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Research and Publication Ethics

Publication Ethics Statement

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

Research Ethics and Consent

Research Involving Human Subjects

All studies involving human subjects must be in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration and seek approval to conduct the study from an independent local, regional, or national review body (e.g., ethics committee, institutional review board, etc.). Such approval, including the names of the ethics committee, institutional review board, etc., must be listed in a declaration statement of Ethical Approval and Consent to Participate in the manuscript. If the study is judged exempt from ethics approval, related information (e.g., name of the ethics committee granting the exemption and the reason for the exemption) must be listed. Further documentation on ethics should also be prepared, as editors may request more detailed information. Manuscripts with suspected ethical problems will be investigated according to COPE Guidelines.

Consent to Participate

For all studies involving human subjects, informed consent to participate in the studies must be obtained from participants, or their parents or legal guardians for children under 16. Statements regarding consent to participate should be included in a declaration statement of Ethical Approval and Consent to Participate in the manuscript. If informed consent is not required, the name of the ethics committee granting the exemption and the reason for the exemption must be listed. If any ethical violation is found at any stage of publication, the issue will be investigated seriously based on COPE Guidelines.

Consent for Publication

All articles published by OAE are freely available on the Internet. All manuscripts that include individual participants' data in any form (i.e., details, images, videos, etc.) will not be published without Consent for Publication obtained from that person(s), or for children, their parents or legal guardians. If the person has died, Consent for Publication must be obtained from the next of kin. Authors must add a declaration statement of Consent for Publication in the manuscript, specifying written informed consent for publication has been obtained.

Trial Registration

OAE requires all authors to register all relevant clinical trials that are reported in manuscripts submitted. OAE follows the World Health Organization (WHO)'s definition of clinical trials: "A clinical trial is any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes. Interventions include but are not restricted to drugs, cells, other biological products, surgical procedures, radiologic procedures, devices, behavioral treatments, process-of-care changes, preventive care, etc.".

In line with International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommendation, OAE requires the registration of clinical trials in a public trial registry at or before the time of first patient enrollment. OAE accepts publicly accessible registration in any registry that is a primary register of the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform or in ClinicalTrials.gov. The trial registration number should be listed at the end of the Abstract section.

Secondary data analyses of primary (parent) clinical trials should not be registered as a new clinical trial, but rather reference the trial registration number of the primary trial.

Editors of OAE journals will consider carefully whether studies failed to register or had an incomplete trial registration. Because of the importance of prospective trial registration, if there is an exception to this policy, trials must be registered and the authors should indicate in the publication when registration was completed and why it was delayed. Editors will publish a statement indicating why an exception was allowed. Please note such exceptions should be rare, and authors failing to prospectively register a trial risk its inadmissibility to OAE journals.

Authors who are not sure whether they need trial registration may refer to ICMJE FAQs for further information.

Research Involving Animals

Experimental research on animals should be approved by an appropriate ethics committee and must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines. OAE encourages authors to comply with the AALAS Guidelines, the ARRIVE Guidelines, and/or the ICLAS Guidelines, and obtain prior approval from the relevant ethics committee. Manuscripts must include a statement indicating that the study has been approved by the relevant ethical committee and the whole research process complies with ethical guidelines. If a study is granted an exemption from requiring ethics approval, the name of the ethics committee granting the exemption and the reason(s) for the exemption should be detailed. Editors will take account of animal welfare issues and reserve the right to reject a manuscript, especially if the research involves protocols that are inconsistent with commonly accepted norms of animal research.

Research Involving Cell Lines

Authors must describe what cell lines are used and their origin so that the research can be reproduced. 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. For de novo cell lines derived from human tissue, appropriate approval from an institutional review board or equivalent ethical committee, and consent from the donor or next of kin, should be obtained. Such statements should be listed on the Declaration section of Ethical Approval and Consent to Participate in the manuscript.

Further information is available from the International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC). OAE recommends that authors check the NCBI database for misidentification and contamination of human cell lines.

Research Involving Plants

Experimental research on plants (either cultivated or wild), including collection of plant material, must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines. Field studies should be conducted in accordance with local legislation, and the manuscript should include a statement specifying the appropriate permissions and/or licenses. OAE recommends that authors comply with the IUCN Policy Statement on Research Involving Species at Risk of Extinction and the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

For each submitted manuscript, supporting genetic information and origin must be provided for plants that were utilized. For research manuscripts involving rare and non-model plants (other than, e.g., Arabidopsis thaliana, Nicotiana benthamiana, Oriza sativa, or many other typical model plants), voucher specimens must be deposited in a public herbarium or other public collections providing access to deposited materials.

Plagiarism, Data Fabrication, and Image Manipulation

OAE makes all reasonable efforts to investigate publication misconduct, including plagiarism, falsification, and fabrication.

1. Plagiarism is not acceptable in OAE journals. Plagiarism involves the inclusion of large sections of unaltered or minimally altered text from an existing source without appropriate and unambiguous attribution, and/or an attempt to misattribute original authorship regarding ideas or results, and copying text, images, or data from another source, even from your own publications, without giving credit to the source.

2. For the reuse of a text that is copied from another source, it must be between quotation marks and the 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 cited explicitly.

3. 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.

4. Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results so that the findings are not accurately represented in the research record.

5. 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:

  • Introduction, enhancement, moving, or removing features from the original image;
  • Grouping of images that should be presented separately;
  • 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 publish a Correction or retract the paper.

6. OAE reserves the right to contact the authors' institution(s) to investigate possible publication misconduct if the editors find conclusive evidence of misconduct before or after publication. OAE has a partnership with iThenticate, which is the most trusted similarity checker. It is used to analyze received manuscripts to avoid plagiarism to the greatest extent possible. When plagiarism becomes evident after publication, we will retract the original publication or require modifications, depending on the degree of plagiarism, context within the published article, and its impact on the overall integrity of the published study. Journal editors will act under the relevant COPE guidelines.

Ethical Guidelines for Authors

1. Authors are responsible for the soundness and reliability of the manuscript, and must cooperate with the Editorial Office when original pictures and data, and other proof materials are required.

2. The authorship of research publications should accurately reflect the contributions of each individual to the study. Four basic criteria must be met collectively to be credited as an author:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work, or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work;
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content;
  • Final approval of the version to be published;
  • 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 do not meet all four criteria (such as those who provide purely technical, or financial and material contributions to the work) should not be rewarded with authorship, but be listed in the Acknowledgment section.

3. The corresponding author is the one who takes primary responsibility for communicating with journal editors during manuscript processing, before and after publication, and typically ensures that all the journal's requirements are satisfied properly. This includes ensuring that all authors have agreed to be so listed and have approved submission of the manuscript to the journal, providing details of authorship, ethical committee approval and clinical trial registration documents, gathering conflict of interest forms, etc. In general, only one corresponding author is allowed. For multi-center trials or multidisciplinary studies, the list of clinicians and researchers is typically published with more corresponding authors. These additional authors should be academically responsible to different institutions or research groups.

4. The order of authorship should be a joint decision of the co-authors based on their contributions, and be agreed by all authors. Any changes to the author and/or institution lists should be approved by the responsible author (first author and/or corresponding author), and a formal proposal approved by all authors must be submitted to the Editorial Office to elucidate the reason(s).

5. Authors who contribute equally to the work should be identified at the time of submission. The number of first co-authors is generally not more than two. In the case of multi-center trials or multidisciplinary studies where there are indeed more than two first co-authors, then the list may be as appropriate for the situation. Those added to the list beyond two should come from different institutions or research groups.

6. For reporting clinical trials, the authors should follow relevant guidelines (such as the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) for the reporting of randomized controlled trials, Transparent Reporting of Evaluations with Nonrandomized Designs (TREND) for the reporting standards of non-randomized evaluations of behavioral and public health interventions, Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) for the conduct and dissemination of observational studies, the Standards of Reporting Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (STARD).

7. In cases of clinical trial studies (randomized controlled studies, cohort studies, case-control studies, case reports, studies conducted on human subjects, or samples taken from the human body, even psychological and social studies involving questionnaires), the authors, in principle, should register the study in the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry and provide the registration number in the manuscript.

8. The authors should declare any possible financial and/or non-financial conflicts of interest at the end of their manuscript and in the cover letter, as well as confirm this point when submitting their manuscript in the submission system. If no conflicts of interest exist, authors need to state "The authors declare no conflicts of interest". In case of a conflict of interest, all economic interests that may have an impact on the results of their research (e.g., a commercial interest relationship with a company; a company providing funds for the experimental design and implementation, data processing, article writing; etc.) must be declared.

9. The authors must identify the organizations, institutions, or people who provided financial support for conducting the research and/or preparing the article at the time of submission.

10. The authors are supposed to submit their manuscript themselves and they are not allowed to entrust a third party to submit it. Besides, the contact email address should be an official email from the authors' institutions. Free email addresses or third-party emails are not acceptable.

11. If an author disagrees with the results of the peer reviews and the editor's decision, that author may submit a written challenge and make detailed interpretations and explanations for disagreeing with the reviewers' suggestions/editor's decision to the Editorial Office. The editor will then review this response and decide whether the reviewers made an error in judgement, or additional peer review is necessary. The editor’s decision at this point is final.

12. Authorship changes are not allowed after a manuscript is officially accepted after peer-review.

13. Authors are not allowed to revise data, figures, and key results during proofreading.

14. When an author discovers a significant error or inaccuracy in his/her own published work, it is the author's obligation to promptly notify the journal editor or publisher and to cooperate with the editor to retract or correct the manuscript in the form of an erratum.

Ethical Guidelines for Reviewers

1. Reviewers should follow the OAE Peer Review Guidelines to complete their review.
2. Reviewers must keep the content of the manuscript, including the abstract, confidential. No prejudice or discrimination shall be made against the authors' scientific research institutions, regions, qualifications, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy.
3. Reviewers are required to inform editors of any conflicts of interest (such as kinship, teacher-student relationship, alumni relationship, colleague relationship, and competition relationship) that might be perceived to undermine the objectivity and impartiality of the reviewing work. Editors will consider whether those reviewers are excluded from reviewing the manuscript.
4. 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 (i.e., personal information should be removed from the final document upon save).
5. When reviewers notice that the author's research is similar to their own, it is not allowed for reviewers to suppress or belittle the author's article by taking advantage of the reviewing process.
6. Once agreeing to review a manuscript, reviewers are expected to perform this review promptly according to the agreement. Reviewers cannot entrust their students, colleagues, etc. to review on their behalf without approval of the Editorial Office.
7. Reviewers should not compel authors to quote their publications, patents, and inventions, but may point out relevant information.

Ethical Guidelines for Academic Editors

The integrity of OAE's editorial process is supervised by the Editorial Office, Editors-in-Chief, Editorial Board Members, and Guest Editors.

1. 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. The Editorial Office will then conduct an investigation according to COPE guidelines.
2. Academic Editors should handle each manuscript fairly, impartially, and on time, and decide on accepting or rejecting the manuscript based on the paper's importance, originality, and clarity, and the study's validity and its relevance to the journal's scope. Current legal requirements regarding libel, copyright infringement, and plagiarism should also be considered. No prejudice or discrimination shall be made against the authors' scientific research institutions, regions, qualifications, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy.
3. Academic editors should abide by the principle of confidentiality, not only about the reviewers' identities but also on the research content.
4. Academic editors should weigh the recommendations of the peer reviewers to make a final decision and ensure a fair and appropriate peer-review process. Additional peer reviews may be sought when there are significant differences in opinions of the peer reviewers. However, publication decisions are not a vote by the peer reviewers but a decision by the editor based on their recommendations and the editor's expertise.
5. For peer reviewers recommended by the author, the academic editor should verify the reviewers' information and then decide whether or not to employ the recommended reviewers based on their research area and sufficient expertise, and whether there exists a conflict of interest. If the author requests to avoid an expert reviewing the manuscript, the editor should respect the request if it is reasonable.
6. In the selection of peer reviewers, academic editors should try to avoid those from the same institute as the author, and shall not select anyone in the same department as any author, nor anyone from the same institution that is recommended by the author.
7. If an editor and an author have a conflict of interest (personal relationship, kinship, teacher-student, alumni, colleague, or competition relationship), the editor should avoid handling the manuscript.
8. Academic editors should avoid handling manuscripts that are outside of their current research interests.
9. Academic editors should treat authors' allegations with caution, and organize for group discussions or re-reviewing by other reviewers.
10. Negative results obtained from rigorous scientific research may be published to help prevent others from wasting time and resources on similar projects.
11. Academic editors are accountable for the manuscripts they handle and should take responsibility to avoid academic misconduct, such as multiple submissions and duplicate publications, and check for duplication and plagiarism at the initial submission.
12. Academic editors should provide the author with suggestions for revision or reasons for rejection with as many details as possible.
13. Academic editors must respect the author's view and style of writing, and should get the author's permission for any essential changes concerning the academic point of view and other key points in the manuscript. However, it is essential that English grammar be correct and the manuscript understandable. Thus, authors may be required to obtain English language editing assistance before a paper is accepted for publication.
14. Academic editors should handle each manuscript as per OAE's Editorial Policies.

Ethical Guidelines for In-house Editors

Besides the Editor-in-Chief, Editorial Board Members, and Guest Editors, OAE has its own quality control review board to oversee the integrity of OAE's editorial process. All OAE editors are well-trained in handling manuscripts.

Editors of OAE adhere to the following principles during their work:

  • Scientific rigor
  • Impartiality
  • Transparency
  • Avoidance

1. Editors are accountable and should take responsibility to avoid academic misconduct, such as multiple submissions and duplicate publications, and check for duplication and plagiarism at the initial submission.

2. Editors should check a manuscript for the following items:

  • Ethics approval and permissions for research involving human subjects, animals, or cell lines;
  • Plagiarism and duplicate publication;
  • That necessary permissions have been received from the copyright holder(s) to include already-published figures or images;
  • That an international clinical trial register is present and/or a reference to the registration is cited in the Methods Section;
  • Author background and appropriateness of a manuscript.

3. If an editor and an author have a conflict of interest (personal relationship, kinship, teacher-student, alumni, colleague, or competition relationship), the editor should not handle the manuscript.

4. Editors should abide by the principle of confidentiality, not only about the reviewers' identities, but also on the research content.

5. In the selection of peer reviewers, editors should try to avoid those from the same institute as the author and shall not select anyone in the same department as any author, nor anyone from the same institution that is recommended by the author. The editor should also try to avoid any conflicts of interests (teacher-student, alumni, colleague, patent holder, or competition relationship) between authors and reviewers.

6. For peer reviewers recommended by the author, the editor should verify the reviewers' information, and then decide whether or not to employ the recommended reviewers based on their research area and sufficient expertise, and whether there exists a conflict of interest. If the author requests to avoid an expert reviewing the manuscript, and the editor should respect the request if it is reasonable.

7. Editors should examine the reviewers' reports carefully and make sure that only quality reports are sent to authors for improving their manuscripts.

8. Editors have the responsibility to inform authors at which stage an authorship change is acceptable.

9. The editor is obliged to remind authors of copyright and intellectual property issues that may arise after any alteration of the author and/or institution list.

Ethical Guidelines for Publishers

As an open-access publisher, OAE adheres to the principle of an open, transparent, and fair editing process to ensure the publication of high-quality academic content, and better lead scientific development. 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. OAE adheres to the following principles in the entire publishing process:

1. OAE has prepared detailed guidelines (i.e., guidelines for authorship, guidelines for writing, etc.) and will update them in a timely manner.
2. OAE has appropriate policies in place for handling editorial conflicts of interests concerning editors, authors, reviewers, and Editorial Board members.
3. OAE communicates with reviewers, authors, and external editors frequently, and improves the editorial process as per their suggestions to provide better service.
4. OAE has prepared detailed guidelines for in-house editors to regulate the editor's professional behavior.
5. OAE provides professional training regularly for in-house editors to constantly improve their editing skills.
6. Once a manuscript is accepted, if there exists any form of academic misconduct, OAE retains the right to reject the manuscript and notify the institute and relevant periodicals.
7. For published papers, if academic misconduct is identified, that paper will be retracted and a retraction will be published.
8. OAE standardizes the publishing process by internal quality control processes to guarantee the integrity of the publishing process.

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