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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 264-270

Turkish health field periodical editors' Views on publication process and ethical problems


1 Department of Pediatric Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
3 Department of Public Health Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
4 Department of Nursing Services Administration, Faculty of Nursing, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey

Date of Acceptance12-Jun-2017
Date of Web Publication09-Mar-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. H Pars
Departments of Pediatric Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Hacettepe University, Ankara
Turkey
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/njcp.njcp_49_17

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   Abstract 


Objective: We aimed in this study to investigate views and suggestions of health field editors about the publication process and ethical problems. Materials and Methods: The study involved 42 journal editors who accepted to participate in the study. The data were collected through 70-item “Editor Views Questionnaire” which was developed by the researchers in line with the related literature. Results: The editors who participated in the study were asked about their views about the most common problems they encountered related to publication ethics; the top three problems indicated by the editors included unjustified authorship (40.5%), duplicate publication (33.3%), and falsification (26.2%). An analysis of the problems encountered in the initial evaluation stage revealed the top three issues as articles that did not follow the writing rules of the journal (33.3%), unqualified articles (30.1%), and negligence of the author(s) (14.3%). Views in relation to the problems about the referee evaluation stage included evaluations that were not completed within the time given (28.6%), insufficient importance attached to the evaluation (23.9%), and inability to find sufficient number of referees (16.7%). Conclusion: some editors were found to encounter violation of publication ethics, to experience problems in the revision stage, and not to feel fully independent in their contribution to article publication and thus the improvement of the journal quality. Identification of journal editors' views and problems is an important step for the solution to these problems; it could thus contribute to improving the quality of publication process and journal quality.

Keywords: Editors, ethics, health journals, publication process


How to cite this article:
Pars H, Akın R, Sahin N E, Cinar S, Aslan F, Duygulu S. Turkish health field periodical editors' Views on publication process and ethical problems. Niger J Clin Pract 2018;21:264-70

How to cite this URL:
Pars H, Akın R, Sahin N E, Cinar S, Aslan F, Duygulu S. Turkish health field periodical editors' Views on publication process and ethical problems. Niger J Clin Pract [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Dec 10];21:264-70. Available from: http://www.njcponline.com/text.asp?2018/21/3/264/226977




   Introduction Top


Research is the irreplaceable component of science and scientific education. The purpose of scientific research is to transmit the study outcomes to other scientists through publications. A scientific study, no matter how brilliant outcomes it has, is not complete until it is published.[1] A scientific study is the way for people in the scientific community to communicate with each other, which can be achieved through scientific journals. Therefore, the main purpose of the publication of scientific journals is to contribute to sharing and using scientific knowledge.[2] In line with these purposes, each scientific journal to start publication has to have an editor for the scientific and administrative management. The editor is responsible for each article and takes part in all steps that would ensure the quality of every material to be published in his/her journal.[3],[4],[5]

Ethical issues in journal editorship are identified with the codes set by the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE), which is an organization established with a view to regulating publication ethics. Besides, editor responsibilities are explained in the 8th item of the Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors published by COPE. Accordingly, editors take over the journal from the former editor and always would like to hand it over in a better condition.[6] The general purpose of editorship in the journals specific to health field, like in other field journals, is to improve health science, to discuss scientific problems, to protect publication ethics principles in articles, to obtain perfect referee evaluations both for themselves and for their readers, and to ensure the publication of qualified research in relation to global health.[7],[8]

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is an institution that publishes guides identifying the rules to be followed in journals and thereby helps editors to behave within the scope of responsibilities and ethical concepts.[3] There are also some organizations such as the World Association of Medical Editors, which was established with a view to enhancing cooperation and communication among medical journal editors all around the world, supporting editors, especially in the developing countries and in small scale journals, increasing editor standards, improving professionalism in editorship, and supporting research on medical editorship and refereeing.[9] Problems could be experienced in the publishing process despite these institutions because editorship is a job which has defined rules, heavy responsibilities, and even binding international laws. To fulfill a job like this in accordance with rules and responsibilities, one needs sufficient time, well-functioning subrules, an office, budget for secretaries, and most importantly a publishing house.[10],[11]

While editors are fulfilling their responsibilities, they may encounter some problems arising from authors, referees, and the process. Studies indicate some examples for the problems encountered in the publishing process as considering editorship as an authority, delays in referee evaluations, more importance given to quantity rather than quality by authors due to publication requirements for academic promotion, operational problems in ethical committees, problems with the publishing house/journal owner and institutions, advertising pressure, and communication problems with authors.[10],[11] The related literature further reports that editors experience such ethical problems as ghost authorship,[12] duplicate publication,[13] author ranking,[14] referee and editor bias, and conflict of interest between the referee and the author.[15],[16]

Editors have important roles in transmitting scientific information to readers and fulfilling publication goals of the journal. However, as seen above, studies on the views of editors about the problems they encounter and the improvement of the publication processes are quite limited in number. Review of the related literature in our country also indicates no studies pertaining to the problems encountered by health field journal editors in the editorial process and ethic problems. Therefore, investigating experiences, problems, and potential solutions to the problems encountered by journal editors who have a key role in the scientific publication process, and producing a scientific publication on the issue could provide an important resource to health field journal editors and contribute to the improvement of publication quality of their journals. Identification of editors' views about the process and ethics problems is of importance for improving the publication process and thus increasing journal quality. Results of the study have also importance in terms of developing strategies for the problems experienced in this process and creating an opportunity for learning from editors' experiences. Hence, the present study aims to identify journal editors' views about the publication process, ethical problems, and seek answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the descriptive features of journal editors and journals
  2. What are the views of editors about the referee evaluation process and acceptance for publication
  3. What are the general views and suggestions of journal editors in relation to the publication process and publication ethics.



   Materials and Methods Top


Target population of the study was 275 health field journal editors who were recorded in Turkish Reference Index in 2014. No sampling was performed, the study involved editors who accepted to participate in the study. Sixty health field journal editors replied the E-mail sent to them. Of those 60 editors who replied, 18 editors, did not want to participate in the study. Thus, the study was completed with 42 editors who accepted to participate in the study.

The data were collected through 70-item “Editor Views Questionnaire” which was developed by the researchers in line with the related literature. The form was composed of questions in relation to the descriptive characteristics of the editors, features of the journals, editors' views about the referee evaluation process and acceptance for publication and general views, and suggestions regarding the publication process. Whether the questions in the form were relevant for the purpose of the study was evaluated by consulting three professionals in the field; the questionnaire was revised in line with the suggestions of these three professionals.

The “Editor Views Questionnaire,” which was revised according to the suggestions of the professionals' views, was put online. Comprehensibility and usability of the form were tested through the pilot study conducted with three health field editors who were not recorded in Turkish Reference Index in February, 2015. At the end of the pilot study, some revisions that were not about the content, but form was performed in line with the feedback provided by the editors.

The questionnaire was sent to the editors' E-mails, repetitively, between March 1, and July 30, 2015. In the E-mail sent, the editors were invited to participate in the study and fill in the “Editor Views Questionnaire.” The editors who accepted to participate in the study filled in the questionnaire online, which took 15 min on the average.

Statistical analyses

The data obtained from the study were coded by the researcher and entered in SPSS 20.00 for Windows (IBM). In addition, responses to the open-ended questions in the form were turned to closed-ended ones by the researchers. The responses that were made closed-ended were presented to the expert opinions of the three professionals. Then, Kappa test was performed with a view to evaluating the consistency between the professionals. Fleiss Kappa was found 0.67. Numbers, percentages, and mean scores were utilized in the analysis of the data.


   Results Top


Of all the editors participating in the study, 57.1% were aged between 46 and 55, 66.7% were female, and 64.3% were professors. Years of experience in profession were between 21 and 29 years for the 47.6% of the editors; and 61.9% had 1–5 years of editorship experience. Before working as an editor, 81% of the participants had been in an editorial board of a journal; 71.4% did not receive any trainings about editorship, 83.3% did not sign a contract with the owner of the journal regarding such issues as duties and responsibilities of the editor, cases that cause conflict of interest and the ways to solve them; and none of the editors was paid for editorship. An analysis of the journals according to their subject areas showed that the journals were mostly in the field of general medicine (26.4%). Journals in the other fields that were published most were found to be in Nursing (12%); Heath Sciences (12%), Health and Nursing Management (4.8%), Anesthesia and Intensive Care (4.8%), and Medicine Pathology (4.8%).

[Table 1] demonstrates the features of journals published in the health field. An analysis of the article types shows that the top two were original research articles (95.2%) and review articles (95.2%). These types are followed by case reports (90.5%), letters to the editor (71.4%), and current news and technical writing (2.4%), respectively. An analysis of the institutions and organizations where the journals belong demonstrates that 45.2% were published by an association/union executive board, 36% by a university, and 16.8% by a private institution. As to the prices, the majority of them (78.6%) were found to be free of charge. Annual volumes were also investigated, and it was found that 59.5% were published four times and more in a year, 35.8% were published three times or less in a year. The distribution of journals according to their types showed that in print + electronic publications were more than the others (66.7%). Percentages of electronic publication and in print publication were 26.2% and 4.8%, respectively. As to the scope of the study, 52.4% were international, and 42.9% were national.
Table 1: Features of journals published in the health field

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[Table 2] demonstrates editors' views about the evaluation and acceptance of publication. All of the participants stated that they evaluated all the manuscripts personally in terms of scientific criteria before they sent them to referees; and a great majority (97.6%) stated that these evaluations were made very carefully. The editors were asked whether they could assign specialists in relation to the subject of the manuscript while 34 (81%) of them said it is done “always;” 6 (14%) said “sometimes,” and 2 (4.8%) said “rarely.” Of all the editors who were asked whether there were delays in the evaluation processes of the referees, 24 (57.2%) said “sometimes,” 14 (33.4%) said “always,” and 4 (9.5%) said “rarely.” When they were asked whether referees demonstrate sufficient care and responsibility in the evaluation processes, 27 (64.3%) said “yes,” and 15 (35.7%) said “no.” While 27 (64.3%) editors stated that they could decide to accept or refuse an article according to their own views considering the referees' evaluations, 14 (33.3%) editors reportedly made this decision according to referees' evaluations. 36 editors stated that the article which was accepted for publication was sent back to authors for final check, 5 editors (11.9%) said they did not do so. As to experiencing violations of publication ethics in the article evaluation process, 29 editors (69%) stated they experienced such violations, and 13 (31%) editors said they did not. The editors were asked whether their journals contained current developments, to which 29 editors (69%) replied “generally it does” and 10 editors (23.8%) said “always.” Thirty-eight editors (90.5%) said they felt fully independent in the publication and acceptance process of articles, but 3 (7.1%) editors said they did not feel fully independent.
Table 2: Editors' views about the referee evaluation process and acceptance of publication

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When the editors were asked whether they had difficulties regarding health field editorship, 31 editors (73.8%) replied this question as “no” and 9 editors (21.4%) as “yes.” The participants were also asked whether they were generally pleased with editorship, 29 editors (69%) said they were generally “very pleased” with being editors, but 1 of them said he was “not pleased.”

[Table 3] displays general views and suggestions of journal editors about the publication process. When the editors were asked about the problems, they encountered regarding publication ethics in the article evaluation process; the top three issues were indicated as unjustified authorship (40.5%), duplicate publication (33.3%), and falsification (26.2%). The top three problems experienced in the first evaluation stage were identified as articles that are not written according to the writing rules of the journal (33.3%), unqualified articles (30.1%), and negligence of author(s) (14.3%). As to the views about the referee evaluation stage in the journal publication process, they included evaluations that were not completed within the time given (28.6%), insufficient importance attached to the evaluation (23.9%), and inability to find a sufficient number of referees (16.7%).
Table 3: General views and recommendations of journal editors regarding the publication processes

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Views in relation to the problems experienced from the authors' side in the revision stage in the publication process showed that 40.5% said authors did not make the recommended revisions, 40.5% said they did not send the revisions on time, and 14.3% mentioned negligence in the revision process.


   Discussion Top


Nearly 4.8% of the journals investigated in this study were published in print, 26.2% were published online, and 66.7% were published both in print and online. In their study conducted in 2008, Küçük et al. reported that only 10% of scientific electronic journals were published electronically.[17] Especially after 2000, as a result of the gradual increase in electronic journal publishing in our country, the number of electronic journals is believed to be higher. Of all the journals in this study, 36.0% depended on universities, 45.2% on association/union executive board, and 16.8% on private institutions.

Küçük et al. (2008) reported that 60% of the scientific electronic journals were published by universities;[17] Kozak (2003) pointed out that 29.9% of journals in the health field were published by universities, 40.8% by unions and foundations, 10.4% by public institutions other than universities, 8.5% by publishing houses, and 10.4% by private persons.[18] Findings of the present study are parallel to the ones reported by Kozak (2003). This similarity might have resulted from the fact that both studies involved all electronic and in print journals, which decreased the proportion of journals published by universities. While the percentage of journals that had three or less volumes yearly was 38.8% in our study, the percentage of those with four or more volumes were found to be 59.5%. Küçük et al. (2008) found that 39% of the scientific electronic journals were published quarterly, and 54% were published three times or less yearly. Nearly 42.9% of the journals in our study were recorded in national database, and 52.4% were recorded in international database.[17] Kozak (2003) found that 37.7% of the journals published in the health field were recorded in national and international database.[18] Findings of the present study in relation to higher number of international publications might be associated with the requirements for being academic members especially in recent years; those who wanted to be academic members have to publish articles in indexed journals, which are generally international.

The question whether the editors encountered violations in relation to publication ethics was responded as “yes” by 29 editors. The top 5 problems in relation to publication ethics included unjustified authorship, duplicate publications, falsification, plagiarism, and publication bias. Similar ethical issues are also reported in the related literature in studies conducted with editors. The most frequently encountered problems reported in the studies included ghost authorship, duplicate publication, referee and editor bias, conflict of interest between the referee and author, problems about publishing house/journal owner and institutions, advertising pressure, and communication problems with authors.[12],[13],[14],[15],[16] Arda (2003) investigated issues violating publication ethics and reported the top three problems as citing other people's publications without providing references, publishing an article in more than one journal, and using names of people who do not contribute to the study.[19] On the other hand, the study entitled “Ethical issues faced by nursing editors” conducted by Freda and Kearney reported that duplicate publication and plagiarism were the most frequently encountered problems.[20] Therefore, education is an important concept in preventing unethical issues. One of the important responsibilities of the editor is to ensure publication ethics. To do this, referees and editorial board members should be chosen well. It is important for editors and people in scientific publication management to have qualifications such as knowledge of academic language and expression, scientific knowledge, allocating sufficient time to evaluation, grammar, knowledge of editorship/refereeing, ethics, statistical knowledge, following literature, methodology knowledge so that it would be possible to notice and prevent publication ethics issues and to contribute to journal quality.[21],[22],[23],[24]

The majority of the problems faced by editors at the first stage of the publication process-evaluation stage-are articles that are not written according to the writing rules of the journal, unqualified articles, and negligence of author(s). In addition, 40% of the editors in our study stated that authors did not make the revisions recommended at the revision stage and they did not send the articles within the time recommended; 14% of the editors stated that authors were not attentive to the revisions in the revision process. In a similar vein, the related literature indicates the frequently encountered problems as more importance given to quantity rather than quality by authors due to publication requirements for academic promotion, problematic articles, and negligence of authors.[10],[11],[20]


   Conclusion Top


The present study identified the most frequently encountered problems in the referee evaluation stage as evaluations that were not completed within the time given and insufficient importance attached to the evaluation. Besides, 14 editors stated that there had always been delays in the article evaluations and 27 editors thought referees were not attentive and responsible enough in their evaluations. Similarly, studies report delays as the most frequently encountered problem in referee evaluations.[10],[11] Bülbül (2004) points out that referees who evaluate the scientific research have to apply two rules in the articles sent to them. First, they should review the article assigned to them satisfyingly within a period between 15 days and 2 months, without unnecessary delays. Second, they should keep the information in the articles and should not share it with anyone. Our study found that editors encountered violations in publication ethics, and the most frequently encountered problems in the evaluation stage of publication were found to be articles that were not written according to the writing rules of the journal and unqualified articles, and negligence of authors. Education is an important concept in preventing unethical issues. Publication violations might be prevented by providing people doing postgraduate degree and dealing with science with trainings on ethical issues, scientific ethics, and statistics at universities and other institutions.[14],[21],[22] Besides, some important practices include inspection of financial support and contracts given to researchers by the companies and approval of all the financial support and contracts so that it could be possible to prevent scientific deception cases caused by the relationships based on financial interests.[21],[22],[23] It is important to remind authors that what is important to have in their files is not the number of publications, but their quality. A good research concept should be formed and young researchers should be provided with sufficient scientific consultancy. Research data should be organized and always ready to be investigated. The ideal thing to do is to write it on a notebook approved by the institution, and analyses should be performed by experts; references should definitely be cited in line with the writing rules.[21],[22],[23] The present study found that some editors did not feel independent in the process of publication and acceptance of articles, they had difficulties in relation to editorship, and generally, they were not pleased with editorship. To protect editorial independence; The editorial duty, powers, responsibilities, rules of cooperation, what is the situation to create a conflict of interest, and how to resolve it must be clearly identified and signed by the editor and the owner of journal in agreement before the editor is hired.[16] The editor should carry the full authority on the scientific content of the journal. Journal owners should have no interventions that would affect this process (decision, selection, and edition) or create an environment that would cause this. The editor should be clear and transparent about the things s/he is doing in the cases of commercial concern or conflicts of interests of the articles and the journal. Journal publication process and thus publication quality could be improved by identifying journal editors' views and problems and preventing the problems in line with their suggestion.

Acknowledgments

The project was supported by Hacettepe University Department of Scientific Research Projects.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]



 

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