Ethical Guidelines for Publication
Society publications are the vehicle in which the results of scientific inquiry, guided by the scientific method, are shared with other geoscience researchers and made available to a wider public audience. Results presented in Society publications advance research, inform governmental policy decisions, educate students, and assist the private sector in a wide range of endeavors. Thus it is important for the Society to maintain a high level of quality and integrity in its publications, which is a responsibility that rests with all those involved in the publication process—authors, reviewers, editors, GSA officials, and GSA staff. The following document outlines a set of ethical guidelines for all those involved in GSA publications (journals, books, maps, abstracts, electronic media). Adherence to these guidelines should promote fair treatment of manuscripts through the peer review process. These guidelines are subject to review by the GSA Publications Committee. Note: The guidelines and procedures provided here may differ for publications jointly published with another society.
The ethical guidelines for publication presented here draw heavily on guidelines prepared by other scientific societies, most notably the American Chemical Society. The list of sources below also includes more general documents on ethics in science consulted in preparation of these guidelines.
- Society officers refers to the administrative officers of the Geological Society of America.
- Councilors refers to the members of the Council of the Geological Society of America.
- Staff refers to the staff of the Geological Society of America.
- Editors refer to Science Editors, Editorial Board Members, Associate Editors, and Guest Editors of publications of the Geological Society of America.
- Editorial staff refers to any employee at GSA engaged in editorial staff activities including managing editors and copy editors.
- 1. Society Officers, Councilors, and Society Staff
- 1.1. Council is responsible for setting policy for all GSA publications and appointing editors of books and journals. The Publications Committee, as an appointed committee of Council, offers advice and makes recommendations on publication policy to Council.
- 1.2. The Executive Director is responsible for ensuring that publications policies enacted by Council are carried out.
- 1.3. Editors of books and journals are expected to carry out editorial duties in a manner consonant with policies set by Council and consistent with the Bylaws of the Society. They should work closely with the Executive Director and appropriate GSA headquarters staff (e.g., Director of Publications, Managing Editors, etc.).
- 1.4. Editors have full responsibility for editorial and technical decisions on journal and book content. Society Officers, Councilors, and headquarters staff (including the Executive Director) should not intervene or comment on editorial decisions on individual manuscripts.
- 1.5. Inquiries from Councilors and Officers on manuscripts under consideration will be handled in the same manner as communications from the general membership, which reflects the editorial staff’s standard practices. Communications from Officers and Councilors about editorial business are considered official Society business, unless otherwise identified. Official inquiries will receive prompt and complete action that becomes part of the Society's official record.
2. Editors, Associate Editors, and Guest Editors of Books
The term Editor as used below refers to Editors, Associate Editors, Guest Editors of books, and Editorial Board members when delegated to serve in an editorial capacity.
- 2.1. Editors will give manuscripts unbiased consideration.
- 2.2. Editors should process manuscripts expeditiously.
- 2.3. The Editor has sole responsibility for acceptance or rejection of a manuscript. Manuscripts should have peer review, but the Editor may reject or accept for cause (inappropriate for journal, clearly of poor quality, contents previously published elsewhere, etc.)
- 2.4. The Editor and editorial staff should not disclose information about submitted manuscripts except to reviewers, Associate Editors, Editorial Board members, GSA publications staff, and the Publications Ethics Advisory Committee. Information about a manuscript may be shared, with the author's permission, once a manuscript is accepted and scheduled for publication (e.g., new releases, pre-publication posting of the abstract, or inclusion in a list of contents, etc.).
- 2.5. Manuscripts submitted by an Editor should be delegated to another Editor, Associate Editor, or Editorial Board member.
- 2.6. The Editor should not handle manuscripts for which there is a real or perceived conflict of interest. Examples include, but are not restricted to, past (within the last 5 years) or current collaboration, employer or employee, close friend, family relationship, institutional relationship, past or present graduate advisor or advisee, someone with whom the reviewer has had past or on-going acrimonious relations, or situations where the Editor could stand to gain economically by publication or rejection of the manuscript. Editorial responsibility should be delegated to another Editor, Associate Editor, or Editorial Board member.
- 2.7. The Editor must not use information, data, theories, or interpretations of submitted manuscript in her/his own work until that manuscript is in press or published unless the author has given permission to do so.
- 2.8. For papers published in journals, if an Editor is presented with convincing evidence that the main substance or conclusions of a publication is erroneous, he/she should facilitate publication of a report (e.g., correction, follow-up manuscript, or other appropriate means) pointing out the error and, if possible, correcting it. The report may be written by the person who discovered the error or by the original author. The original publication does not disappear from the published record.
3. Authors and Co-authors
- 3.1. Manuscripts should contain original, new results, data, ideas and/or interpretations not previously published or under consideration for publication elsewhere (including electronic media and databases).
- 3.2. Authors should be encouraged to avoid fragmentation of their work where practical, so that the submitted manuscript is as comprehensive and authoritative as possible.
- 3.3. Authors should inform the Editor of related manuscripts under consideration elsewhere and provide copies if requested.
- 3.4. Fabrication of data, results, selective reporting of data, theft of intellectual property of others, and plagiarism are unethical practices and unacceptable.
- 3.5. Information obtained privately (e.g., in conversation, correspondence, or discussion with third parties) should be avoided as it is not in the public domain and is thus unverifiable. If considered necessary, it should not be used or reported in a manuscript without explicit permission from the party with whom the information originated. Information obtained in the course of confidential services (e.g., refereeing manuscripts or grant applications) should be treated similarly.
- 3.6. Manuscripts will contain proper citation of works by others, especially publications of the original hypotheses, ideas, and/or data upon which manuscript is based or addresses.
- 3.7. Data and/or samples (especially unusual or rare materials) upon which a publication is based should be made available to other scientists, except in special circumstances (patent protection, privacy, etc.), in the manuscript or through accessible data repositories, databases, museum collections, or other means when requested.
- 3.8. Authorship
- 3.8.1. Authorship should be limited to those who have made significant contributions to the concept, design, execution or interpretation of the work reported in a manuscript; others who have contributed should be acknowledged;
- 3.8.2. Author order should be agreed on by all authors as should any changes in authors and order that occur while the manuscript is under review or revision. Changes in authorship must be submitted to the Editor in writing and must be signed by all authors involved.
- 3.8.3. Authors and co-authors should review and ensure the accuracy and validity of results prior to submission; co-authors should have opportunity to review manuscript before submission.
- 3.9. Authors should reveal to the Editor any potential conflict of interest (e.g., a consulting or financial interest in a company) that might be affected by publication of the results contained in a manuscript. The authors should ensure that no contractual relations or proprietary considerations exist that would affect the publication of information in a submitted manuscript.
- 3.10. Authors are encouraged to disclose major funding sources (e.g., government agencies, private foundations, private industry, universities) for reported research.
- 4.1. A reviewer should disclose real or perceived conflict of interests to the Editor before agreeing to write a review. Examples include, but are not restricted to, past (within the last 5 years) or current collaboration, close friend, employer or employee, family relationship, institutional relationship, past or present graduate advisor or advisee, someone with whom the reviewer has had past or ongoing acrimonious relations, or situations where the reviewer could stand to gain economically by publication or rejection of the manuscript. The Editor will decide if the conflict is severe enough to prevent the reviewer from writing a fair, objective review.
- 4.2. A reviewer should decline to review a manuscript if she/he feels technically unqualified, if a timely review cannot be done, or if the manuscript is from a scientific competitor with whom the reviewer has had an acrimonious professional relationship, or a conflict of interest as defined above (section 4.1).
- 4.3. Reviewers should be encouraged, but not required, to sign reviews. The Editor will preserve anonymity of reviewers should a reviewer elect to remain anonymous.
- 4.4. Reviewers must treat the manuscript as confidential.
- 4.5. Reviewers must ask the Editor for permission to discuss the paper with others for specific advice, giving names and reasons for such consultation.
- 4.6. Reviewers must not pass the manuscript to another to carry out the review without permission from the Editor.
- 4.7. Reviewers must not use information, data, theories, or interpretations of the manuscript in their own work until that manuscript is in press or published unless the author has given permission to do so.
- 4.8. Reviewers should clearly support and justify the basis for their review analysis.
- 4.9. Reviewers should alert the Editor to similar manuscripts published or under consideration for publication elsewhere in the event they are aware of such. However, it is the responsibility of the Editor, not the reviewer, to decide on the proper course of action once so informed.
5. Citation Manipulation
- Citation manipulation is considered unethical. Manipulation may include adding citations not contributing to a manuscript’s scientific content or solely aiming at increasing an author’s or a journal’s citations.
6. Publications Ethics Complaints Process
- 6.1. Publications ethics complaints must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The email must include the complainant’s name and contact information, and a complete description of the alleged ethics violation.
- 6.2. The complaint will first be assessed by the Director of the Publications Department and/or the Chair of the GSA Publications Committee, who may consult with Science Editors and/or staff as they may deem appropriate. This assessment process typically involves gathering facts, notifying the accused Participant(s) of the allegation(s) against them, and requesting an explanation so that they have an opportunity to respond. This process will be as thorough and as confidential as possible. If a complaint is submitted before publication of an involved manuscript, the manuscript will be placed on hold until the matter is resolved. If the Director of Publications and/or the Chair of the GSA Publications Committee conclude, in their sole discretion, that the evidence does not support the allegation(s), they may dismiss the complaint.
- 6.3. If the assessment described in Section 6.2 substantiates the allegation(s), the complaint will be escalated for further review by the Publications Ethics Advisory Committee (PEAC) at the request of the Chair of the Publications Committee and/or the Director of the Publications Department.
- 6.3.1. The PEAC is a subcommittee of the Publications Committee, formed to provide advice upon request to the Publications Committee and Science Editors on exceptional ethical matters related to GSA Publications. The committee will hear cases on topics including, but not limited to, accusations of conflict of interest; editor misconduct; plagiarism; fabrication; falsification of data; author misconduct; malfeasance; discrimination; harassment; sexual harassment; bullying; retaliation, etc. The PEAC consists of three voting members plus the Chair of the Publications Committee as an ex officio (nonvoting) member. The three voting members are recommended by the Publications Committee and formally appointed by GSA Council. They serve three-year terms and will have experience in scientific publishing (such as having served as Science Editors) but will not be current GSA Science Editors or current Publications Committee members. PEAC members do not need to be GSA members.
- 6.4. The PEAC will review the evidence and findings gathered during the assessment and conduct any additional findings of fact that it deems appropriate, carrying out all such work as promptly, thoroughly, and confidentially as possible. Upon completing its review, the PEAC shall submit a written report that summarizes the findings of fact and supporting evidence, and recommends appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective action to the Publications Committee Chair and Director of Publications.
- 6.5. Upon receipt of the PEAC report, the Publications Committee Chair and Director of Publications will forward the report to the Associate Director of Scientific Integrity and Strategic Partnerships to be maintained within GSA’s confidential records. For all proven complaints other than Editor Misconduct, the report will be submitted to the Publications Committee to determine appropriate sanctions and/or corrective action. Proven complaints of Editor Misconduct will be submitted by the Associate Director of Scientific Integrity and Strategic Partnerships to GSA Council, which will determine any appropriate sanctions and/or corrective action.
- 6.5.1. The GSA Council and GSA Publications Committee have the sole discretion to determine any appropriate sanctions and/or corrective actions in any given case. Such actions may include but are not limited to warnings, increased scrutiny of future publications involvement, restriction from further consideration of accepting work for any GSA publication, retraction of a published paper, withdrawal of a submitted paper, and termination of an editorial position.
- 6.6. The GSA Director of the Publications Department will contact all parties involved in a complaint with the final decision and recommended actions. All confidential records and communications regarding complaints submitted under this process will be maintained by the Associate Director of Scientific Integrity and Strategic Partnerships. Such records will be used to track GSA’s progress in addressing complaints and help GSA evaluate any potential changes needed to maintain the quality and integrity of its publications. To facilitate oversight, a summary of all complaints and final decisions will be provided to GSA Council periodically by the Associate Director of Scientific Integrity and Strategic Partnerships.
Revised and approved by the GSA Publications Committee 28 March 2023.