Research and Publication Ethics

Publication Ethics Statement

MDPI journals are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). We fully adhere to its Code of Conduct and to its Best Practice Guidelines.

The editors of MDPI journals enforce a rigorous peer-review process together with strict ethical policies and standards to ensure the addition of high-quality scientific studies to the field of scholarly publication. In cases where we become aware of ethical issues, we are committed to investigating and taking necessary action to maintain the integrity of the literature and ensure the safety of research participants.

Ethical Guidelines for Authors

Summary

Authors wishing to publish their papers in MDPI journals must abide to the following:

  • Authors should accurately present their research findings and include an objective discussion of the significance of their findings.
  • All and only those who qualify for authorship should be included as authors, and their contribution given in the manuscript.
  • Any facts that might be perceived as a possible conflict of interest of the author(s) must be disclosed in the paper prior to submission.
  • Data and methods used in the research need to be presented in sufficient detail in the paper so that other researchers can replicate the work. Raw data must be made publicly available unless there is a compelling reason otherwise (e.g., patient confidentiality).
  • Simultaneous submission of manuscripts to more than one journal is not permitted.
  • Original research results must be novel and not previously published, including being previously published in another language.
  • For any content previously published (including quotations, figures or tables), any necessary permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder.
  • Errors and inaccuracies found after publication must be promptly communicated to the Editorial Office.
This list is not exhaustive, and authors should be aware of local regulations and accepted norms within academic publishing.

Authorship

MDPI follows the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines which state that in order to qualify for authorship of a manuscript, authors must satisfy the following:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
Those who contributed to the work but do not qualify for authorship should be listed in the acknowledgements. More detailed guidance on authorship is given by the International Council of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).

Any change to the author list during the editorial process or after publication should be approved by all authors, including any who have been removed. The corresponding author should act as a point of contact between the editor and the other authors and should keep coauthors informed and involve them in major decisions about the publication. We reserve the right to request evidence of authorship, and changes to authorship after acceptance will be made at the discretion of MDPI.

Editors of MDPI journals are permitted to submit to journals they edit, however, they will not be involved in the editorial process and are not permitted to make final decisions on their own work or those of close colleagues.

Plagiarism, Data Fabrication and Image Manipulation

Plagiarism is not acceptable in MDPI journals. Plagiarism includes copying text, ideas, images, or data from another source, even from your own publications, without giving credit to the original source.

Reuse of text that is copied from another source must be between quotation marks and the original source must be cited. If a study's design or the manuscript's structure or language has been inspired by previous studies, these studies must be explicitly cited.

If plagiarism is detected during the peer review process, the manuscript may be rejected. If plagiarism is detected after publication, we may publish a Correction or retract the paper. MDPI Editors use the industry standard software Ithenticate to check for text duplication.

Image files must not be manipulated or adjusted in any way that could lead to misinterpretation of the information provided by the original image. Irregular manipulation includes 1) introduction, enhancement, moving, or removing features from the original image, 2) grouping of images that should obviously be presented separately (e.g., from different parts of the same gel, or from different gels), or 3) modifying the contrast, brightness or color balance to obscure, eliminate or enhance some information.

If irregular image manipulation is identified and confirmed during the peer review process, we may reject the manuscript. If irregular image manipulation is identified and confirmed after publication, we may correct or retract the paper.

Data presented must be original and not inappropriately selected, manipulated, enhanced, or fabricated. This includes 1) exclusion of data points to enhance significance of conclusions, 2) fabrication of data, 3) selection of results that support a particular conclusion at the expense of contradictory data, 4) deliberate selection of analysis tools or methods to support a particular conclusion (including p-hacking). We strongly recommend preregistration of methods and analysis.

Research Involving Human Subjects

When reporting on research that involves human subjects, human material, human tissues, or human data, authors must declare that the investigations were carried out following the rules of the Declaration of Helsinki of 1975 (https://www.wma.net/what-we-do/medical-ethics/declaration-of-helsinki/), revised in 2013. According to point 23 of this declaration, an approval from an ethics committee should have been obtained before undertaking the research. At a minimum, a statement including the project identification code, date of approval, and name of the ethics committee or institutional review board should be cited in the Methods Section of the article. Data relating to individual participants must be described in detail, but private information identifying participants need not be included unless the identifiable materials are of relevance to the research (for example, photographs of participants’ faces that show a particular symptom). Editors reserve the right to reject any submission that does not meet these requirements.

Example of an ethical statement: "All subjects gave their informed consent for inclusion before they participated in the study. The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and the protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of XXX (Project identification code)."

A written informed consent for publication must be obtained from participating patients who can be identified (including by the patients themselves). Patients’ initials or other personal identifiers must not appear in any images. For manuscripts that include any case details, personal information, and/or images of patients, authors must obtain signed informed consent from patients (or their relatives/guardians) before submitting to an MDPI journal. Patient details must be anonymized as far as possible, e.g., do not mention specific age, ethnicity, or occupation where they are not relevant to the conclusions. A template permission form is available to download. A blank version of the form used to obtain permission (without the patient names or signature) must be uploaded with your submission.

Ethical Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research

MDPI journals endorse the ARRIVE guidelines (www.nc3rs.org.uk/ARRIVE) for reporting experiments using live animals. Authors and reviewers can use the ARRIVE guidelines as a checklist, which can be found at www.nc3rs.org.uk/ARRIVEchecklist.

Manuscripts containing original research on animal subjects must have been approved by an ethical review committee. The project identification code, date of approval and name of the ethics committee or institutional review board must be cited in the Methods Section.

For research involving animals, any potentially derived benefits must be significant in relation to harm suffered by participating animals. Authors should particularly ensure that their research complies with the commonly accepted '3Rs':

  • Replacement of animals by alternatives wherever possible,
  • Reduction in number of animals used, and
  • Refinement of experimental conditions and procedures to minimize the harm to animals.

Research Involving Cell Lines

Methods sections for submissions reporting on research with cell lines should state the origin of any cell lines. For established cell lines, the provenance should be stated and references must also be given to either a published paper or to a commercial source. If previously unpublished de novo cell lines were used, including those gifted from another laboratory, details of institutional review board or ethics committee approval must be given, and confirmation of written informed consent must be provided if the line is of human origin.

An example of an ethical statement: “The HCT116 cell line was obtained from XXXX. The MLH1+ cell line was provided by XXXXX, Ltd. The DLD-1 cell line was obtained from Dr. XXXX. The DR-GFP and SA-GFP reporter plasmids were obtained from Dr. XXX and the Rad51K133A expression vector was obtained from Dr. XXXX.”

Copyright and Licensing

For all articles published in MDPI journals, copyright is retained by the authors. Articles are licensed under an open access Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license, meaning that anyone may download and read the paper for free. In addition, the article may be reused and quoted provided that the original published version is cited. These conditions allow for maximum use and exposure of the work, while ensuring that the authors receive proper credit.

In exceptional circumstances, articles may be licensed differently. If you have specific condition (such as one linked to funding) that does not allow this license, please mention this to the Editorial Office of the journal at submission. Exceptions will be granted at the discretion of the publisher.

For previously published content, it is essential that prior to submission, authors obtain permission to reproduce any published material (figures, tables, text, etc.) that does not fall into the public domain, or for which they do not hold the copyright.

Permission is required for

  • Your own work published by other publishers and for which you did not retain copyright.
  • Substantial extracts from the work of anyone works or a series of work.
  • Use of tables, graphs, charts, schemes and artworks if they are unaltered or slightly modified.
  • Photographs for which you do not hold copyright.

Permission is not required for

  • Reconstruction of your own table with data already published elsewhere. Please note that in this case, you must cite the source of the data in the form of either "Data from..." or "Adapted from...".
  • Very short quotes are considered fair use and therefore do not require permission.
  • Graphs, charts, schemes and artwork that is completely redrawn by the authors and significantly changed beyond recognition do not require permission. However, you may need to check the copyright permissions of any underlying data.

Once you have obtained permission, the copyright holder may give you instructions on the form of acknowledgement to be followed. Alternatively, we recommend following the style: “Reproduced with permission from [author], [book/journal title]; published by [publisher], [year]”.

Conflict of Interests

According to The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, “Authors should avoid entering into agreements with study sponsors, both for-profit and non-profit, that interfere with authors’ access to all of the study’s data or that interfere with their ability to analyze and interpret the data and to prepare and publish manuscripts independently when and where they choose”.

Authors must identify and declare any personal circumstances or interest that may be perceived as inappropriately influencing the representation or interpretation of the reported research results. If there is no conflict of interest, please state, "The authors declare no conflict of interest". Any role of the funding sponsors in the design of the study, in the collection, analyses or interpretation of data, in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results must be declared in this section. If there is no role, please state, “The founding sponsors had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results”.

Citation Policy

Authors should ensure that where material is taken from other sources (including their own published writing) the source is clearly cited and that where appropriate permission is obtained.

Authors should not engage in excessive self-citation of their own work.

Authors should not copy references from other publications if they have not read the cited work.

Authors should not preferentially cite their own or their friends’, peers’, or institution’s publications.

Authors should not cite advertisements or advertorial material.

In accordance with COPE guidelines, we expect that “original wording taken directly from publications by other researchers should appear in quotation marks with the appropriate citations.” This condition also applies to an author’s own work. COPE have produced a discussion document on citation manipulation with recommendations for best practice.

Ethical Guidelines for Reviewers

For general guidance on completing a review report, see information for reviewers. The details here cover some specific ethical issues.

Potential Conflict of Interests

We ask reviewers to inform the journal editor if they hold a conflict of interests that may prejudice the review report, either in a positive or negative way. The Editorial Office will check as far as possible before invitation; however, we appreciate the cooperation of reviewers in this matter. Reviewers who are invited to assess a manuscript they previously reviewed for another journal should not consider this as a conflict of interest in itself.

Confidentiality and Anonymity

Reviewers must keep the content of the manuscript, including the abstract, confidential. They must inform the Editorial Office if they would like a student or colleague to complete the review on their behalf.

MDPI journals operate single or double-blind peer review. Reviewers should be careful not to reveal their identity to the authors, either in their comments or in metadata for reports submitted in Microsoft Word or PDF format.

MDPI journals offer authors the possibility to publish review reports with their paper and for reviewers to sign their open review reports but will not reveal reviewer name until publication and only with their explicit agreement.

Ethical Guidelines for Academic Editors

Along with the Editorial Office, Editors-in-Chief, Editorial Board Members, and Guest Editors take responsibility for overseeing the integrity of MDPI’s editorial process. The following provides details on specific ethical aspects of their role.

If the academic editor has ethical concerns about a manuscript sent for review or decision, or receives information about a possible ethical breach after publication, they must contact the Editorial Office as soon as possible. Our Editorial Office will then conduct an investigation according to COPE guidelines.

To support academic editors, checks are made by Managing Editors and Assistant Editors. However, editors should still report any concerns on any aspect. Checks include

  1. Ethic approval and permissions for research involving human subjects, animals or cell lines.
  2. Plagiarism, duplicate publication, and that necessary permission from the copyright holder to include already-published figures or images.
  3. An international clinical trial register for pre-register clinical trials or and to cite a reference to the registration in the Methods Section.
  4. Author background and qualification.

When making a final acceptance decision on a manuscript, academic editors should consider the following:

  1. Any facts that might be perceived as a possible conflict of interest of the author(s) must be disclosed in the paper prior to submission.
  2. Authors must accurately present their research findings and include an objective discussion of the significance of their findings.
  3. Data and methods used in the research need to be presented in sufficient detail in the paper, so that other researchers can replicate the work.

Updating Published Papers

All MDPI journals have the same policy regarding corrections and retractions. We differentiate between Addendum, Erratum, Corrections, Retractions, Comments, and Expressions of Concern. For any paper that is updated, the previously published version remains available from the abstract page, with the exception of Retractions where the original PDF remains available but is prominently water-marked as retracted. Articles will only be completely removed from the website when there is legal requirement to do so.

Complaints made against papers or requests to update are thoroughly investigated by the Editorial Office with the support of the Editorial Board and final approval by the Editor-in-Chief. Other persons and institutions will be consulted as necessary, including university authorities, or experts in the field.

Addendum
If crucial results (e.g., missing grant number, additional affiliation, clarify some aspect of methods/analysis, etc) were unintentionally omitted from the original publication, the original article can be amended through an Addendum reporting these previously omitted results. The Addendum will be published, with article numbers added, in the current issue of the journal. A hyperlink to the Addendum will also be added to the original publication, but the original paper does not need to be updated.

Erratum
An Erratum is a published notification that a formatting change and other non-scientific changes (including changes to authorship) was made to a paper after issue release. The formatting issues may include missing or unclear figures, or text deleted by accident. Very minor errors that do not affect readability or meaning do not need an Erratum published. Thus, we kindly request all the authors to proofread the final version very carefully.

Corrections

  • Before issue release: prior to issue release, corrections on minor issues are directly made to the original, published version of the article on the journal’s website. If the changes may influence the result or conclusions, the academic editors will evaluate the changes. It may be necessary to issue a Correction or Retraction (see below).
  • After issue release: Any changes after publication that affect the scientific interpretation (e.g., data in a figure change, conclusions change, whole paragraph added, correct a species name or equation, or add missing details about a method, etc) of a paper made to a paper are announced using a Correction. This is as separate publication that links to the original paper (which is updated). A note will also be added to the Article Versions Notes and to the abstract page, which tells the readers that an updated version was uploaded. The previous version of the paper remains accessible via the article abstract page.

Retractions
Sometimes an article needs to be completely removed from the body of research literature. This could be due to inadvertent errors made during the research process, gross ethical breaches, fabrication of data, large amounts of plagiarism, or other reasons. Such articles threaten the integrity of scientific records and need to be retracted. MDPI follows the recommendations of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) for retraction. Potential Retractions are thoroughly investigated by the Editorial Office with the support of the Editorial Board and final approval by the Editor-in-Chief. Other persons and institutions will be consulted as necessary, including university authorities, or experts in the field. If a Retraction is published, the original publication is amended with a “RETRACTED” watermark, but will still available on the journal’s website for future reference. However, retracted articles should not be cited and used for further research, as they cannot be relied upon. The Retraction is published, with page numbers added, as a separate item in the current issue of the journal, so that after issue release, the Retraction can be picked up by indexing & abstracting services. Partial Retractions might be published in cases where results are only partially wrong. A paper will only be completely removed in very exceptional circumstances, where leaving it online would constitute an illegal act or be likely to lead to significant harm.

Expression of Concern
For complex, inconclusive, or prolonged situations an Expression of Concern may be published. If investigations into alleged or suspected research misconduct have not yet been completed or prove to be inconclusive, an editor or journal may wish to publish an Expression of Concern, detailing the points of concern and what actions, if any, are in progress. Very rarely used.

Comments and Replies
Comments are short letters to the editors from readers questioning either the results reported or the experimental methods used in a specific article. Usually, a reader will approach the Editorial Office or the Editor-in-Chief of a journal, if he/she finds an article intriguing. In such circumstances, the Editorial Office may invite the reader to write a short and reasoned Comment on the article. After consideration and review by the Editor in Chief, the Comment may be published, in which case the Editorial Office will approach the authors of the article in question and invite them to prepare a Reply. If the reader’s complaints are substantiated, the authors or the Editorial Office may consequently publish a Correction or retract the paper entirely.

Both comments and replies will be refereed to ensure that

  1. the comment addresses significant aspects of the original paper without becoming essentially a new paper;
  2. the reply responds directly to the comment without becoming evasive; and
  3. the tone of both the comment and the reply is appropriate for a scientific journal.

A comment will first be sent to academic editors for an initial check. If it can be proceed, it will be sent to the author of the original paper, who will be given the opportunity to write a reply. Normally, the editor will provide a deadline for receipt of the reply in order to assure prompt publication of the discussion. If a reply is submitted in a timely way, the editor will have both the comment and reply reviewed. If the original author chooses not to submit a reply, the editor may elect to proceed without a reply.

In most cases, editors will invite previous reviewers to review both the Comment and Reply (if have). After receiving review reports, editors will send the Reply and review reports to the author of Comment. The author will be given only one chance to revise the Comment.

The revised Comment and review reports will be sent to the authors of Reply. The authors will also be given only one chance to revise the Reply.

Finally, editors will send the revised Comment/Reply to the academic editor for a final decision.

Contact

To provide feedback or raise concerns about a specific paper, please contact the Editorial Office of the corresponding journal. For general enquiries, please contact our support team. MDPI does not monitor external websites or social media for reports of ethical issues.

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