NIH urges grantees to publish only in credible journals

November / December 2017 | Volume 16, Issue 6

Entrance to building 1 on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland
Photo by Lydia Polimeni, National Institutes of Health

Noting a growing number of its grantees are publishing research results in journals with questionable practices, the NIH recently issued a Guide Notice encouraging authors to carefully select credible publications for their submissions.

Maintaining public trust in research is important, stressed Dr. Michael Lauer, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research. "NIH has taken - and continues to take - many steps to ensure the credibility of the research it supports. From enhancing rigor and reproducibility, to encouraging sharing of data and protocols, to promoting pre-prints, and to requiring timely registration and reporting of clinical trial results, NIH establishes policies to make our funded research as credible, transparent, rigorous and full of impact as possible," Lauer wrote in a blog post.

Suspect journals and publishers typically can be identified by several attributes, the NIH Guide Notice suggested, including:

  • misleading pricing (e.g., lack of transparency about article processing charges)
  • failure to disclose information to authors
  • aggressive tactics to solicit article submissions
  • inaccurate statements about editorial board membership
  • misleading or suspicious peer-review processes

Publications using such practices may call into question the credibility of the research they report.

To help protect the credibility of papers resulting from federal funding, the NIH Guide suggests grantees:

  • adhere to principles of research integrity and publication ethics
  • submit to journals that follow best practices promoted by professional scholarly publishing organizations
  • avoid publishing in journals that do not have a clearly stated and rigorous peer review process

Existing resources provided by NIH and the scientific publishing community can assist in the decision making process, Lauer said.

"To help convey the credibility of your work, be careful where you publish," Lauer warned. "We hope that our community publishes only in journals that do what they say they will do. If the rigor of your work is clearly conveyed in writing, and published in journals that maintain high quality standards, then your work will be viewed with respect. By taking these approaches, we can continue ensuring the credibility and trustworthiness of the biomedical and behavioral research findings resulting from public support."

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