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When it comes to publishing ethics, one question in particular eludes a definitive answer; are these cases on the rise or are we simply getting better at uncovering them?

In Part I of this Ethics Special, Elsevier’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Mark Seeley, was happy to go on record as a supporter of the hypothesis that they are indeed increasing. In his Guest Editorial he stated: "... I think the better view — one more consistent with the evidence on the number of retractions — is that we are seeing an actual rise in volume."

We were keen to hear your views and asked you to vote in our online Editors’ Update poll. Interestingly, the result was fairly evenly split – at the time of going to press, 54 percent of you had voted for a rise in publishing ethics cases, while 44 percent felt that software and experience were responsible for bringing more cases to light.

This poll has now been replaced by a question submitted by an Editors’ Update reader: Is the pressure of grants to publish driving the rise in unethical practices from authors?. Please do take a few moments to visit the right hand bar and let us know your thoughts.

One further request – the Editors’ Update website is currently running a short survey to help us improve our service. If you see the pop-up request below, I would be very grateful if you could take part. As an added incentive, for every completed survey we will donate US$2 to Book Aid International, which supports literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa.


What will I find in this issue?

Before I outline the contents of this edition, I’d like to reflect on the feedback we have received on our Ethics Special Part I. Thanks to all of you who took the time to post comments – one article in particular, Bias in research: the rule rather than the exception?, sparked much discussion, while the most visited article proved to be Research misconduct – three editors share their stories.

And so, on to Part II…we begin with Working together: a précis of roles and resources, a scene-setter for the articles that follow. Find out more about the roles Elsevier and editors have to play and the range of support available to help you.

We then move to The art of detecting data and image manipulation in which we investigate a range of tools and processes. The article contains useful advice (and an offer of free software) from The Office of Research Integrity as well as an editor’s practical tips for checking Western Blots.

All Elsevier journals are enrolled in the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and in Making the most of your COPE membership, current Chair, Dr Virginia Barbour, explains recent changes to the organization and outlines some of the benefits membership can bring.

For many journals, CrossCheck is now indispensable. In How CrossCheck can combat the perils of plagiarism we discover why they wouldn’t be without this software and how integration into EES will further streamline the process for checking papers for plagiarism, simultaneous submission and multiple publication.

Talking to the media – who is responsible? asks Tom Reller, Elsevier’s Head of Media Relations. Media exposure for your journal may be welcome when the coverage is positive, but what about when they want to discuss publishing ethics cases? Reller outlines some scenarios and advises on whether Elsevier or the editor should respond.

If we want to reduce research misconduct incidents, education is key and in The importance of author education we look at two of Elsevier’s early-career training initiatives – the Ethics in Research & Publication Program and Publishing Connect author workshops.

Finally, no edition would be complete without our Editor in the Spotlight feature. This time, Dr Robert Strangeway, Research Geophysicist at University of California, Los Angeles, and joint Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics takes on our regular Q&A.

Looking ahead

Planning is already underway for our 2014 editions. As you can see from the Ethics Special Part I, articles written by editors are extremely popular so I would love to hear from you if there is a topic you are keen to write about. I would also welcome article ideas and any feedback you might have to share. You can email me at