What to expect when raising a concern about an article published in or submitted to a Taylor & Francis journal

Taylor & Francis takes any concern raised about a submitted or published article very seriously, and where necessary we will correct the published record. Any concern raised will be handled professionally and confidentially, we are aware that allegations can have consequences for all parties involved.

During an investigation, journals published by Taylor & Francis will act in accordance with their own editorial policies and in alignment with the Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines (COPE). This page will provide you with an overview of how we investigate concerns raised and the various stakeholders involved.

The Publishing Ethics & Integrity team

The Publishing Ethics & Integrity (PEI) team is an internal specialist team at Taylor & Francis that works with journal editorial teams across all disciplines. The team provides expert guidance on investigating and resolving ethics and integrity concerns which can arise at any stage of the submission, peer review, publication and post-publication stages. In addition to investigations, the PEI team also supports a wide range of research integrity initiatives, including providing publishing ethics training to all stakeholders involved in the publication process.

The team is made up of Research Integrity Managers with research backgrounds and publishing ethics expertise. The Ethics & Integrity Coordinators in the team are responsible for both monitoring and reporting on cases raised, as well as identifying any associated trends. The PEI team will typically drive an investigation if it is particularly complex or involves multiple journals. When concerns are escalated to the PEI team, there are standard procedures in place to make sure that the investigation is thorough, impartial, and in accordance with COPE guidelines.

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Raising a concern

  • If you have a concern about an article, please contact Taylor & Francis via our contact form and select ‘Other / not listed here’ in the field ‘I have a question about’.

  • Alternatively, you can contact the PEI team by emailing [email protected]. The team will aim to provide an initial acknowledgement within 10 working days.

Assessing the concern

Depending on the nature of the concern raised, the Editor and/or Publisher (which may include the PEI team) will review the information you have submitted and may contact you for additional information.

Investigating the concern

After assessing the concerns raised, relevant internal records and any supporting documentation, the Publisher (including the PEI team) contact at Taylor & Francis will reach out to the corresponding author of the paper, detailing the concerns raised and asking for a response.

Authors may additionally be asked to provide raw data or supplementary material. We expect most researchers and institutions to follow best practice in terms of maintaining copies of raw data and supporting materials relevant to their research (i.e. ethics approval, informed consent documentation) for as long as possible following the end of a research project or activity.

All reasonable efforts will be made to make sure that the name of the individual who has raised the concern remains anonymous throughout.

As an author, it can be unsettling to be asked these questions. Please be assured that the Editor or Publisher (including the PEI team) asking these questions is asking objectively with no prior assumptions. The sooner authors can cooperate and supply the requested information, the quicker the investigation can be resolved. Authors will be provided with reasonable timeframes to collate and supply the requested information.

During any point of the investigation, if deemed necessary by the PEI team, a pop-up notification may be temporarily added to the online version of the article to inform readers the article is under investigation. This is not a permanent note (unlike an Expression of Concern, Correction or Retraction notice), but is to indicate an investigation is in progress. These are not added to every article under investigation.

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Reviewing the information and possible outcomes

If the author’s explanation is considered satisfactory, no further action may be needed. On some occasions, a Correction notice may be needed to update the content to fix minor errors or to include missing information in the article. In both instances, the individual raising the concern will be informed of the outcome.

For particularly complex cases, articles and any associated documents may need to be sent for review by a member of the editorial team, or editorial board, or another relevant expert in the field. If the concern relates to data, a statistician may be asked to evaluate the concern. Any individual who is asked to review material will be required to keep all aspects of their involvement in the case confidential.

If the author’s explanation is considered unsatisfactory and the situation remains unclear, the Editor and/or Publisher may need to refer the investigation to the author’s institution for review. Institutional investigations can often take several months, and investigations will be done on an institution’s timeframe (even if they have the resources and framework to conduct investigations). The Editor and/or Publisher may deem it necessary to issue an Expression of Concern at this point, which is a notice added to the online version of the article (you can find out more about notices here).

Additionally, if the author’s explanation is considered unsatisfactory and/or there are indications of substantial integrity issues with the article (which can also be the result of honest error), or potential misconduct, the journal may move to issue a retraction notice. Authors will be offered the opportunity to agree/disagree with the retraction and this will be reflected in the language of the retraction notice. The article will remain online, but with a notice and watermark added to indicate it has been retracted.

Frequently asked questions

As a journal publisher, we have a core responsibility to maintain the reliability, accuracy, and permanency of our publications. We take this responsibility seriously as any changes or inaccuracies within our publications impacts the integrity of the wider scholarly record. 

This means that when we receive an ethics and integrity concern about one of our publications, we have a duty to fully investigate and act as needed to make sure the validity and reliability of our content. This investigation process, as described above, is informed by our own Editorial policies as well as COPE guidance. Whilst we are eager to address ethics concerns as swiftly as possible, we are mindful that such concerns are often serious in nature, can touch on sensitive/personal subjects and may also involve legal considerations. Also, the types of cases we see are becoming more complex and larger in scale (e.g., systematic manipulation of the publication process). Therefore, we are careful to provide an impartial and thorough investigation into all concerns raised, with due respect to all contributors, due process to every case, and due consideration to every editorial decision.

This is important because it allows us to make an informed decision on what action is needed and whether a post-publication notice (which is a permanent part of the scholarly record) is required.  

This can result in a potentially lengthy investigation process. As there can be multiple contributors involved (e.g., authors’ institutions, independent subject expert reviewers), assessment of supporting documents (including datasets where required), several rounds of correspondence with each of the multiple contributors and allowing reasonable timeframes for each contributor’s input to be able to move to the next stage. For large/ complex cases and paper mill concerns the length of time to reach a resolution can be considerably longer, as these typically involve a much higher volume of publications.

Setting an exact timeline as to how long it will take to resolve a case can be tricky in some cases, especially if the outcome is dependent on institutional input. Once we have concluded our investigation, we will inform the person who raised the concern of the action we’re taking or to state that we are not taking any further action.

When investigating an ethics issue, the journal will always make best efforts to contact the corresponding author. If the corresponding author cannot be contacted, Taylor & Francis will try to reach one or more of the co-authors listed on the article. In some cases, we will reach out to the author’s institution to contact the authors. It is the responsibility of the authors to make sure their contact details are correct.

When contacting authors, we will always endeavor to provide a reasonable timeframe for authors to respond within.

However, even if authors do not respond, we may still take the required action on the article, based on the evidence available to the journal. Some authors believe that if they don’t reply, this means their article cannot be retracted; this is not the case.

Published articles are a permanent contribution to the scholarly record, and so if a change is necessary this must be accompanied with a post-publication notice which will be permanently linked to the original article. This can be in the form of a Correction notice, an Expression of Concern, a Retraction and in rare circumstances a Removal. The purpose of this mechanism is to keep readers fully informed of any necessary changes.

Since these post-publication notices are permanently linked to the original article and the core purpose is to correct the scholarly record (especially in cases of retractions), we need to be confident in how we arrived at the decision to publish it. Once a post-publication notice has been published, we can’t undo it. So, for instance, we can’t publish a retraction notice and decide later after investigation that the claims were not valid and withdraw/retract the retraction notice. Therefore, in all cases, a full investigation into the ethics concern(s) raised is needed before such a decision is taken.

A pop-up notification indicates that the article is currently being investigated for a potential publishing ethics and/or research integrity concern. The notification has been added at the discretion of the PEI team at Taylor and Francis and it will be removed once the investigation has been completed. The pop-up notification will not appear on every article under investigation.