they handle confidentially. Editors and reviewers must not disclose information about manuscripts (including their receipt, content, status in the publishing process, reviewer feedback and final decision) to anyone. They should not use knowledge of the work before its publication to further their own interests. Reviewers also have the right to confidentiality; they will remain anonymous to authors (unless they choose to waive their anonymity) and readers, and their comments will not be published.

In situations where a reviewer wishes to co-review an article with a junior member of their laboratory, they must abide by the same rules of confidentiality and publishing ethics, and be named as a co-reviewer on submission of the review to the journal. Sharing manuscript details with lab members as a whole or with colleagues outside of the lab is not permitted.

Financial and competing interests

Reviewers should declare any association with authors of a paper. They should also disclose any financial or professional associations that could be perceived as interfering with the objectivity of their scientific assessment of a paper. If a reviewer is unsure whether they should review a paper for reasons of competing interests, they should inform the Editor of the paper so that the Editor can decide whether a potential conflict should exclude them.

Authors can request to exclude reviewers with perceived competing interests from refereeing their paper, but are asked to provide additional information to support such a request. The Editors will respect these requests provided that they do not interfere with the objective and thorough assessment of an article.

 

Research ethics policy

Resource sharing

Authors are asked to agree that they will make available to qualified researchers, in a timely manner and with minimal restrictions, the reagents and materials, including mutant and transgenic lines, antibodies and DNA constructs, described in their article for the purpose of academic, non-commercial research. Authors must make datasets available in public repositories.

Experimental subjects

Researchers are encouraged to consult the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting animal research. These guidelines provide a checklist for those preparing a manuscript intended for publication. Papers describing experimental procedures that may reasonably be presumed to have inflicted unnecessary pain, discomfort or disturbance of normal health on living animals will not be published. Manuscripts will only be accepted if: (1) it is clear that the scientific advances made justified the procedures; (2) appropriate anaesthetic and surgical procedures were followed; (3) adequate steps were taken to ensure that animals did not suffer unnecessarily at any stage of the experiment.

For research involving live vertebrates and higher invertebrates, experiments must comply with all relevant institutional and national animal welfare laws, guidelines and policies, as should the care and use of experimental animals. The corresponding author will be asked to confirm this at submission, and a statement confirming that experiments conform to the relevant regulatory standards is required.

Image manipulation policy

Any alterations made to figures using computer software must be consistent with the Company image manipulation policy. The images presented in the manuscript must remain representative of the original data, and the corresponding author will be asked to confirm this at submission.

Digital images in manuscripts accepted for publication will be scrutinized by the Production Department for any indication of manipulation. If evidence of inappropriate image manipulation is detected, the Journal’s Editors might ask for the original data to be supplied.

  • Do not add to, alter, enhance, obscure, move or remove a specific feature of an image – the focus should be on the data rather than its presentation (e.g. do not ‘clean up’ backgrounds or  remove/obscure imperfections and non-specific bands)
  • Adjustments should be applied to the whole image so no specific feature of the original data, including background, is obscured, eliminated or misrepresented as a consequence. Any non-linear adjustments must be disclosed in the appropriate figure legends and in the Materials & Methods section.
  • The splicing of multiple images to suggest they represent a single micrograph or gel is not allowed
  • Any grouping or consolidation of data (e.g. removal of lanes from gels and blots or cropping of images) must be made apparent (i.e. with dividing lines or white spaces) and should be explicitly indicated in the figure legends
  • A positive and a negative control and a set of molecular weight markers must be indicated on all images of gels and blots
  • High-contrast gels and blots are unacceptable (i.e. no white backgrounds) – grey backgrounds are expected
  • The same data in whole or part should not be presented in multiple figures  (e.g. loading controls; different exposures of the same gel), unless explicitly stated and justified
  • Previously published data in whole or in part (e.g. loading controls) should not be presented
  • All figures containing micrographs must contain a scale bar.
  • Image acquisition methods must be described in the Materials & Methods or figure legends.
  • Individual data should not be used across multiple figures, unless this is because of experimental design (for example, when multiple experiments are performed simultaneously using a single control experiment), in which case this must be clearly stated in each figure legend.

Data retention

It is expected that all authors will comply with their funder/institute requirements for data storage; as a minimum, authors are recommended to keep their original data for 7 years.

Original data must be available for review by the journal if deemed necessary for proper evaluation of the manuscript before publication. If the original data cannot be produced, the article might be rejected, or have its acceptance revoked.

Original data must also be available for review by the journal after publication if concerns are raised. If the original data cannot be produced, the article could be retracted.

Cases of suspected misconduct will be reported to the author’s home institution and/or funding agency.

Originality and plagiarism

By submitting an article, authors are asserting that their work is entirely original and that others’ work or text has been appropriately cited or attributed. The re-use of one’s own published work without appropriate citation (self-plagiarism) is also unethical. Upon article acceptance, all manuscripts undergo screening for plagiarism (using the iThenticate software provided by CrossRef).

For publicly available theses, the text ideally should be rewritten to ensure that the submitted paper is original. This will avoid potential issues regarding copyright if owned by a third party. Any data previously presented in a thesis in whole or in part should be detailed in the Acknowledgements section with complete citation details.

 

Editorial policies

Version control

All versions of scholarly articles will remain available once published. When multiple versions of the same article are available, The Company of Biologists will ensure that these articles are clearly labelled with the date of publication and version number or type. The online issue version is considered to be the version of record.

Permanence of the publication record

Preservation of electronic versions of articles in a permanent archive is an essential component of today’s publishing. The Company of Biologists has a third-party agreement with Highwire Press, who administer the archive, and is a member of the LOCKSS/CLOCKSS program.

The Company has adopted the DOI (digital object identifier) system to enable accurate citation and stable online availability of published articles (see www.doi.org).

Financial and competing interests

A competing or conflict of interest is anything that might inappropriately influence (bias), or which might be perceived to interfere with, the full and objective presentation, review or publication of research findings or review-type material. Competing interests can be financial, professional or personal, and can be held by authors, their employers, funders, reviewers, Editors and editorial staff. Having a competing interest does not imply wrongdoing.

All participants in the publication process are asked to disclose all relationships that could be viewed as potential competing interests.

Authors

The complete disclosure of financial, personal or professional associations that could be perceived as interfering with the objectivity of their scientific judgment is required; authors should err on the side of disclosure in the event of uncertainty. Such associations include (but are not limited to) patents, consultancy, paid employment/affiliation, stock ownership, board membership, gifts received, research grants, relationships with Editors, membership in a lobbying organization, role as an expert witness, membership of a government advisory board, and relationships with organizations or funding groups. If any author included on a manuscript has potential competing interests, these must be clearly stated in a disclosure statement with the original submission of their work. Detailed information about current associations extending beyond those listed on the title (address) page of their manuscript, as well as any anticipated in the foreseeable future, should be provided. Competing interests held by an author’s employer (e.g. academic institution, company, etc.) or the financial sponsor of the work presented should also be declared.

Authors must include information regarding the provider of financial and material support of their research in the Funding section at the end of the manuscript. This statement should include authors’ grant support, funding sources, and the provision of equipment and supplies.

A ‘Competing Interests’ disclosure statement will be published at the end of the main text. Authors without financial or competing interests should explicitly assert this and the statement ‘No competing interests declared’ will be published. Competing interests may, in some circumstances, be a factor in editorial decisions, but papers are not rejected simply because a conflict has been disclosed. However, failure to provide financial or competing interests disclosures in the original submission may delay its evaluation and review.

Reviewers

Reviewers should declare any association with authors of a paper. They should also disclose any financial or professional associations that could be perceived as interfering with the objectivity of their scientific assessment of a paper. If a reviewer is unsure whether they should review a paper for reasons of competing interests, they should inform the Editor of the paper or the Editorial Office, so that the Editor can decide whether a potential conflict should exclude them.

Authors can request to exclude reviewers with perceived competing interests from refereeing their paper, but are asked to provide additional information to support such a request. The Editors will respect these requests provided that they do not interfere with the objective and thorough assessment of an article.

Editors and editorial staff

Editors who make final editorial decisions on articles must have no financial, personal or professional involvement with the manuscript under consideration. If a potential bias exists, they should withdraw from handling the paper. Editors will base decisions on the importance of the work and not on its potential effect on the Journal’s commercial success.

Editors are required to disclose any potential competing interests to The Company of Biologists, and editorial staff members are not permitted to use information obtained through working with manuscripts for private gain.

Author contributions

An author is someone who has made significant and substantial contributions to a study. This should include conceptualization, design (methodology), investigation (performing experiments or data/evidence collection) and formal analysis of the findings being published, and drafting and revising the article. Papers must be submitted with the agreement of all authors, and all authors should give final approval of the version to be published. If the author list is modified after the first submission, this must be done with the agreement of all authors. Those who have made other contributions to the work, such as by providing reagents or assisting with the writing, should be listed in the Acknowledgements, and their role or involvement outlined.

The Company journals use the CRediT Taxonomy to define author contributions to primary research papers and requires that the independent contributions of each author be provided during online submission. It is the responsibility of the corresponding author to ensure that contributions are agreed on by ALL co-authors prior to manuscript submission. Author contributions are included in the final published article.

In cases of authorship disputes that cannot be resolved between the authors, the editors reserve the right to refer the dispute to the institutes involved for resolution.

Redundant or concurrent publication

Research manuscripts that describe work already published elsewhere will not be considered. The submission of the same manuscript to more than one journal concurrently is also considered to be unethical practice. This does not prevent journals from considering articles that have been rejected by other journals or that were not previously published in full (e.g. abstracts or posters presented at scientific meetings).

By submitting a research article, the authors undertake that it has not been published previously and is not under consideration for publication elsewhere.

At submission, authors should declare any previous submissions or publications that might be regarded as overlapping with the submitted manuscript. This includes prior publication of ANY of the data. Copies of any such related articles should be included with the submitted manuscript to assist editorial decision making. Any figures, photos, tables or other works that have been previously published/copyrighted must be accompanied by written permission from the copyright holder for reuse of that content.

If redundant publication is attempted or occurs, editorial action will be taken, including probable rejection or retraction of the manuscript.

Preprint policies

The Company of Biologists recognises the growing use of preprint servers in the biological sciences, and appreciates the value in rapid dissemination of research results. Deposition of primary research manuscripts on community preprint servers such as bioRxiv is not considered prior publication and will not compromise potential publication. Authors are asked to provide details of the preprint deposition in the cover letter accompanying manuscript submission. Versions of a manuscript that have been revised in response to peer review comments should not be deposited. Authors who have posted their paper to a preprint server are welcome to engage in community discussion about their paper.

Citation policy

The Company of Biologists strongly encourages the citation of the primary literature over review articles wherever possible. For this reason, there is no limit on the number of references that can be included. The Company supports The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) and deposits reference lists with Crossref to ensure that all citation data are freely accessible.

Data deposition

Publication requires that primary data for high-throughput experiments such as microarrays, RNA-seq, ChIP-chip or ChIP-seq be deposited in the appropriate public database. The Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO)ArrayExpressEuropean Nucleotide Archive (ENA) or Short Read Archive (SRA) are appropriate repositories for most functional genomics data.

Sequences must be submitted to the EMBL Database Library or GenBank. Protein sequences that have been determined by direct sequencing of the protein must be submitted to SWISS-PROT at the EBI. All accession numbers should be included in the manuscript. Authors are welcome to use other established data type-specific repositories, provided an accession number is available. Authors are encouraged to submit data at the time of manuscript submission and to provide confidential access for the editors and referees. Datasets must be released at the time of publication.

Authors submitting their research will have the opportunity to deposit their data directly into the Dryad archive and will receive a permanent, citable link to their dataset. Deposition in Dryad ensures the data are freely accessible once the article becomes available online, and provides bidirectional links between the article and the data, increasing visibility for both. Authors are encouraged to submit data at the time of manuscript submission and to provide confidential access for the editors and referees. Datasets deposited in Dryad during submission will be released once the article has been accepted for publication.

All manuscripts that report data deposited elsewhere should include a Data availability section that includes accession numbers and states where the article’s supporting data can be accessed.

The Company endorses the Force 11 Data Citation Principles and recommends that all publicly available datasets be fully referenced in the reference list with an accession number or unique identifier such as a DOI.


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