Publishing ethics, research misconduct… call it what you will it has become one of the greatest challenges many journal editors face today.

In fact, a growing number of you have been moved to pen editorials on the subject – two recent examples being Whither research integrity? Plagiarism, self-plagiarism and coercive citation in an age of research assessment by Research Policy’s Professor Ben Martin and Falsification, Fabrication, and Plagiarism: The Unholy Trinity of Scientific Writing by Dr Anthony L Zietman, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology * Biology * Physics.

As Elsevier General Counsel, Linda Lavelle, notes in this issue, “when we host seminars for journal editors on a variety of publishing subjects, our ethics sessions (often titled 'Liars, Cheat, and Thieves') are consistently the best-attended presentations….”

With research misconduct clearly such an area of concern, we have devoted the final two issues of 2013 to the topic.

This edition, Part I of our Ethics Special, moves from a broad overview of the current publishing ethics landscape to a more detailed examination of aspects such as bias and conflicts of interest. Part II, due for publication in early November, will take a closer look at the resources offered by Elsevier and the wider industry to support you when these cases arise.

What will I find in this issue?

Part I of our Ethics Special opens with a Guest Editorial by our SVP and General Counsel for the legal department, Mark Seeley. He reflects on the rise in publishing ethics cases and talks frankly about his own thoughts on how they should be addressed.

In Understanding and addressing research misconduct we hear from an Elsevier lawyer and a publisher about what constitutes research misconduct and the roles editors and publishers have to play once a case has been identified.

Two editors from the journal Biochemical Pharmacology explore research bias – and its implications – in Bias in research: the rule rather than the exception?.

We also hear from the editor community in Research misconduct – three editors share their stories. Our interview subjects discuss the ethics challenges in their fields and how they are working to combat them.

It’s not only authors who can find themselves crossing ethical boundaries and in The ethics pitfalls that editors face we examine two of the most common editor pitfalls – undisclosed conflicts of interest and citation manipulation.

Lessons learnt at the 3rd World Conference on Research Integrity highlights the key points one of Elsevier’s publishing ethics experts took home with her from this year’s World Conference on Research Integrity.

We complete the edition with Editor in the Spotlight – Professor Margaret Rees. As Editor-in-Chief of Maturitas and current Secretary of COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics), she draws on her extensive ethics experience to answer our questions.

What does that leave for Part II?

The second part of our Ethics Special, scheduled for publication in early November, will contain a range of articles designed to keep you up to date with the publishing ethics support on offer. Features include an interview with the current Chair of COPE, tips on dealing with the media, information on how we are working with authors and reviewers to train them on good ethical practice and a range of practical advice (and an offer of free software!) from The Office of Research Integrity.

We really hope this edition answers some of your questions on this topic and perhaps inspires some new ones. As always, I really look forward to hearing your views and you can email me at editorsupdate@elsevier.com.