It is advised that in case of any complaints, the editor or editorial office should be intimated about it confidentially instead of contacting the author directly or publicly, and the matter should stay in confidence till the time an appropriate solution is figured out.
Prior to Publication
During the review process, any submitted manuscript can raise certain concerns among the reviewers.
• In case of valid concern, the reviewer should be able to prove its validity (e.g., suspicious data in the paper).
• Later, the reviewer should discuss the concern with the author and demand clarification where necessary. Reviewer should, however, avoid using any indecent or accusative language and restrict the conversation to the concerned facts only.
• The review process should not be proceeded until the concerns are fully justified.
• If the author manages to remove all the concerns, then the review process can be continued with the specific changes made by the author.
• If the author admits having performed the misconduct or has no explanation for the concerns raised, then the manuscript would be rejected immediately.
• The concerned reviewer should be apprised of the results after the resolution of the matter.
There can be potential concerns raised by the reader regarding a published manuscript. Just as in the scenario above, the reader should be told to validate the concern first and then the concern should be forwarded to the author. If the complaint is found to be based on unsound grounds, it should be rejected. Action should be taken if one of the following scenarios is there:
• If there is content missing from the manuscript, then there is need to publish a correction statement that can add the required information to the published version (e.g., undisclosed conflict of interests).
• An expression of concern can be published along with the article if misconduct has been proven on part of the author. It is more preferred for effective resolution of the matter.
• In case of serious concerns of plagiarism or data fabrication, retraction of the published article can be requested. More details are given below.
Just like above, the concerned reader should be apprised of the results after the resolution of the matter.
Further Action and Retraction
• In case of any concerns regarding your manuscript, publisher can be contacted for legal support as required. Resources for editors, including guidelines and training materials, can be obtained from the Committee on Publication Ethics.
• If severe misconduct is found, we can consider raising the issue with the author's institution, either to their superior and/or to the person responsible for governing the research.
• If plagiarism is found, editor of other journal(s) involved and the victim should be informed.
• Note that allegations of misconduct, and actions taken against them such as a retraction, can affect someone’s career negatively. Therefore, sensitivity, tact, and confidentiality are required for handling author misconduct.
• Reviewer misconduct can also take place as rude or unconstructive reviews or, to the extreme end, misuse of the author’s data.
• Editors rely on the reviewers greatly in the review process. They are allowed to access the privileged information (i.e., unpublished research) and their recommendations can completely change the fate of a manuscript. However, this trust is taken for granted rarely.
• Minor problems are easy to handle. If the work of any reviewer is not satisfactory, of poor quality, and includes rude comments, it is wise to avoid future interaction with such reviewers and delete their indecent comments.