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Types of publication misconduct


Broadly, the ways in which ethics could be breached fall under the following categories:

  • Plagiarism: presenting another person’s ideas or materials as if they were his or her own, or without proper acknowledgement or attribution
  • Copyright infringement: presenting another person’s original work of authorship – their expression of ideas – as if it were his or her own, without proper acknowledgement or attribution.
  • Duplicate (or redundant) publication: an author copies and re-publishes their own work without reference to previous publication.
  • Data fabrication/falsification: either making up results or altering results of experiments.
  • Inappropriate attribution of authorship, which may lead to disputes (including individuals who have not contributed to an article or excluding authors who have contributed, lack of acknowledgment of guest or ghost authorship).
  • Misconduct within the publication process (for example authors submitting manuscripts under fraudulent names or with fraudulent affiliations or reviewer misconduct during the peer review process).

Plagiarism and copyright infringement

We ask authors as part of the submission process to warrant that they are submitting their original work, that they hold the rights in the work, and that they have obtained and can supply all necessary permissions for the reproduction of any copyright works not owned by them. If your ScholarOne system includes iThenticate, you can use this to check the submission against papers published in journals using CrossRef (all major publishers use this reference-linking service). If you need help with using iThenticate please speak to your Publishing Editor.

Copying data or figures also falls under plagiarism but is harder to detect.

Duplicate publication

We also ask authors to warrant that they are submitting the work for first publication in the journal, that it is not being considered for publication elsewhere, and has not already been published elsewhere in the same or different languages. If material has been previously published it is not generally acceptable for publication in a Sage journal. However, there are certain circumstances where previously published material can be considered for publication, please see the Prior Publication page on the Gateway for examples.

Articles using previously published data, images or results should clearly identify and give full reference to the original publication.

Data fabrication and falsification

Data fabrication or falsification is harder to detect than plagiarism and is often brought to light by the author’s colleagues who suspect that the reported results are made up.

Authorship disputes

We set out our policy on what constitutes authorship on the Editorial Policies page of the Sage Journal Gateway. All journals must also include an authorship policy within their submission guidelines. We recommend that all contributors who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed in an Acknowledgements section.

Sometimes disputes around who should be included or excluded as authors can arise either during the submission process or after publication. We recommended considering the following to help manage authorship disputes:

  • If your journal uses ScholarOne Manuscripts, the system can be set up so that all listed authors are copied in on correspondence.
  • Require authors to supply statements outlining their specific contribution (e.g. X designed the study, Y collected data, X and Y wrote the paper and gave final approval for publication).
  • Ask authors to supply ORCID IDs to remove ambiguity around their identity.
  • Use Sage’s Authorship Change Request Form (ask your Publishing Editor or Peer Review Associate) to document any amendments to the author list.

If you would like to consider any of these initiatives for your journal, please talk to your Publishing Editor. 

You may also find COPE’s guidelines on How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers useful

Peer review misconduct

In recent years a number of journal publishers, including Sage, have been affected by attempts to defraud and circumvent the peer review system, specifically by abusing the preferred or recommended reviewer functionality. Whilst such instances relate to a very small proportion of the scholarly research system, the potential impact on a journal’s reputation is significant. If your journal still uses recommended reviewers, please be alert to potential abuse by following the steps described in the above section on managing the peer review process

If you suspect or are made aware of any misconduct within the publication process, talk to your Publishing Editor and check the relevant COPE flowchart

Citation manipulation

Attempts to manipulate Journal Impact Factors by deliberately increasing the number of self-citations are unethical. Some level of self-citation is to be expected but editors or reviewers should under no circumstances ask authors to cite their journal in their submitted paper unless it is relevant to the work being considered and will be useful to the journal’s readers. Please be aware that Thomson Reuters measures levels of self-citations and will exclude journals from their databases if they consider these levels to be excessive. We recommend reviewing Thomson Reuters’ journal selection process, which includes some information on self-citation.

In the same way, citation ‘stacking’ by ‘citation cartels’ (i.e. a group of editors or board members agreeing to add citations to each other’s journals) is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.