Personal Views

Editorial ethics

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 10 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:155
  1. Solomon R Benatar, professor of medicine
  1. University of Cape Town Medical School

    Since the 1970s an ethic of scholarly work and its publication has evolved to guide the conduct of research and the dissemination of scientific and scholarly information. Journal editors and many others have contributed to setting the ethical standards and editorial policies on which the prestige and standing of journal publications now depend.

    Yet as Horton and Smith have recently stated “there is a huge gap between the strict, some might say astonishingly out of touch, criteria for authorship set out by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and what happens in the real world of research … It is time for editors to listen to researchers, not simply to impose their arbitrary and anachronistic rules” (Lancet 1996;347:780).

    Dewey (BMJ 1993;306:318-20) has discussed several problems in the editorial process. Drawing on and adding to his work I should like to propose a set of guidelines for editors that may improve communication and relationships between authors and editors and enhance the integrity of the editorial process.

    Editors, as responsible social agents and therefore accountable to society for their actions, should view authors both as their clients and as agents of society in pursuit of knowledge through scholarly endeavours. As such, editors should respect and be …

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