Table of contents
- Ethics and consent
- Research involving animals
- Research involving plants
- Consent for publication
- Trial registration
- Availability of data and materials
- Standards of reporting
- Describing new taxa
- Competing interests
- Duplicate publication
- Text recycling
- Peer review
- Corrections and retractions
- Appeals and complaints
BioMed Central is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and endorses the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) Policy Statement on Geopolitical Intrusion on Editorial Decisions. BioMed Central also endorses the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals.
Submission of a manuscript to a BioMed Central journal implies that all authors have read and agreed to its content and that the manuscript conforms to the journal’s policies.
Ethics and consent
Research involving human subjects, human material, or human data, must have been performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and must have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee. A statement detailing this, including the name of the ethics committee and the reference number where appropriate, must appear in all manuscripts reporting such research. If a study has been granted an exemption from requiring ethics approval, this should also be detailed in the manuscript (including the name of the ethics committee that granted the exemption). Further information and documentation to support this should be made available to the Editor on request. Manuscripts may be rejected if the Editor considers that the research has not been carried out within an appropriate ethical framework. In rare cases, the Editor may contact the ethics committee for further information.
Retrospective ethics approval
If a study has not been granted ethics committee approval prior to commencing, retrospective ethics approval usually cannot be obtained and it may not be possible to consider the manuscript for peer review. The decision on whether to proceed to peer review in such cases is at the Editor's discretion.
New clinical tools and procedures
Authors reporting the use of a new procedure or tool in a clinical setting, for example as a technical advance or case report, must give a clear justification in the manuscript for why the new procedure or tool was deemed more appropriate than usual clinical practice to meet the patient’s clinical need. Such justification is not required if the new procedure is already approved for clinical use at the authors’ institution. Authors will be expected to have obtained ethics committee approval and informed patient consent for any experimental use of a novel procedure or tool where a clear clinical advantage based on clinical need was not apparent before treatment.
Consent to participate
For all research involving human subjects, informed consent to participate in the study should be obtained from participants (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16) and a statement to this effect should appear in the manuscript.
Research involving animals
Experimental research on vertebrates or any regulated invertebrates must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines, and where available should have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee. The Basel Declaration outlines fundamental principles to adhere to when conducting research in animals and the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS) has also published ethical guidelines.
A statement detailing compliance with relevant guidelines (e.g. the revised Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in the UK and Directive 2010/63/EU in Europe) and/or ethical approval (including the name of the ethics committee and the reference number where appropriate) must be included in the manuscript. If a study has been granted an exemption from requiring ethics approval, this should also be detailed in the manuscript (including the name of the ethics committee that granted the exemption and the reasons for the exemption). The Editor will take account of animal welfare issues and reserves the right to reject a manuscript, especially if the research involves protocols that are inconsistent with commonly accepted norms of animal research. In rare cases, the Editor may contact the ethics committee for further information.
For experimental studies involving client-owned animals, authors must also document informed consent from the client or owner and adherence to a high standard (best practice) of veterinary care.
Field studies and other non-experimental research on animals must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines, and where available should have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee. A statement detailing compliance with relevant guidelines and/or appropriate permissions or licences must be included in the manuscript. We recommend that authors comply with the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the IUCN Policy Statement on Research Involving Species at Risk of Extinction.
Research involving plants
Experimental research on plants (either cultivated or wild), including collection of plant material, must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines. Field studies should be conducted in accordance with local legislation, and the manuscript should include a statement specifying the appropriate permissions and/or licences. We recommend that authors comply with the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Voucher specimens must be deposited in a public herbarium or other public collection providing access to deposited material. Information on the voucher specimen and who identified it must be included in the manuscript.
Consent for publication
For all manuscripts that include details, images, or videos relating to individual participants, written informed consent for the publication of these must be obtained from the participants (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16) and a statement to this effect should appear in the manuscript. If the participant has died, then consent for publication must be sought from the next of kin of the participant. Authors can use the BioMed Central consent form to obtain consent for publication from the participant(s), or a consent form from their own institution or region if they prefer. This documentation must be made available to the Editor if requested, and will be treated confidentially. In cases where images are entirely unidentifiable and there are no details on individuals reported within the manuscript, consent for publication of images may not be required. The final decision on whether consent to publish is required lies with the Editor.
BioMed Central supports initiatives to improve reporting of clinical trials. This includes prospective registration of clinical trials in suitable publicly available databases. In line with ICMJE guidelines, BioMed Central requires registration of all clinical trials that are reported in manuscripts submitted to its journals.
The ICMJE uses the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of a clinical trial, which is "any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes". This definition includes phase I to IV trials. The ICMJE defines health-related interventions as "any intervention used to modify a biomedical or health-related outcome" and health-related outcomes as "any biomedical or health-related measures obtained in patients or participants". Authors who are unsure whether their trial needs registering should consult the ICMJE FAQs for further information.
Suitable publicly available registries are those listed on the ICMJE website as well as any of the primary registries that participate in the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, including the ISRCTN registry, which is administered and published by BioMed Central.
The trial registration number (TRN) and date of registration should be included as the last line of the manuscript abstract.
For clinical trials that have not been registered prospectively, BioMed Central encourages retrospective registration to ensure the complete publication of all results. Further information on retrospective registration is available from the AllTrials campaign, the Public Accounts Committee and the Department of Health.
Many journals published by BioMed Central will consider manuscripts describing retrospectively registered studies. The TRN, date of registration and the words 'retrospectively registered’ should be included as the last line of the manuscript abstract.
Registration of systematic reviews
BioMed Central supports the prospective registration of systematic reviews and encourages authors to register their systematic reviews in a suitable registry (such as PROSPERO). Authors who have registered their systematic review should include the registration number as the last line of the manuscript abstract.
Availability of data and materials
Submission of a manuscript to a BioMed Central journal implies that materials described in the manuscript, including all relevant raw data, will be freely available to any scientist wishing to use them for non-commercial purposes, without breaching participant confidentiality.
For all journals, BioMed Central strongly encourages that all datasets on which the conclusions of the paper rely should be available to readers, and where there is a community established norm for data sharing, BioMed Central mandates data deposition (for data types with required deposition, see below).
We encourage authors to ensure that their datasets are either deposited in publicly available repositories (where available and appropriate) or presented in the main manuscript or additional supporting files, in machine-readable format (such as spreadsheets rather than PDFs) whenever possible. Please see the list of recommended repositories. For several journals, deposition of the data on which the conclusions of the manuscript rely is required. Please check individual journal’s Instructions for Authors for more information.
Support on our data policy for authors and editors can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org. This service provides advice on research data policy compliance and on finding research data repositories. It is independent of journal, book and conference proceedings editorial offices and does not advise on specific manuscripts.
Availability of data and materials section
All authors must include an “Availability of Data and Materials” section in their manuscript detailing where the data supporting their findings can be found. Authors who do not wish to share their data must state that data will not be shared, and give the reason.
Availability of data and materials statements can take one of the following forms (or a combination of more than one if required for multiple datasets):
- The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available in the [NAME] repository, [PERSISTENT WEB LINK TO DATASETS]
- The datasets during and/or analysed during the current study available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
- All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article [and its supplementary information files].
- The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due [REASON WHY DATA ARE NOT PUBLIC] but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
- Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
- The data that support the findings of this study are available from [third party name] but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are however available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of [third party name].
- Not applicable. If your manuscript does not contain any data, please state not applicable in this section.
BioMed Central endorses the Force 11 Data Citation Principles and requires that all publicly available datasets be fully referenced in the reference list with an accession number or unique identifier such as a digital object identifier (DOI).
List of recommended repositories
A list of recommended repositories by subject area and data type can be found on the Springer Nature Recommended Repositories list. If you have questions as to the suitability of a given repository, please contact the helpdesk at email@example.com.
Community-established norm of data deposition
|Mandatory deposition||Suitable repositories|
|DNA and RNA sequences|
|DNA and RNA sequencing data|
|Linked genotype and phenotype data|
|Microarray data (must be MIAME compliant)|
|Crystallographic data for small molecules||Cambridge Structural Database|
Publication of clinical datasets
For datasets containing clinical data, authors have an ethical and legal responsibility to respect participants’ rights to privacy and to protect their identity. Ideally, authors should gain informed consent for publication of the dataset from participants at the point of recruitment to the trial. If this is not possible, authors must demonstrate that publication of such data does not compromise anonymity or confidentiality or breach local data protection laws, for the dataset to be considered for publication. Authors must consider whether the dataset contains any direct or indirect identifiers (see here for further information) and consult their local ethics committee or other appropriate body before submission if there is any possibility that participants will not be fully anonymous. Authors must state in their manuscript on submission whether informed consent was obtained for publication of patient data. If informed consent was not obtained, authors must state the reason for this, and which body was consulted in the preparation of the dataset.
Software and code
Any previously unreported software application or custom code described in the manuscript should be available for testing by reviewers in a way that preserves their anonymity. The manuscript should include a description in the Availability of Data and Materials section of how the reviewers can access the unreported software application or custom code. This section should include a link to the most recent version of your software or code (e.g. GitHub or Sourceforge) as well as a link to the archived version referenced in the manuscript. The software or code should be archived in an appropriate repository with a DOI or other unique identifier. For software in GitHub, we recommend using Zenodo. If published, the software application/tool should be readily available to any scientist wishing to use it for non-commercial purposes, without restrictions (such as the need for a material transfer agreement). If the implementation is not made freely available, then the manuscript should focus clearly on the development of the underlying method and not discuss the tool in any detail.
Standards of reporting
BioMed Central advocates complete and transparent reporting of biomedical and biological research. Please refer to the Minimum standards of reporting checklist when reporting your research (published in BMC Biology). Exact requirements may vary depending on the journal; please refer to the journal’s instructions for authors. We also strongly recommend that authors refer to the minimum reporting guidelines for health research hosted by the EQUATOR Network when preparing their manuscript, and the BioSharing Portal for reporting checklists for biological and biomedical research, where applicable. Authors should adhere to these guidelines when drafting their manuscript, and peer reviewers will be asked to refer to these checklists when evaluating such studies.
Checklists are available for a number of study designs, including:
- Randomized controlled trials (CONSORT) and protocols (SPIRIT)
- Systematic reviews and meta-analyses* (PRISMA) and protocols (PRISMA-P)
- Observational studies (STROBE)
- Case reports (CARE)
- Qualitative research (COREQ)
- Diagnostic/prognostic studies (STARD and TRIPOD)
- Economic evaluations (CHEERS)
- Pre-clinical animal studies (ARRIVE)
*Authors of systematic reviews should also provide a link to an additional file from the ‘methods’ section, which reproduces all details of the search strategy. For an example of how a search strategy should be presented, see the Cochrane Reviewers' Handbook.
Authors should include full information on the statistical methods and measures used in their research, including justification of the appropriateness of the statistical test used (see the SAMPL guidelines for more information). Reviewers will be asked to check the statistical methods, and the manuscript may be sent for specialist statistical review if considered necessary.
To enable effective tracking of the key resources used to produce the scientific findings reported in the biomedical literature, authors are expected to include a full description of all resources with enough information to allow them to be uniquely identified. In support of the Resource Identification Initiative (RII), we encourage authors to use unique Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) within their manuscript to identify their model organisms, antibodies, or tools.
Cell line authentication
If human cell lines are used, authors are strongly encouraged to include the following information in their manuscript:
- The source of the cell line, including when and from where it was obtained
- Whether the cell line has recently been authenticated and by what method
- Whether the cell line has recently been tested for mycoplasma contamination
Further information is available from the International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC). We recommend that authors check the NCBI database for misidentification and contamination of human cell lines.
Standardized gene nomenclature should be used throughout. Human gene symbols and names can be found in the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) database; requests for new gene symbols should be submitted here and any enquiries about gene nomenclature can be directed here. Alternative gene aliases that are commonly used may also be reported, but should not be used alone in place of the HGNC symbol. Nomenclature committees for other species are listed here.
Reporting of sequence variants
We recommend that authors should submit all variants described in a manuscript to the relevant public gene/disease specific database (LSDB): a list is available here. The database URL and the unique identifier should be reported in the manuscript.
To drive the maximum re-use and utility of published research, we expect authors to comply with available field-specific standards for the preparation and recording of data. Please see the BioSharing website for information on field-specific data standards. Authors must comply with best practice in their field for sharing of data, with particular attention to maintaining patient confidentiality.
Authors using unpublished genomic data are expected to abide by the guidelines of the Fort Lauderdale and Toronto agreements. Based on broadly accepted scientific community standards, the key requirement of third parties using genomic data is to contact the owners of unpublished data (i.e. the principal investigator and sequencing center) prior to undertaking their research, to advise them about their planned analyses.
Describing new taxa
Algal, fungal, and botanical names
Since January 2012, electronic publication of algal, fungal, and botanical names has been a valid form of publication. Manuscripts containing new taxon names or other nomenclatural acts must follow the guidelines set by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. Further helpful information by Sandra Knapp et al. is available here.
Authors describing new fungal taxa should register the names with a recognized repository, such as Mycobank, and request a unique digital identifier which should be included in the published article.
Since January 2012, electronic publication of zoological names has been a valid form of publication if certain conditions are met. Manuscripts containing new taxon names or other nomenclatural acts must follow the guidelines set by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. We require the new taxon name and the article it is published in to be registered with ZooBank. The unique identifier provided by ZooBank should be included in the published article. Authors will be able to update ZooBank with the final citation following publication. Further helpful information by Frank-T. Krell is available here.
In accordance with the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP) effective publication of new prokaryotic names in electronic journals is possible. In order to comply with rules of the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP) for valid publication authors must submit a copy of the published article in its final form, together with certificates of deposition of the type strain (for unrestricted distribution), in at least two internationally recognized, publicly accessible culture collections located in different countries, to the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) editorial office. Following review by the List Editor, effectively published names that conform to all of the rules of the ICNP will appear on a subsequent Validation List, in the order received, thereby becoming validly published.
The proposal of new virus names must follow the guidelines established by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) in the International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature. Proposals for new virus taxa should be forwarded to the relevant Study Group of the ICTV for consideration.
BioMed Central requires authors to declare all competing interests in relation to their work. All submitted manuscripts must include a ‘competing interests’ section at the end of the manuscript listing all competing interests (financial and non-financial). Where authors have no competing interests, the statement should read “The author(s) declare(s) that they have no competing interests”. The Editor may ask for further information relating to competing interests.
Editors and reviewers are also required to declare any competing interests and may be excluded from the peer review process if a competing interest exists.
What constitutes a competing interest?
Competing interests may be financial or non-financial. A competing interest exists when the authors’ interpretation of data or presentation of information may be influenced by their personal or financial relationship with other people or organizations. Authors should disclose any financial competing interests but also any non-financial competing interests that may cause them embarrassment if they were to become public after the publication of the manuscript.
Please see 'Commercial organizations' (below) for more information relating to competing interests on manuscripts from commercial organizations.
Financial competing interests
Financial competing interests include (but are not limited to):
- Receiving reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of the manuscript, either now or in the future.
- Holding stocks or shares in an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of the manuscript, either now or in the future.
- Holding, or currently applying for, patents relating to the content of the manuscript.
- Receiving reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that holds or has applied for patents relating to the content of the manuscript.
Non-financial competing interests
Non-financial competing interests include (but are not limited to) political, personal, religious, ideological, academic, and intellectual competing interests. If, after reading these guidelines, you are unsure whether you have a competing interest, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors from pharmaceutical companies, or other commercial organizations that sponsor clinical trials, should declare these as competing interests on submission. They should also adhere to the Good Publication Practice guidelines for pharmaceutical companies (GPP3), which are designed to ensure that publications are produced in a responsible and ethical manner. The guidelines also apply to any companies or individuals that work on industry-sponsored publications, such as freelance writers, contract research organizations and communications companies. BioMed Central will not publish advertorial content.
Research articles and non-research articles (e.g. Opinion, Review, and Commentary articles) must cite appropriate and relevant literature in support of the claims made. Excessive and inappropriate self-citation or coordinated efforts among several authors to collectively self-cite is strongly discouraged.
Authors should consider the following guidelines when preparing their manuscript:
- Any statement in the manuscript that relies on external sources of information (i.e. not the authors' own new ideas or findings or general knowledge) should use a citation.
- Authors should avoid citing derivations of original work. For example, they should cite the original work rather than a review article that cites an original work.
- Authors should ensure that their citations are accurate (i.e. they should ensure the citation supports the statement made in their manuscript and should not misrepresent another work by citing it if it does not support the point the authors wish to make).
- Authors should not cite sources that they have not read.
- Authors should not preferentially cite their own or their friends’, peers’, or institution’s publications.
- Authors should avoid citing work solely from one country.
- Authors should not use an excessive number of citations to support one point.
- Ideally, authors should cite sources that have undergone peer review where possible.
- Authors should not cite advertisements or advertorial material.
Any manuscript submitted to a BioMed Central journal must be original and the manuscript, or substantial parts of it, must not be under consideration by any other journal. In any case where there is the potential for overlap or duplication we require that authors are transparent. Authors should declare any potentially overlapping publications on submission. Any overlapping publications should be cited. Any ‘in press’ or unpublished manuscript cited, or relevant to the Editor’s and reviewers' assessment of the manuscript, should be made available if requested by the Editor. BioMed Central reserves the right to judge potentially overlapping or redundant publications on a case-by-case basis.
In general, the manuscript should not already have been formally published in any journal or in any other citable form. If justified and made clear upon submission, there are exceptions to this rule. Details of these exceptions follow below and are also summarized in table 1.
BioMed Central is a member of CrossCheck’s plagiarism detection initiative and takes seriously all cases of publication misconduct. Any suspected cases of covert duplicate manuscript submission will be handled as outlined in the COPE guidelines and the Editor may contact the authors’ institution (see Misconduct policy for more information). BioMed Central endorses the policies of the ICMJE in relation to overlapping publications.
Cochrane systematic reviews
BioMed Central does not currently have a co-publication agreement with the Cochrane Library for its systematic reviews. BioMed Central will therefore only consider publishing novel Cochrane systematic reviews, or updated versions of articles in the Cochrane Library, if they provide substantial new information.
Co-publication in multiple journals
If transparent, and with prior agreement of the relevant journals and under the conditions specified in the ICMJE guidelines, co-publication in multiple journals will be considered at the Editor's discretion.
Health technology assessment
The reports of the NHS Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme are freely accessible in full online. At the Editor's discretion, some BioMed Central journals will consider full or shortened versions of these articles for peer review.
Pre-print servers and author/institutional repositories
Posting a manuscript on a pre-print server such as ArXiv, bioRxiv, Peer J PrePrints, or similar platforms (both commercial and non-commercial) is not considered to be duplicate publication. BioMed Central will also consider peer reviewing manuscripts that have been posted on an author's personal or institutional website. Material that has formed part of an academic thesis and been placed in the public domain, as required by the awarding institution, will also be considered by BioMed Central's journals.
BioMed Central encourages self-archiving by authors of manuscripts accepted for publication in its journals.
Translations into English
Authors should comply with the ICMJE guidelines and seek approval from the original publisher to check that they do not breach the copyright terms of the original publication and that the original publisher gives permission for publication of the translation under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0.
At the Editor's discretion, some BioMed Central journals will consider manuscripts that are substantially extended versions of articles that have previously been published in another peer-reviewed journal. The journal Trials, in particular, actively encourages this. In such cases the prior publication of an abridged version of the article would therefore not preclude publication, provided the new manuscript represents a substantially novel contribution to the scientific record. If applicable, the authors should seek approval from the original publisher before submitting the extended version of the manuscript.
Prior abstracts of up to 400 words and posters presented at, or published as part of, academic meetings do not preclude consideration for peer review of a full manuscript, as the full manuscript represents a formal advance to the citable scientific record. Published abstracts should be cited. Authors should be aware that many conference proceedings exceed the allowable word limit and constitute a citable form.
Making scientific data sets publicly available before associated manuscripts are submitted will not preclude consideration by a BioMed Central journal. Because an increasing number of research funding agencies require that their grant holders share the 'raw data' research outputs, such data sharing is encouraged by BioMed Central, provided appropriate safeguards are in place to protect personal or sensitive information. See the policy on publication of clinical datasets (above) for more information.
Authors of non-research articles (usually commissioned reviews and commentaries) can include figures and tables that have been previously published in other journals provided they confirm on submission that permission has been obtained from the original publisher (if applicable) and cite the original article. Documentary evidence to support this permission must be made available to the Editor on request.
In order to avoid the potential for self-plagiarism, inadvertently or otherwise, authors agreeing to write commissioned articles should notify the Editor of any recent publications or invitations to write on a similar topic.
If authors have previously discussed or posted their own data in venues such as blogs, wikis, social networking websites, or online electronic lab notebooks, they are still able to submit their findings to BioMed Central's journals. However, given the rapidly evolving nature of these resources, where discussion of data or manuscripts posted to these venues has subsequently been incorporated into the manuscript, the Editor will make their own assessment as to whether there may be duplication in the submitted manuscript.
Publication of study protocols reduces the risk of non-publication of research findings and facilitates methodological discussion, and is encouraged by a number of BioMed Central journals. Therefore prior publication of a study protocol before submission of a manuscript reporting the results is not considered duplicate publication.
Summary clinical trial results in public registries
Posting of summary clinical trial results in publicly accessible databases is generally not considered duplicate publication. BioMed Central requires authors of manuscripts reporting clinical trials to have registered their trial in a suitably accessible registry (see our Trial Registration policy for more information). In the US, submission of trial results to ClinicalTrials.gov is a statutory requirement. More information on this requirement can be found here.
Table 1. Generally permissible and non-permissible forms of duplicate/overlapping publication
|Previous publication||Guidance on permissibility|
|Abridged articles||At the Editor's discretion, provided there is agreement from the original journal/publisher and the original publication is cited|
|Abstracts up to 400 words or posters presented at scientific meetings||Yes - published abstracts should be cited|
|Co-publication in multiple journals||At the Editor's discretion and with conditions, as outlined in the ICMJE guidelines|
|Cochrane systematic reviews||No, unless original or substantially updated|
|Datasets in public or restricted access repositories||Yes - datasets should be cited in/hyperlinked from the manuscript if possible|
|Figures and tables in non-research articles||Yes, if, where applicable, permission has been obtained from the original publisher by the submitting author|
|Health Technology Assessment reports||At the Editor's discretion - contact the Editor for more information|
|Open science: data posted and discussed on wikis, blogs, online electronic lab notebooks, networking websites incorporated into submitted manuscript||Yes, usually permissible|
|Pre-print servers, including authors' personal and institutional websites||Yes|
|Study protocol published||Yes - published protocols should be cited|
|Summary results in clinical trial registries||Yes - accession number should be included in the abstract|
|Translations into English||At the Editor's discretion, provided there is agreement from the original journal/publisher, no breach of copyright and the original publication is cited.|
Authors should be aware that replication of text from their own previous publications is text recycling (also referred to as self-plagiarism), and in some cases is considered unacceptable. Where overlap of text with authors’ own previous publications is necessary or unavoidable, duplication must always be reported transparently and be properly attributed and compliant with copyright requirements. In collaboration with COPE, BioMed Central has created guidelines for Editors on how to deal with text recycling which provide further detailed information on when text recycling is or is not considered acceptable. If a mansucript contains text that has been published elsewhere, authors should notify the Editor of this on submission.
All research articles, and most other article types, published in BioMed Central journals undergo thorough peer review. This usually involves review by two independent peer reviewers. Individual journals may differ in their peer review processes; for example, some journals operate an open and others a closed peer review system. For an individual journal’s peer review policy, please see the journal's 'About' page.
Peer review policy
All submissions to BioMed Central journals are assessed by an Editor, who will decide whether they are suitable for peer review. Where an Editor is on the author list or has any other competing interest regarding a specific manuscript, another member of the Editorial Board will be assigned to assume responsibility for overseeing peer review. Submissions felt to be suitable for consideration will be sent for peer review by appropriate independent experts. Editors will make a decision based on the reviewers’ reports and authors are sent these reports along with the editorial decision on their manuscript. Authors should note that even in light of one positive report, concerns raised by another reviewer may fundamentally undermine the study and result in the manuscript being rejected.
Open peer review
For journals operating an open peer review process, the reviewers' names are included on the peer review reports. In addition, if the manuscript is published, the named reports are published online alongside the article as part of a 'pre-publication history'. All previous versions of the manuscript and all author responses to the reviewers are also available to readers on request. On rare occasions, information from the pre-publication history may not be available for a specific article.
Closed peer review
Most journals operate a closed peer review process. Reviewers will be treated anonymously and the pre-publication history of each article will not be made available online.
Authors may suggest potential reviewers if they wish; however, whether or not to consider these reviewers is at the Editor's discretion. Authors should not suggest recent collaborators or colleagues who work in the same institution as themselves. Authors who wish to suggest peer reviewers can do so in the cover letter and should provide institutional email addresses where possible, or information which will help the Editor to verify the identity of the reviewer (for example an ORCID or Scopus ID).
Authors may request exclusion of individuals as peer reviewers, but they should explain the reasons in their cover letter on submission. Authors should not exclude too many individuals as this may hinder the peer review process. Please note that the Editor may choose to invite excluded peer reviewers.
Intentionally falsifying information, for example, suggesting reviewers with a false name or email address, will result in rejection of the manuscript and may lead to further investigation in line with our Misconduct policy.
Portability of peer review
Within BioMed Central
To support efficient and thorough peer review, we aim to reduce the number of times a manuscript is re-reviewed after rejection from a BioMed Central journal, thereby speeding up the publication process and reducing the burden on peer reviewers. If a manuscript does not reach the interest criteria of a given BioMed Central journal, but is sound and in scope for another BioMed Central journal, we offer authors the option to transfer the manuscript together with the reviewer reports to the other journal.
Editors may share manuscripts with Editors of other BioMed Central journals before contacting authors in order to assess suitability for transfer to another journal. Authors who do not wish their manuscript to be shared with other BioMed Central journals should indicate this in their cover letter on submission. Reviewers who do not wish us to share their report with another BioMed Central journal should indicate this in the confidential section of their report. Transfer of a manuscript does not imply that it will be automatically accepted by the receiving journal, and on some occasions the Editor of the receiving journal may need to conduct their own peer review and/or reject the manuscript if it is not suitable.
If a manuscript is transferred to, and published in, a journal with open peer review, we will, wherever possible, make the reviewers' reports available through the pre-publication history of the article (see ‘Open peer review’ above). On some occasions this will not be possible; for example, when the manuscript has been peer reviewed in a closed peer review journal first. Although we will ask reviewers to make their reports available, reviewers providing reports for closed peer review journals will sometimes prefer to maintain this confidentiality and their anonymity. In such cases we will publish a note from the Editor on the pre-publication history of the manuscript to explain the peer review history for that particular case.
Where a manuscript was initially reviewed in an open peer review journal and is subsequently transferred to a closed peer review journal and published, the reviews will not be published alongside the article.
Between BioMed Central and other publishers/third parties
BioMed Central supports innovations in peer review which can improve efficiency and save peer reviewers’ time and effort. Some BioMed Central journals will consider manuscripts from other publishers, for example journals in the Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium and from journals in the eLife consortium. We are also willing to consider manuscripts which have been reviewed by third parties, for example, Peerage of Science and Axios Review. However, submission of a manuscript with reviewer reports from another journal or an independent review service does not imply that it will be automatically accepted by the receiving journal and additional peer review may be required.
Editors will treat all manuscripts submitted to all BioMed Central journals in confidence. BioMed Central adheres to COPE’s Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. Reviewers are therefore required to respect the confidentiality of the peer review process and not reveal any details of a manuscript or its review, during or after the peer-review process, beyond the information released by the journal. If reviewers wish to involve a colleague in the review process they should first obtain permission from the journal. The Editor should be informed of the names of any individuals who assisted in the review process when the report is returned.
BioMed Central will not share manuscripts with third parties outside of BioMed Central except in cases of suspected misconduct. See our Misconduct policy for further information. Manuscripts may be shared with other Editors at BioMed Central, unless authors indicate on submission that they do not wish for their manuscript to be passed on beyond the journal they submitted to. See portability of peer review for more information.
BioMed Central regularly undertakes research projects designed to help improve processes for authors, reviewers and editors, and how science is communicated in our journals. Participation in this research will not affect the editorial review of manuscripts, the consideration given to reviewer reports by Editors or the confidentiality of the submission and review process. Depending on the nature of the research project we may seek ethical approval and may need to contact you for consent to participate. Research may be undertaken retrospectively after the publication of manuscripts; in all cases details of manuscripts will be kept confidential.
BioMed Central takes seriously all allegations of potential misconduct. As members of COPE, all BioMed Central journals will follow the COPE guidelines outlining how to deal with cases of suspected misconduct.
In cases of suspected research or publication misconduct, it may be necessary for the Editor to contact and share manuscripts with third parties, for example, author(s)’ institution(s) and ethics committee(s). BioMed Central may also seek advice from COPE and discuss anonymized cases in the COPE Forum. The editor may also involve BioMed Central’s independent ombudsman.
All research involving humans (including human data and human material) and animals must have been carried out within an appropriate ethical framework (see our Ethics policy for further information). If there is suspicion that research has not taken place within an appropriate ethical framework, the Editor may reject a manuscript and may inform third parties, for example, author(s)’ institution(s) and ethics committee(s).
In cases of proven research misconduct involving published articles, or where the scientific integrity of the article is significantly undermined, articles may be retracted. See our Retraction policy for further information.
We endorse the guidelines given in the Instructions for Authors of the Journal of Cell Biology, from where the following is adapted with kind permission of Rockefeller University Press:
- All digital images in manuscripts considered for publication will be scrutinized for any indication of manipulation that is inconsistent with the following guidelines. Manipulation that violates these guidelines may result in delays in manuscript processing or rejection, or retraction of a published article.
- No specific feature within an image may be enhanced, obscured, moved, removed, or introduced.
- The grouping of images from different parts of the same gel, or from different gels, fields, or exposures, must be made explicit by the arrangement of the figure (i.e. using dividing lines) and in the text of the figure legend.
- Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance are acceptable if they are applied to every pixel in the image and as long as they do not obscure, eliminate, or misrepresent any information present in the original, including the background. Non-linear adjustments (e.g. changes to gamma settings) must be disclosed in the figure legend.
Any questions raised during or after the peer review process will be referred to the Editor, who will request the original data from the author(s) for comparison with the prepared figures. If the original data cannot be produced, the manuscript may be rejected or, in the case of a published article, retracted. Any case in which the manipulation affects the interpretation of the data will result in rejection or retraction. Cases of suspected misconduct will be reported to the author(s)’ institution(s).
Corrections and retractions
Rarely, it may be necessary for BioMed Central to publish corrections to, or retractions of, articles published in its journals, so as to maintain the integrity of the academic record.
In line with Biomed Central’s Permanency policy, corrections to, or retractions of, published articles will be made by publishing an Erratum or a Retraction article, without altering the original article in any way other than to add a prominent link to the Erratum/Retraction article. The original article remains in the public domain and the subsequent Erratum or Retraction will be widely indexed. In the exceptional event that material is considered to infringe certain rights or is defamatory, we may have to remove that material from our site and archive sites.
Changes to published articles that affect the interpretation and conclusion of the article, but do not fully invalidate the article, will, at the Editor(s)’ discretion, be corrected via publication of an Erratum that is indexed and linked to the original article.
On rare occasions, when the scientific information in an article is substantially undermined, it may be necessary for published articles to be retracted. BioMed Central will follow the COPE guidelines in such cases. Retraction articles are indexed and linked to the original article.