1. Authors of Scientific Communications
1.1. The Society for Neuroscience expects its members to adhere to high standards when publishing any scientific communications, whether these are SfN publications or not. Authors are obliged to conduct research according to ethical precepts; to present an accurate account of the methods used, the results obtained, and the relevant scientific literature; and to provide an objective discussion of the significance of the research.
1.1.1. Authors should conform to the Instructions to Authors prepared by the editors of the journal.
1.1.2. If necessary, authors should seek the assistance of someone with experience in technical writing in English for the manuscript. However, the authors of the manuscript retain responsibility for the accuracy of the final manuscript.
1.2. Data must be original and accurate. It is essential that researchers and others be able to trust the validity of published data. That trust permits researchers to build on prior observations and thus facilitates the progress of science. It also allows individuals to form opinions and make policies based on those observations. Data that have been fabricated or falsified contaminate the scientific literature, greatly diminishing the value of this resource for researchers and others in the community. Moreover, such fraudulent actions undermine society’s trust in the scientific enterprise.
1.2.1. Intentional, knowing, or reckless fabrication or falsification is misconduct and will lead to action by the Society (see Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Unethical Scientific Conduct). No data may be put in a scientific communication that have not actually been collected or observed (fabrication), nor may data be altered in any way (falsification) other than by mathematical transformations that are commonly accepted or clearly explained in the manuscript. This includes numerical data as well as images.
1.2.2. Data points that clearly deviate from all others of the same type as demonstrated by an appropriate statistical test or some other generally accepted criterion may be eliminated from a data set. It is generally appropriate to indicate such deletions within the manuscript.
1.2.3. All data and analyses for research reported in abstracts, articles, and oral presentations should be maintained in a retrievable form for as long as required by the relevant funding source(s) and institutions, typically at least three years from submission of final grant reports.
1.3.1. Appropriating of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit is plagiarism. Plagiarism undermines the system through which authors receive credit for their work, and in doing so may inhibit authors from sharing their data and ideas in a timely fashion, activities essential to the progress of science. In addition to denying scholarly credit, plagiarism also has potentially important legal implications for commercial development and patenting.
1.3.3. In most instances, the appropriate source will be a peer-reviewed article rather than a review article, chapter, or book. When a secondary source is used to supplement a primary source, it should be identified as such (e.g., “see also review by Jones, 1992”). Abstracts, presentations at meetings or seminars and material placed on a Web site also should be cited appropriately.
1.3.4. Information obtained privately, as in conversation, correspondence, or discussion with third parties, should not be used or reported in the author’s work without explicit permission from the source of the information (who should then be cited as providing a personal communication).
1.5. All data should be presented so as to minimize the possibility of misinterpretation. The prohibition against misrepresenting observations extends beyond fabrication and falsification. Data also must be presented in such a form that they will not be readily subject to misinterpretation.
1.5.1. Data should be presented as clearly as possible. This is particularly important when data transformations are employed or when graphical illustrations include axes that do not begin at a standard origin (usually “0,0”).
1.5.2. All statistical tests employed to analyze data must be used knowledgeably, ensuring that the requirements of the tests are satisfied by the data set to which they are applied. Authors not well versed in the statistical procedures appropriate to their research are expected to have consulted an individual with the necessary expertise.
1.6. Authorship should be based on a substantial intellectual contribution. It is assumed that all authors have had a significant role in the creation of a scientific communication that bears their names. Therefore, the list of authors on an article serves multiple purposes; it indicates who is responsible for the work and to whom questions regarding the work should be addressed. Moreover, the credit implied by authorship is often used as a measure of scientists’ productivity in evaluating them for employment, promotions, grants, and prizes.
1.6.1. SfN subscribes to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ definition of authorship as being based on “1) substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) final approval of the version to be published. Authors should meet conditions 1, 2, and 3... Acquisition of funding, collection of data, or general supervision of the research group alone does not constitute authorship... Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content.” Deceased persons deemed appropriate as authors should be so included with a footnote identifying them as deceased.
1.6.2. The senior author(s) should offer to each individual who has met the first criterion the opportunity to participate in authoring, drafting, or critically reviewing the manuscript so as to avoid exclusion from authorship by lack of opportunity.
1.6.3. Although researchers are strongly encouraged to share materials such as reagents, animals, and tissues, the provision of such materials in and of itself does not constitute sufficient grounds for inclusion as an author.
1.6.4. In multi-authored papers, the significance of the order in which authors are listed varies widely according to common practice in the field or to the policy established by the publisher and the journal and thus cannot reasonably be stipulated in these Guidelines. However, it is usual in neuroscience and allied fields for authors to be listed in descending order of their contribution to the paper, with the exception that the senior author is often listed last.
1.6.5. Once the list and order of authors has been established, the list and order of authors should not be altered without permission of all living authors. (Exceptions to this rule shall be limited to the demonstration of misconduct on the part of an author or failure to fulfill authorship obligations.)
1.6.6. The role of each author in the work reported should be indicated. Often, two or more individuals have contributed equally and it is appropriate to share credit as first author or senior author.
1.6.7. All authors share responsibility for the scientific accuracy of an abstract for a presentation at a professional meeting or a manuscript, including supplementary material. Hence, in cases of fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, all authors are potentially culpable.
1.6.8. In the case of papers with multiple authors, a “corresponding” author must be designated as having responsibility for overseeing the publication process and ensuring the integrity of the final document. The corresponding author accepts the responsibility for: (a) including as co-authors all persons appropriate and none inappropriate; (b) obtaining from all co-authors their assent to be designated as such, as well as their approval of the final version of the manuscript; (c) determining that permission has been obtained from each individual acknowledged in the manuscript; and (d) keeping all co-authors apprised of the current status of a manuscript submitted for publication, including furnishing all co-authors with copies of the reviewers’ comments and a copy of the published version, as appropriate.
1.6.9. If a manuscript is revised and resubmitted to the same journal, co-authors should be asked to reaffirm their assent to be listed as co-authors and to approve the revised version. In addition, if the manuscript is rejected or withdrawn from a journal and then submitted to a different journal, the co-authors should be asked again to affirm their assent to authorship even if no substantive changes have been made.
1.6.10. Co-authors have the right to withdraw their names from a manuscript at any time before acceptance of the manuscript by the editor. However, an author’s name should not be removed from a manuscript without his or her permission or without approval of the editor in cases involving possible misconduct. Once a manuscript has been accepted for publication, no change in authorship should occur without permission of the editor.
1.6.11. When a study is published under the auspices of a formal group, typically multicenter, it is appropriate to append “For the xxx Group” at the end of the author list to indicate the formality of the association without explicitly considering the group as an author.
1.6.12. Ghostwriting (writing of a manuscript by someone who is not an author and is not acknowledged) of a scientific publication is unacceptable. However, soliciting assistance in improving a manuscript’s grammar and style is encouraged.
1.7. “Honorary authorship” is inconsistent with the definition of authorship. An honorary author is any individual listed as an author who has not made a substantive intellectual contribution to the work as defined in section 1.6. Among those who would be considered honorary authors are those whose participation was limited solely to the acquisition of funding for the research; those who are a chair or director of department, division, or research group and had no significant role in the planning, conduct, and review of the research; or those who merely supervised the collection of data. Honorary authorship is a misrepresentation, implying a substantial intellectual contribution that was not made. It also distorts the publication record, making it a less reliable measure of productivity. Moreover, should honorary authors be unable to adequately discuss the work, this will reflect poorly on them and their co-authors. Finally, honorary authors risk associating themselves with work that may later be the subject of a misconduct investigation and about which they have little knowledge.
1.8. “Acknowledgements” provide an opportunity to note assistance that does not warrant authorship but does merit recognition. Although only a limited number of people will qualify as authors of a manuscript (see section 1.6), there are many other types of contributions that can or even should be acknowledged in other ways. Acknowledgement of ideas or of comments provided about a draft of a manuscript is an appropriate indication of assistance provided and also may facilitate such interactions in the future. However, because acknowledgements of intellectual contributions may be interpreted by readers as an endorsement of the conclusions of the paper, authors should offer such individuals the opportunity to decline the acknowledgement. Other types of acknowledgements that may be appropriate are those for the donation of a critical reagent or for technical support.
1.9. Financial contributions to the work being reported should be clearly acknowledged, as should any potential conflict of interest. Acknowledgement of financial support is expected by sponsors and may assist the funding agency in determining the impact of their contribution. Moreover, financial support from commercial sponsors may be a potential conflict of interest, which should be disclosed so that editors, reviewers, and readers can consider this in evaluating the objectivity of the report. Financial support includes the contribution, free of charge, of products such as drugs, biological materials, or devices.
1.9.2. Authors should disclose in a cover letter sent to the editor any associations that represent a potential conflict of interest. These include a current or pending relationship as a consultant for the company supporting the research or manufacturing products being tested, a financial or managerial interest in such a company, or intellectual property rights that might be affected by publication of the results of the research reported in a manuscript. Upon receipt of this information, an editor may require that a footnote disclosing the potential conflict be added to the manuscript.
1.9.3. Authors should ensure that no contractual relations or proprietary considerations exist that would restrict the dissemination of their findings. More fundamentally, researchers should seek advice from their institutions before entering into agreements that might prevent or unduly delay publication of their research results. It is generally accepted that there may be a brief delay (e.g., 30 to 60 days) for the sponsor to review a manuscript and prepare a patent application. However, it is not acceptable for an academic scientist to permit an outside organization to hold veto power over publication. Should any such restrictions exist, however, they should be disclosed to the editor. Upon receipt of this information, an editor may choose to return the manuscript.
1.10. Methods and materials should be described in sufficient detail to permit evaluation and replication. In science it is essential that other researchers be able to evaluate and, if they wish, to replicate published observations. This enables researchers to build on the work of each other, thus permitting the efficient use of resources.
1.10.1. A research article should contain sufficient detail and reference to public sources of information in a format appropriate to the journal’s style and policy to allow a knowledgeable scientist to evaluate and replicate the work reported.
1.10.2. The source of any materials and equipment thought to be crucial to the replication of the experiment should be clearly identified, and authors should provide details on any materials and protocols upon request.
1.11. Data sharing is encouraged. When data are published in a peer-reviewed journal, authors should deposit associated data in a suitable publicly accessible repository, when available. This includes nucleic acid and protein sequence data, expression data, neuroimaging data, and other data types currently available or become available in the future. Authors should, when possible, honor requests for access to any form of published data for appropriate scientific use.
1.12. Unique and propagatable materials used in studies being reported must be made available to qualified scientists for bona fide research purposes. In some cases, the replication and extension of published work may require materials that are not readily available. In such instances, the authors must make every effort to provide those materials to other qualified scientists. Indeed, the failure of authors to provide such materials greatly reduces the value of their work. As noted in guidelines prepared by the National Institutes of Health (1990), “this principle requires that any unique materials . . . that are essential for repetition of the published experiments be available to other qualified scientists.” In general, editors should not accept a manuscript for publication unless the authors agree to the above conditions.
1.12.1. Once a manuscript has been published, authors must promptly make available to qualified scientists for bona fide research purposes all materials that were used in the reported research and are not otherwise readily available. This includes propagatable research materials (such as monoclonal antibodies, transgenic mice, and DNA probes and constructs) and, where possible, non-propagatable materials (for example, serum antibodies). Reasonable costs associated with the production and transfer of these materials should be provided by the recipient if the authors so request.
1.12.2. Such materials must be provided without restrictions, such as the requirement that they not be used for a particular type of experiment. Likewise, the person providing the materials should not make future authorship a condition for this provision. Reasonable mutual agreements to avoid unnecessary overlap of research are encouraged.
1.12.3. These guidelines apply equally to those in academia and in the private sector, except that when an individual in the private sector requests materials that are intended to be used for commercialization, it is appropriate that the individual requesting the materials be asked to provide a fee.
1.12.5. Authors may, if possible, arrange to distribute materials through entities such as the American Type Culture Collection (Rockville, MD), data banks (e.g., for DNA sequences), or the Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME).
1.12.7. In rare instances, considerations of time, money, or personnel may make sharing of materials impossible. In each such case the authors must explain these circumstances in a cover letter submitted with the manuscript, indicating that the authors are prepared to make every effort to assist others in creating their own materials. The editors of the journal may then determine whether or not to accept the manuscript for review.
1.12.8. Certain considerations may lead authors, particularly those in the private sector whose work is not supported by public funds, to wish to delay providing compounds being developed as therapeutic agents. These instances must be explained and the period of delay defined in a cover letter submitted with the manuscript. In addition, the authors might offer to supply closely related materials (e.g., an analog to a compound). The editors can then determine whether to accept the manuscript for review.
1.13. Authors have an obligation to correct errors promptly.Once an article has been published, it remains forever within the scientific literature. Thus, care should be taken to determine that every aspect of a manuscript is correct. Occasionally, errors are not discovered until after a manuscript has been submitted or even after it has been published. Every effort should be made to correct such errors as quickly as possible. It is far preferable to do so before an article is published since the subsequent publication of corrections — while serving a useful purpose when required — can never completely eliminate the possibility that individuals will read the original article and assume it to be accurate, having not read the correction.
1.13.2. Should a significant error be discovered after the article has been submitted, is in press, or has been published, the authors must immediately contact the editor and establish how the error should best be corrected.
1.14. All components of a research article are subject to peer review. Designation as a peer-reviewed article implies that each substantive component of the published article, including supplemental material, has received editorial approval. This includes material that has been modified or added after the initial review process, as well as the deletion of material. Thus, although it may be necessary to alter a manuscript after it has been submitted, this should be done only with the consent of the editor.
1.14.1. If a manuscript has been reviewed, returned to the authors, and is being sent back to the same journal in a revised form, all substantive changes in any aspect of that manuscript should be explicitly described in an accompanying note to the editor. This applies to the list and order of authors, as well as to the text, data, figures, tables, and references.
1.15. Authors should not engage in duplicate publication. Publishing the same finding based on the same data in two different articles without explicit acknowledgement of the relationship is duplicate publication and is unacceptable. Any data that have been previously published should be explicitly labeled as such. Data refers to the full range of experimental observations, including both numerical values and images. Once this condition has been satisfied, studies involving data mining and explicit comparison with pre-existing data sets are appropriate and encouraged.
1.16. Informal communication of results and ideas is encouraged. Presentation of data and manuscript drafts at conferences or on the Internet is encouraged, because it enhances the prompt exchange of information and allows for feedback from the community. Authors should ascertain in advance whether the communication infringes the policies of the journal targeted for final publication and should be aware that even informal communication can modify the intellectual property status of the data.
1.17. Authors should not discuss with reviewers any aspect of a manuscript under evaluation prior to a final decision. In order to maximize the unbiased nature of the review, the evaluation process should proceed without any interaction between authors and reviewer except through the editor.
1.17.1. Communications between authors and reviewers should be made only through the editor or a designated editorial assistant. Authors should not discuss their manuscript directly with a reviewer while it is under review.
1.17.3. Under no circumstances should an author allow an opinion rendered by a reviewer to influence the author's future actions regarding that reviewer except that an author might choose to request that a given reviewer not be asked to evaluate the author’s future manuscripts.
1.18. It is improper for authors to submit a manuscript describing essentially the same research simultaneously to more than one peer-reviewed research journal. To do otherwise is to overuse valuable editorial and reviewing time. It also risks the possibility of duplicate publication.
1.18.1. When submitting a manuscript for publication, authors should inform the editor of any closely related manuscripts under editorial consideration or in press, and describe the relationships of such manuscripts to the one submitted. A copy of these manuscripts should also be supplied to the editor.
1.19. When communications will not undergo formal editorial review (e.g., abstracts for presentations at professional meetings), authors are encouraged to have these communications reviewed by colleagues.