Background: Researchers everywhere are under increasing pressure to publish in high quality journals. The amount of space available in a journal such as Medical Education has not kept pace with the rise in submissions. Against a background of fierce competition, authors sometimes cut corners. This may lead to misconduct.
Aims: This paper aims to explore the most common types of publication misconduct seen in the Medical Education editorial office, and to consider the reasons for this and the implications for researchers in the field.
Discussion: This paper looks at the work of the Committee on Publication Ethics and describes the type of routine, low level misconduct which is increasingly reported by its member journals, including Medical Education. We offer a list of authors' responsibilities as a way of drawing attention to the wide range of individuals affected by author misconduct. The paper outlines 7 representative cases of actual or potential misconduct which have been dealt with in the Medical Education editorial office during the 18-month period to May 2004, putting them in context and using them to illustrate some of the ways in which apparently minor deviations from standard practice can have far reaching implications.
Future directions: This paper argues that misconduct affects a wider group than editors, although it is editors who are currently taking the lead in the promotion of standards. The authors suggest that responsibility for maintaining and improving standards in research publication should not be left to editors but should be seen as something in which all researchers have a stake. They support moves to make editors themselves more accountable to their readers and authors.