Scientific societies exist for many purposes, one of which is to establish policies and guidelines for responsible conduct within the field that they represent. The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has established several such policies. These include an SfN Ethics Policy that covers the broad range of ethical issues related to scientific conduct. There are additional policies on the use of humans and other animals as subjects in neuroscience research as well as an outline of SfN procedures established to manage allegations of misconduct. This document focuses on conduct specifically linked to scientific communications. Scientific communications are defined as all communications of a scientific nature; they include research manuscripts, supplemental data, abstracts, posters, oral presentations, and public electronic communications.
SfN believes that progress in understanding the nervous system benefits human welfare. Such progress depends on the honest pursuit of scientific research and the truthful representation of findings. While recognizing that both error and differences among individuals in the interpretation of data are natural parts of the creative process, the Society for Neuroscience affirms that the success of the entire scientific endeavor is jeopardized by misconduct, in the form of plagiarism, fabrication, or falsification of data. By entering the profession, neuroscientists assume an obligation to maintain the highest level of integrity in all scientific activities.
SfN serves neuroscience and society at large in many ways, including publishing The Journal of Neuroscience and the annual meeting abstracts, both of which present the results of scientific research. SfN considers it vital to establish and disseminate guidelines and policies regarding responsible professional behavior and to specify the relevant obligations of SfN members to one another and to the public.
Such guidelines and policies derive from a desire to maximize benefits to the profession as a whole, as well as to the general society, and to limit actions that might serve only the narrow self interests of individuals. For example, the advancement of science requires that knowledge be shared, although doing so may sometimes entail foregoing some immediate personal advantage.
These Guidelines are intended for individuals engaged in the communication of research in neuroscience. They spring from a conviction that adherence to high ethical standards is so essential to the scientific enterprise that a definition of those standards should be brought to the attention of all concerned. The associated document Procedures for Dealing with Allegations outlines the steps to be taken should a violation of the SfN Ethics Policy be suspected.
It is likely that most aspects of the Guidelines are already understood and subscribed to by the great majority of the members of the Society for Neuroscience and by others engaged in neuroscience research. However, the Guidelines can help those who are relatively new to research and also established scientists who face practical questions and challenges that arise in the course of research.
The Guidelines are provided with particular reference to the Society for Neuroscience, its members, and its publications. Many of the Guidelines focus on peer-reviewed research articles. However, we believe that the issues raised in this document are relevant to all writing, reviewing, and editing performed within neuroscience and related areas of investigation. Moreover, although most scientific communications are by their nature public, many of these guidelines apply equally well to private communications made by neuroscientists to other colleagues and members of the public.
Invitation for comment:
The Society invites comments from both members and nonmembers at any time. These can be addressed to Guidelines on Publishing, Society for Neuroscience, 1121 14th Street NW, Suite 1010, Washington, DC, 20005, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responsible Conduct Regarding Scientific Communication