Research ethics: Guidelines for STM journals
Taylor & Francis Editorial Policies
Research involving humans
As with the rest of your work, thorough research is key to choosing the best journal for you to publish in. Given the vast number of academic journals in existence, you need to have a few ways to narrow down the field to a shortlist of potential candidates.
All research studies on humans (individuals, samples, or data) must have been performed in accordance with the principles stated in the Declaration of Helsinki.
For non-interventional studies (e.g. surveys), where ethical approval is not required (e.g. because of national laws) or where a study has been granted an exemption by an ethics committee, this should be stated within the manuscript with a full explanation. Where a study has been granted exemption, the name of the ethics committee which provided this should also be included. However, if the researcher is in doubt, they should always seek advice from the relevant department before conducting the study.
Non-stigmatizing and non-discriminatory language should be used when describing different groups by race, ethnicity, age, disease, disability, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Human studies categorized by such groupings should include an explanation of the definitions and categories, including whether any rules of human categorization were required by the relevant funding agencies.
Ethical approval for all studies must be obtained before the research is conducted. Authors must be prepared to provide further information to the journal editorial office upon request.
Ethical considerations for different human study designs
Prospective studies on humans
Especially where the research involves an intervention (e.g. a clinical trial), participants must provide informed written consent to be part of the study.
A statement to confirm this must be included within the manuscript.
Authors must be prepared to provide dated copies signed by the participants and author(s) to the journal editorial team if requested. In studies where verbal informed consent has been obtained rather than written informed consent, this must be explained and stated within the manuscript.
In addition to the required informed written consent (as stated above), clinical trial protocols must also be registered in a publicly accessible registry prior to participant recruitment. The public registry must be open to all prospective registrants and managed by a registry conforming to WHO standards.
A list of eligible registries can be found at the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). Trials can also be registered at Clinical Trials.gov and other primary registries in the WHO primary registries network.
Clinical trials should be registered prospectively – i.e. before participant recruitment. However, for clinical trials that have not been registered prospectively, Taylor & Francis journals may consider clinical trials which have been registered at least prior to data analysis. This is to make sure the transparent and complete dissemination of all clinical trial results which ultimately impact human health.
Authors of retrospectively registered trials must be prepared to provide further information to the journal editorial office if requested.
Please note, some journals may not accept retrospectively registered trials, and so authors are advised to consult with the Editor of the journal prior to submission.
Taylor & Francis reserve the right to reject submissions (pre-publication) or retract published articles involving clinical trials where authors have not been able to adequately address concerns regarding the registration status and/or conduct of the clinical trial. Authors must be prepared to provide further supporting information related to their clinical trial (e.g. original data) to the journal editorial office upon request.
Clinical Case reports
A clinical case report is a detailed clinical report on an individual patient. As the level of details given in the manuscript can potentially identify the patient, explicit Consent to Publish is required for the publication of the case.
Authors must obtain this from the patient (or their guardians if they are not adults or lack capacity to provide informed consent, or next of kin if deceased). This must be done even if the authors have removed direct identifiers.
Authors are advised to adhere to CARE guidelines in order to ensure all key details about the case are reported.
Organ or tissue transplants
Taylor & Francis endorses the ethics guidelines described by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Medical Association (WMA). Specifically, all studies involving transplantation of donated human organs should be conducted with ethical approval from an appropriate committee, and all sources of donor tissue must be provided in the submitted manuscript.
Authors are expected to verify that donated organs were obtained with full informed consent from the donor, or donor’s parent/guardian (if the donor is a minor), or their next of kin (if the donor is deceased). Consent must have been given with free will, under no coercion or bribery of any kind.
These requirements apply for all studies (including follow-up studies) involving donors or patients who have received organ or tissue transplantation. Taylor & Francis journals reserve the right to reject submissions (pre-publication) or retract published articles involving transplantation, where the authors are unable to provide confirmed evidence of informed consent. Authors must be prepared to provide further supporting information related to their study (e.g. ethical approval and informed consent forms) to the journal editorial office upon request.
Human embryos and human stem cells
Authors of research reporting the use of human embryos, human embryonic stem cells (including clinical applications of stem cells) and related materials, must include a statement within the manuscript to confirm that all experiments were performed in accordance with all safety considerations, ethical guidelines and applicable regulations.
Authors must be able to verify that all recipients and/or donors of stem cells or tissues (or their next of kin if the donor is deceased) provided full informed consent.
Taylor & Francis endorses the principles on ethical stem cell research outlined in the ISSCR Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation.
Consent for research involving children, adolescents, and vulnerable or incapacitated study participants
Written informed consent must be obtained from the parent or guardian of any participants who are not able to provide full informed consent themselves. Age of legal adulthood is determined by the country in which study participants are based, which is typically between ages 16-18.
A statement to confirm informed consent has been obtained must be included within the manuscript.
In settings where verbal informed consent has been obtained rather than written informed consent, this must be explained and stated within the manuscript.
Researchers must confirm they have obtained ethical approval to conduct the study, as well as permission from the dataset owner to use the information in databases/repositories for the purposes of the research they are conducting.
Where permission to use information from a database/repository is not required (e.g. where it is publicly available and unrestricted re-use is permitted via an open license), a statement to explain this must be included within the manuscript.
Data acquired must be kept anonymized unless otherwise advised by the owners of the content in the database. Where participants’ details are not required to be anonymized, authors must be able to provide evidence that written informed consent, including consent to publish, was obtained from participants.
A statement to confirm this must be included within the manuscript.
Researchers must ensure they have informed all participants why the research is being conducted, whether or not anonymity is assured, and how the data they are collecting is being stored. The participant’s right to confidentiality should always be considered and they should be fully informed about the aims of the research and if there are any risks associated. Their voluntary consent to participate should be recorded and any legal requirements on data protection should be adhered to.
Where required by national law or the researcher’s institution, ethical approval must be obtained prior to conducting the study. In settings where ethics approval for survey studies is not required, authors should include a statement to explain this within the manuscript.
A statement to confirm this must be included within the manuscript.
In settings where ethics approval for survey studies is not required, authors must include a statement to explain this within the manuscript.
Covert observational research
Covert observational research requires particular ethical and legal considerations but may be acceptable in rare cases with a strong justification. Researchers must also consider the emerging legal frameworks surrounding rights to privacy, which vary considerably across the globe. Authors conducting covert research should consult relevant guidelines, such as those outlined in the British Sociological Association’s Statement of Ethical Practice.
All studies that include covert research must include the following:
A statement within the manuscript providing a full rationale for the covert nature of the research and the name of the ethics committee(s) that approved the study (and include the reference/permit numbers where available).
The use of aliases or online personas should be declared.
Ideally, researchers should seek informed consent from the study participants after completion of the study.
Research on indigenous communities
Authors should be aware of any specific research ethics approval and informed consent procedures which need to be followed in order to conduct research in communities where special processes for permissions may exist. Authors should also be aware of cultural sensitivities or any restrictions associated with the publication of content, including images included in their manuscripts. In many indigenous communities, additional permissions may need to be sought from community leaders or an Elder.
Authors working with indigenous communities are advised to consult appropriate guidelines for ethical research and publishing (including requirements for authorship) such as:
Authors conducting research using media tools are advised to consult appropriate guidelines such as:
Scholars in the field of communication should be aware of any restrictions for using copyrighted content for their work.
Authors are advised to consult appropriate guidance such as the Code of best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication published by The International Communication Association.
Social media research
Scholars using data gathered from social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.) should be aware of national laws and ethical guidance on the gathering of and publication of such information.
When researchers are interacting with individuals or obtaining private information, they should obtain ethical approval prior to conducting the study. Researchers should also ensure appropriate anonymization and obtain informed consent from anyone who could potentially be identified.
Please note that not all data can be collected as fair use or a copyright exception.Authors must check the social media platform’s user policy or terms of service in the region where the research was conducted to determine whether permission is required from the platform.
Authors are advised to consult appropriate guidance such as the ethics statement and framework from Social Data Science Lab the ethical guidelines for digital research from the British Sociological Association.
Participant/patient privacy and informed consent
Taylor & Francis endorses the recommendations of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which emphasizes that patients and study participants have a right to privacy that should not be infringed without informed consent.
In accordance with the principles outlined in the Nuremberg Code, the Belmont Report and the American Anthropological Association, informed consent must be voluntarily obtained from the participant who should be fully informed of the study including any of the benefits and risks involved.
Research involving animals, plants, and heritage sites
Research involving animals
Studies involving vertebrates or regulated invertebrates (e.g. cephalopods), field studies and other non-experimental research on animals must have been carried out after obtaining approval from the relevant institutional ethics committee or the institutional animal use and care committee. Research procedures must be carried out in accordance with applicable national or international guidelines. In field studies authors must have also obtained any necessary permits for access to lands.
For experimental studies involving client-owned animals, authors must also document informed consent from the client or owner and adherence to best practices of veterinary care.
Authors conducting research on animals are advised to consult appropriate guidelines on care and handling of laboratory animals such as the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: Eighth Edition. (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press).
Specifically, submissions of research involving laboratory-based animals (vertebrates or regulated invertebrates) must include details on housing, husbandry and steps taken to reduce suffering. In submissions describing the sacrifice of experimental animals, details must be provided on humane endpoints. In particular, details about the planned behavioral observations or physiological measurements used to determine the humane endpoint must be described. Researchers conducting this type of research are advised to consult the NC3Rs guide on Humane Endpoints and the American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals.
Any euthanasia or anesthesia methods must be described in detail, including information about the agents used. These procedures must be carried out in accordance with applicable veterinary guidelines, such as the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Taylor & Francis also endorses the principles on ethical animal research outlined in the Basel Declaration and the ethical guidelines by the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS).
Research involving plants
Research on plants (cultivated or wild), including the collection of plant material must be carried out in accordance with guidelines provided by the authors’ institution(s) and national or international regulations. Field studies should comply with local legislation, and the manuscript should include a statement of appropriate permissions granted and/or licenses.
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.
Research on threatened/endangered species
Authors are asked to comply with:
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) policies research involving species at risk of extinction (see Guidelines for appropriate uses of IUCN Red list data)
Research involving protected heritage sites
Researchers working on protected heritage sites must comply with all necessary ethical guidelines (including process of data collection, deposition and handling specimens) and obtain all necessary permits from relevant authorities for access to sites and/or specimens prior to conducting the work.
Research in paleontology and archaeology
Authors must ensure they have provided detailed information about the methods used for the research work and the analysis (including phylogenies). Detailed information must also be provided about the specimens (including numbers and repository information), museum name (if applicable) and geographic location.
If according to national or international regulations any permits are required for the research and/or the publication of the work, this must be obtained from the relevant authority. As required by local authorities, any discoveries from their sites must be reported to the relevant authorities prior to submission of the manuscript.
Authors reporting archaeological work involving human remains must comply with all necessary ethical guidelines (including observing best practice in data collection, recording and deposition) and obtain all necessary permits from relevant authorities for access to sites and handling of the human remains prior to conducting the work. Authors are advised to consult the Guidelines to the Standards for Recording Human Remains (Chartered Institute for Archaeologists).
Biosafety, biosecurity, and emerging biotechnology
Taylor and Francis journals will only consider research which has been carried out in compliance with institutional biosafety and biosecurity policies, which in turn should be informed by national or international recommendations.
Researchers should be aware of Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) related to their work, which according to the NIH Office of Science Policy “can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, material, or national security”.
Researchers of relevant work are advised to be aware of the WHO recommendations of responsible life sciences research, and should take steps to mitigate any risks contributed by their research.
Where concerns are raised about potential risk, we may seek expert advice to assess this, so authors should be prepared to provide any further information requested by the journal editorial office.