Publishing research

The importance of publishing

Publishing results is a fundamental part of scientific work. Through publication, results are communicated to the rest of the scientific community and the public. This enables others with knowledge in the area to confirm the results or point out possible mistakes/inaccuracies. Moreover, such openness means that a discussion with respect to values can be conducted concerning the methods and consequences of science. Moreover, in the Universal declaration on human rights, the United Nations states that everyone "has the right freely to share in scientific advancement and its benefits", something which the publishing of research contributes to.

Open access

The CUDOS norms have often served as a foundation for publication ethics, asserting that there is no ownership of knowledge. This should not be interpreted as a denial of the fact that copyrighting is applicable to scientific publications, but instead as an expression of an ideal signifying that knowledge should be shared with all of mankind. A burning question is whether this openness can be preserved in a climate characterized by increasingly severe economic competition. Should companies that sponsor research be able to hinder or delay publication of results? Should scientists be able to distribute their results freely or should the market economy's rules apply? In its policy briefing nr 21, "Open Access"the European Science Foundation discusses the latter question. Another initiative was the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. This declaration has been signed by Sveriges universitets- och högskoleförbund and by the Swedish Research Council (VR). See also Commission recommendation on the management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities and Code of Practice for universities and other public research organisations.

VR has included a demand for Open Access publication from the 2010 calls for proposals. More on the work by the Swedish Research Council on open access here. See further Open Access i Sverige, a webpage from Kungliga biblioteket. Now both the US and the EU have announced guidelines with mandatory open access policies that direct researchers to deposit their manuscripts with databases that are freely available to the public. See also the Washington D.C. Principles For Free Access to Science, the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.  

Nowadays, as shown by the last document mentioned in the previous paragraph, openness in the scientific process at large has become important. See for example Panton Principles and OECD Principles and Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding, as well as EMA guidelines on the reporting of clinical trials data, all addressing open data. 

Dual use

Sometimes openness might be difficult. One instance concerns dual-use products that can be used to develop highly potent technological weapons, while at the same time being used for completely civil purposes – it is for this reason they are called dual-use products. Examples of such products include various chemicals, nuclear material and highly technological machine tools. Other examples include medicine, microorganisms (including genetically modified organisms) and technology for the production of such products (including computer software).

The export of (certain) dual-use products is thus regulated not because they are dangerous by definition (such products fall under rules on biosafety), but because they can be used to develop weapons or other destructive objects. Legislation in this area assumes that the sharing of technology in the majority of cases will be allowed; it is only in exceptional cases that permission is denied. This occurs when there is reasonable suspicion that the products might be used for the wrong reasons.

In Sweden, the primary regulation in this area consists of Law on control over products with dual-use and over technical assistance (SFS 2000:1064) and the Ordinance on control of products with dual-use and of technical assistance (SFS 2000:1217). Permission for export as well as regulations is issued by the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls, ISP. When potentially serious international threats arise, there exists an obligation for authorities (including universities) to alert the coordinating authority, in Sweden the National Board of Health and Welfare, about the threat.

Publication ethics

Internationally, there are two prominent publication guidelines. The Vancouver rules for authorship (formal name: Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, published by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, ICMJE) serve as the foremost international standards of publication ethics. In 1997, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was established in the UK, and its Guidelines on good publication practice (now "Core practices") have been widely and internationally circulated - over 7000 journals are members using the guidelines.

Some other noteworthy documents are White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications by Council of Science Editors, EASE Guidelines for Authors and Translators of Scientific Articles, issued by European Association of Science Editors, and International standards for authors


A much discussed question regards criteria for authorship. There has been a consensus view saying that each person listed as an author shall take public responsibility for the publication's content. This means that one should be able to explain why and how the observations were made, and how the conclusions follow from the data. The Vancouver rules by ICMJE linked to above, state that authorship credit should be based on

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.

For group authorship, CSE has made Recommendations for Group-Author Articles in Scientific Journals and Bibliometric Databases. Useful is also COPE's How to handle authorship disputes:a guide for new researchers.


Peer review is in one sense what makes research science. A scientific claim to knowledge has to be accepted by the scientific community to be considered true. It has to be carefully scrutinized from methodological, argumentative and source critical perspectives and thereby shown to fulfill scientific demands. Peer review has been much criticized for not working properly. This and repeated reports of peer review fraud have led to a demand for new and clear guidelines and improved systems for doing peer review (such as pre-publication peer review and post-publication peer review, or through replication studies).

Leading guidelines

The most imprtant guidelines have been issued by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) through their Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. Also COPE has made a Statement on inappropriate manipulation of the peer review process. In addition, the European Code Of Conduct for Research Integrity has a section (2.8) on good practice for peer review. 

There are several proposed oaths that an individual might make her own, such as My reviewer oath and the Open Science Peer Review Oath.

A few other noteworthy documents are Peer Review - Its present and future statePeer Review in Academic Promotion and Publishing: Its Meaning, Locus, and Future, and the Peer Reviewers' Openness Initiative.

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Last modified: 2023-07-17