- Ethics and consent
- Research involving animals
- Research involving plants
- Biosafety and Biosecurity
- Standards for research in complementary and alternative medicine
- Consent for publication
- Trial registration
- Availability of data and materials
- Standards of reporting
- Describing new taxa
- Competing interests
- Preprint sharing and citation
- Duplicate publication
- Communications of findings prior to publication
- Text recycling
- Peer review
- Corrections and retractions
- Appeals and complaints
Table of contents
BMC 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. BMC 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 BMC journal implies that all authors have read and agreed to its content and that the manuscript conforms to the journal’s policies.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Research involving human participants, 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 participants, 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. For manuscripts reporting studies involving vulnerable groups (for example, unconscious patients) where there is the potential for coercion (for example prisoners) or where consent may not have been fully informed, manuscripts will be considered at the editor’s discretion and may be referred to an internal editorial oversight group for further scrutiny. Consent must be obtained for all forms of personally identifiable data including biomedical, clinical, and biometric data. In the case of articles describing human transplantation studies, authors must include a statement declaring that no organs/tissues were obtained from prisoners and must also name the institution(s)/clinic(s)/department(s) via which organs/tissues were obtained. Documentary evidence of consent must be supplied if requested.
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 IUCN Policy Statement on Research Involving Species at Risk of Extinction and the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Experimental research on plants (either cultivated or wild), including the 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 IUCN Policy Statement on Research Involving Species at Risk of Extinction and 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.
Biosafety and Biosecurity
It is expected that research submitted to any BMC journal is carried out in compliance with relevant institutional biosafety and biosecurity protocols and any national or international recommendations relevant to the research field. For example, for life sciences research, the WHO information DURC for life sciences research. Researchers are expected to be aware of dual-use concerns related to their work and take steps to minimise misuse of their work. Where submitted research is deemed to present a potential dual-use risk, the Editor may ask authors to provide details of how such a risk has been mitigated and how it complies with their institutional and funder’s requirements, as well as any national regulations. We reserve the right to take expert advice in cases where we believe that concerns may arise and may require a manuscript to undergo peer review specifically to assess the dual use risk. Thus, authors may be asked to revise their manuscript before normal journal peer-review.
We recognize the widespread view that openness in science helps to alert society to potential threats and to defend against them, and we anticipate that only very rarely (if at all) will the risks be perceived as outweighing the benefits of publishing a paper that has otherwise been deemed appropriate for publication. Once a decision has been reached, authors will be informed if biosecurity advice has informed that decision.
Springer Nature journals are committed to evidence-based research. We believe that Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) research should be held to the same standards and evidence threshold as those of medicine research.
We welcome manuscripts for submission which meet the following clinical research standards:
- Clinical research manuscripts that comply with international and national standards for such work (such as the Declaration of Helsinki or relevant Governmental regulation e.g. the UK’s The Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations).
- Studies which are adequately controlled (be that compared to a placebo or conventional medicine), blinded (where appropriate), randomised and of sufficient statistical power to confidentially and accurately interpret the effect reported. Studies reporting a CAM treatment/technique compared only to another CAM treatment/technique are not sufficient to test the efficacy of the CAM treatment in question. Studies in which a conventional treatment is supplemented with a CAM technique are only valid if compared to the same conventional treatment supplemented with a placebo.
- CAM treatments/techniques tested on animal models and/or human patients: It is unethical for such work, on humans or animals, to have taken place without adequate prior evidence that the treatment/technique shows some potential of being therapeutic. Manuscripts must include evidence that takes the form of objective, measurable data from previously published peer reviewed literature which adheres to scientific principles (for instance in vitro or cellular work). Other forms of evidence are not valid. Manuscripts describing work lacking this evidence will not be considered on ethical grounds.
For all manuscripts that include details, images, or videos relating to an individual person, written informed consent for the publication of these details must be obtained from that person (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 18). The consent must be for publication of their details under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (such that they will be freely available on the internet). If the person has died, consent for publication must be obtained from their next of kin. The manuscript must include a statement that written informed consent for publication was obtained.
Authors can use the BMC consent form to obtain consent for publication, or a consent form from their own institution or region if appropriate. The consent form must state that the details/images/videos will be freely available on the internet and may be seen by the general public. The consent form 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.
BMC 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, BMC 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 BMC.
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, BMC 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 BMC 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
BMC 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.
Submission of a manuscript to a BMC 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, BMC 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, BMC 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 the individual journal’s Submission Guidelines 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 and/or analysed during the current study are available in the [NAME] repository, [PERSISTENT WEB LINK TO DATASETS]
- The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are 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 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 is 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.
BMC 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 another 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.
BMC 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 submission guidelines. 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 FAIRsharing.org 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 centre) prior to undertaking their research, to advise them about their planned analyses.
Digital image integrity
Adapted from the Journal of Cell Biology and from Nature Research.
While a certain degree of image processing is unavoidable for some experiments, fields and techniques, in all instances, the final image presented in the published article must accurately represent the original data and conform to community standards. The guidelines on image processing presented below will aid in accurate data presentation; authors must also take care to exercise caution during data acquisition to avoid misrepresentation of the data collected.
Authors should list all image acquisition tools and image processing software packages used, noting the specific version of the software. If the data were processed with custom code, this should be fully described and deposited into a community repository. All image-gathering settings and processing manipulations should be fully described in the methods.
When preparing figures for publication, adhere to the following guidelines:
- Images gathered at different times or from different locations should not be combined into a single image, unless it is stated that the resultant image is a product of time-averaged data or a time-lapse sequence. If juxtaposing images is essential, the borders should be clearly demarcated in the figure and described in the legend.
- Touch-up tools, such as cloning and healing tools in Photoshop, or any feature that deliberately obscures manipulations, should not be used.
- Processing (such as changing brightness and contrast) is appropriate only when it is applied equally across the entire image and is applied equally to controls. Contrast should not be adjusted so that data disappear. Excessive manipulations, such as processing to emphasize one region in the image at the expense of others (e.g. through the use of a biased choice of threshold settings), are inappropriate, as is emphasizing experimental data relative to the control.
- Authors should be prepared to submit original, unprocessed images on request.
Electrophoretic gels and blots
The display of cropped gels and blots in the main paper is allowed if it improves the clarity and conciseness of the presentation. In such cases, the cropping must be mentioned in the figure legend. For some BMC journals, the inclusion of the original, uncropped gel or blot is mandatory and the full length original blot or gel should be included in the additional files.
- Quantitative comparisons between samples on different gels/blots are discouraged; if this is unavoidable, the figure legend must state that the samples derive from the same experiment and that gels/blots were processed in parallel. Vertically sliced images that juxtapose lanes that were non-adjacent in the gel must have a clear separation or a black line delineating the boundary between the gels. Loading controls must be run on the same blot.
- Cropped gels in the paper must retain important bands.
- High-contrast gels and blots are discouraged, as overexposure may mask additional bands. Authors should strive for exposures with gray backgrounds. Multiple exposures should be presented in Supplementary Information if high contrast is unavoidable. Immunoblots should be surrounded by a black line to indicate the borders of the blot, if the background is faint.
- For quantitative comparisons, appropriate reagents, controls and imaging methods with linear signal ranges should be used.
Authors should be prepared to supply the journal with original data on request, at the resolution collected, from which their images were generated. Cells from multiple fields should not be juxtaposed in a single field; instead multiple supporting fields of cells should be shown as Supplementary Information.
- Adjustments should be applied to the entire image. Threshold manipulation, expansion or contraction of signal ranges and the altering of high signals should be avoided. If 'pseudo-colouring' and nonlinear adjustment (e.g. 'gamma changes') are used, this must be disclosed. Adjustments of individual colour channels are sometimes necessary on 'merged' images, but this should be noted in the figure legend.
- In the methods, specify the type of equipment (microscopes/objective lenses, cameras, detectors, filter model and batch number) and acquisition software used. Although we appreciate that there is some variation between instruments, equipment settings for critical measurements should also be listed. In addition, processing software should be named and manipulations indicated (such as type of deconvolution, three-dimensional reconstructions, surface and volume rendering, 'gamma changes', filtering, thresholding and projection).
- Authors should state the measured resolution at which an image was acquired and any downstream processing or averaging that enhances the resolution of the image.
Algal, fungal, and botanical names
Since January 2012, the 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.
BMC 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, or may be perceived to 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.
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. BMC 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.
BMC journals encourage posting of preprints of primary research manuscripts on preprint servers, authors’ or institutional websites, and open communications between researchers whether on community preprint servers or preprint commenting platforms. Preprints are defined as an author’s version of a research manuscript prior to formal peer review at a journal, which is deposited on a public server (as described in Preprints for the life sciences. Science 352, 899–901; 2016); preprints may be posted at any time during the peer review process. Posting of preprints is not considered prior publication and will not jeopardize consideration at BMC journals. Manuscripts posted on preprint servers will not be taken into account when determining the advance provided by a study under consideration at a BMCjournal.
Our policy on posting, licensing, citation of preprints and communications with the media about preprints of primary research manuscripts is summarized below.
Authors should disclose details of preprint posting, including DOI and licensing terms, upon submission of the manuscript or at any other point during consideration at a BMC journal. Once the preprint is published, it is the author’s responsibility to ensure that the preprint record is updated with a publication reference, including the DOI and a URL link to the published version of the article on the journal website.
Authors may choose any license of their choice for the preprint including Creative Commons licenses. The type of CC-license chosen will affect how the preprint may be shared and reused. More information to help guide licensing choices can be found in these resource documents developed by an ASAPbio licensing taskforce.
Preprints may be cited in the reference list of articles under consideration at BMC journals as shown below:
Babichev, S. A., Ries, J. & Lvovsky, A. I. Quantum scissors: teleportation of single-mode optical states by means of a nonlocal single photon. Preprint at http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0208066 (2002).
Authors posting preprints are asked to respect our policy on communications with the media. Researchers may respond to requests from the media in response to a preprint or conference presentation by providing explanation or clarification of the work, or information about its context. In these circumstances, media coverage will not hinder editorial handling of the submission. Researchers should be aware however that such coverage may reduce or pre-empt coverage by other media at the time of publication. We also advise that researchers approached by reporters in response to a preprint make it clear that the paper has not yet undergone peer review, that the findings are provisional and that the conclusions may change.
Information about our self-archiving policies and release of Author’s Accepted Manuscript may be found here.
Any manuscript submitted to a BMC 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. BMC 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.
BMC 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). BMC endorses the policies of the ICMJE in relation to overlapping publications.
Cochrane systematic reviews
BMC does not currently have a co-publication agreement with the Cochrane Library for its systematic reviews. BMC 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 BMC journals will consider full or shortened versions of these articles for peer review.
Preprint servers and author/institutional repositories
Posting a manuscript on a preprint server or an author's personal or institutional website does not constitute previous publication. Please see our preprint sharing and citation policy for further information. 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 BMC's journals.
BMC 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 BMC journals will consider manuscripts that are substantially extended versions of articles that have previously been published in another peer-reviewed journal. 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 BMC 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 BMC, 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 BMC'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 BMC 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. BMC 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/deposition||Guidance on permissibility|
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
Preprint servers, including authors' personal and institutional websites
Yes – this does not constitute previous publication
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.
BMC journals do not wish to hinder communication among researchers. We support open communications between researchers whether on a recognised community preprint server, through discussions at conferences or on online collaborative sites such as wikis or the author’s blog. Neither conference presentations nor posting on recognized preprint servers constitute prior publication.
Researchers may respond to requests from the media in response to a preprint or conference presentation, by providing explanation or clarification of the work, or information about its context. In these circumstances, media coverage will not hinder editorial handling of the submission.
Researchers should be aware that such coverage may reduce or pre-empt coverage by other media at the time of publication. We also advise that researchers approached by reporters in response to a preprint make it clear that the paper has not yet undergone peer review, that the content is provisional and that the conclusions may change. Authors are expected to keep details of the peer review and editorial processes confidential.
We believe it important that the peer-reviewed and published version of a paper should be publicly available when the work is discussed in the public media, allowing the press to provide informed comment based on this version. For that reason, we strongly discourage the direct soliciting of media coverage to appear ahead of publication of the final version of a paper.
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, BMC 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 manuscript 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 BMC 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 BMC 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 identified by the Handling Editor. 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. On rare occasions, information from the pre-publication history may not be available for a specific article.
Authors will be aware of the reviewers’ names during the peer review process and vice versa. However, there should not be direct correspondence between authors and reviewers. Any correspondence between the authors and the reviewers during or after the review process should be made through the journal Editors.
Transparent peer review
For journals operating a transparent peer review process, if the manuscript is published, the peer review reports are published online alongside the article. The name of the reviewer is not published. 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
To support efficient and thorough peer review, we aim to reduce the number of times a manuscript is re-reviewed after rejection from a BMC 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 BMC journal, but is sound and in scope for another BMC 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 BMC 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 BMC journals should indicate this in their cover letter on submission. Reviewers who do not wish us to share their report with another BMC 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.
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 BMC and other publishers/third parties
BMC supports innovations in peer review which can improve efficiency and save peer reviewers’ time and effort. Some BMC 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. 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 BMC journals in confidence. BMC 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.
BMC will not share manuscripts with third parties outside of BMC except in cases of suspected misconduct. See our Misconduct policy for further information. Manuscripts may be shared with other Editors at BMC, 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.
BMC 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.
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). BMC may also seek advice from COPE and discuss anonymized cases in the COPE Forum. The editor may also involve BMC’s independent ombudsman.
A notice of suspected transgression of ethical standards in the peer review system may be included as part of the author’s and article’s bibliographic record.
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.
Data falsification and fabrication
Data falsification is manipulating research data with the intention of giving a false impression. This includes manipulating images, removing outliers or “inconvenient” results, changing, adding or omitting data points, etc. Data fabrication means the making up of research findings.
Any questions regarding data integrity raised during or after the peer review process will be referred to the Editor. The Editor may request (anonymised) underlying study data from the author(s) for inspection or verification. If the original data cannot be produced, the manuscript may be rejected or, in the case of a published article, retracted. Cases of suspected misconduct will be reported to the author(s)’ institution(s).
Rarely, it may be necessary for BMC 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 BMC’s Permanency policy, corrections to, or retractions of, published articles will be made by publishing a Correction or a Retraction note bidirectionally linked to the original article. Any alterations to the original article will be described in the note. The original article remains in the public domain and the subsequent Correction 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.
Authors, readers or organizations who become aware of errors or ethics issues in a published article are encouraged to contact the individual journal in the first instance via the contact details available on the journal website. All reports will be considered by the Editors; additional expert advice may be sought when deciding on the most appropriate course of action. The Springer Nature Research Integrity Group provides support to Editors in addressing publication ethics issues in a COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics)-compliant manner.
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 a Correction that is indexed and bidirectionally linked to the original article.
On rare occasions, when the interpretation or conclusion of an article is substantially undermined, it may be necessary for published articles to be retracted. SpringerOpen as part of SpringerNature will follow the COPE guidelines in such cases. Retraction notices are indexed and bidirectionally linked to the original article. The original article is watermarked as retracted and the title is amended with the prefix “Retracted article:”
Editorial Expressions of Concern
When an Editor becomes aware of serious concerns regarding interpretation or conclusion of a published article, they may choose to publish a statement alerting the readership. Scenarios in which Editorial Expressions of Concern may be published include prolonged investigations of very complex cases and when the concerns may have a significant and immediate impact on public health or public policy. An Editorial Expression of Concern may be superseded by a subsequent Correction or Retraction, but will remain part of the permanent published record.
BMC adheres to COPE guidelines regarding appeals to editorial decisions and complaints. Please check individual journal’s ‘About’ pages for more information.