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Editorial policies

Overview

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BioMed Central, as part of SpringerNature, is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and endorses, amongst others:

Ethics and consent

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Ethics approval

Research involving human subjects, human material, or human data, must have been performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and must have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee. A statement detailing this, including the name of the ethics committee and the reference number where appropriate, must appear in all manuscripts reporting such research. If a study has been granted an exemption from requiring ethics approval, this should also be detailed in the manuscript (including the name of the ethics committee that granted the exemption). Further information and documentation to support this should be made available to the Editor on request. Manuscripts may be rejected if the Editor considers that the research has not been carried out within an appropriate ethical framework. In rare cases, the Editor may contact the ethics committee for further information.

Retrospective ethics approval

If a study has not been granted ethics committee approval prior to commencing, retrospective ethics approval usually cannot be obtained and it may not be possible to consider the manuscript for peer review. The decision on whether to proceed to peer review in such cases is at the Editor's discretion.

New clinical tools and procedures

Authors reporting the use of a new procedure or tool in a clinical setting, for example as a technical advance or case report, must give a clear justification in the manuscript for why the new procedure or tool was deemed more appropriate than usual clinical practice to meet the patient’s clinical need. Such justification is not required if the new procedure is already approved for clinical use at the authors’ institution. Authors will be expected to have obtained ethics committee approval and informed patient consent for any experimental use of a novel procedure or tool where a clear clinical advantage based on clinical need was not apparent before treatment.

Consent to participate

For all research involving human subjects, informed consent to participate in the study should be obtained from participants (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16) and a statement to this effect should appear in the manuscript.

Access to publications

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All BioMed Central publications are open access

Every article appearing in any BioMed Central journal and any book published with BioMed Central is 'open access', meaning that:

  1. The article/book is universally and freely accessible via the Internet, in an easily readable format. All publications are deposited immediately upon publication, without embargo, in an agreed format - current preference is XML with a declared DTD - in at least one widely and internationally recognized open access repository.
  2. The author(s) or copyright owner(s) irrevocably grant(s) to any third party, in advance and in perpetuity, the right to use, reproduce or disseminate the article/book in its entirety or in part, in any format or medium, provided that no substantive errors are introduced in the process, proper attribution of authorship and correct citation details are given, and that the bibliographic details are not changed. If the article/book is reproduced or disseminated in part, this must be clearly and unequivocally indicated.

Springer is committed permanently to maintaining this open access publishing policy, retrospectively and prospectively, in all eventualities, including any future changes in ownership.


Research involving animals

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Experimental research on vertebrates or any regulated invertebrates must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines, and where available should have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee. The Basel Declaration outlines fundamental principles to adhere to when conducting research in animals and the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS) has also published ethical guidelines.

A statement detailing compliance with relevant guidelines (e.g. the revised Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in the UK and Directive 2010/63/EU in Europe) and/or ethical approval (including the name of the ethics committee and the reference number where appropriate) must be included in the manuscript. If a study has been granted an exemption from requiring ethics approval, this should also be detailed in the manuscript (including the name of the ethics committee that granted the exemption and the reasons for the exemption). The Editor will take account of animal welfare issues and reserves the right to reject a manuscript, especially if the research involves protocols that are inconsistent with commonly accepted norms of animal research. In rare cases, the Editor may contact the ethics committee for further information.

For experimental studies involving client-owned animals, authors must also document informed consent from the client or owner and adherence to a high standard (best practice) of veterinary care.

Field studies and other non-experimental research on animals must comply with institutional, national, or international guidelines, and where available should have been approved by an appropriate ethics committee. A statement detailing compliance with relevant guidelines and/or appropriate permissions or licences must be included in the manuscript. We recommend that authors comply with the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the IUCN Policy Statement on Research Involving Species at Risk of Extinction.

Research involving plants

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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 licences. We recommend that authors comply with the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Voucher specimens must be deposited in a public herbarium or other public collection providing access to deposited material. Information on the voucher specimen and who identified it must be included in the manuscript.

Consent for publication

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For all manuscripts that include details, images, or videos relating to individual participants, written informed consent for the publication of these must be obtained from the participants (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16) and a statement to this effect should appear in the manuscript. If the participant has died, then consent for publication must be sought from the next of kin of the participant. Documentation showing consent for publication must be made available to the Editor on request, and will be treated confidentially. In cases where images are entirely unidentifiable and there are no details on individuals reported within the manuscript, consent for publication of images may not be required. The final decision on whether consent to publish is required lies with the Editor.

Trial registration

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BioMed Central, as part of SpringerNature, supports initiatives to improve reporting of clinical trials. This includes prospective registering of clinical trials in suitable publicly available databases. In line with ICMJE guidelines, BioMed Central requires registration of all clinical trials that are reported in manuscripts submitted to its journals.

The ICMJE uses the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of a clinical trial, which 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". This definition includes phase I to IV trials. The ICMJE defines health-related interventions as "any intervention used to modify a biomedical or health-related outcome" and health-related outcomes as "any biomedical or health-related measures obtained in patients or participants". Authors who are unsure whether their trial needs registering should consult the ICMJE FAQs for further information.

Suitable publicly available registries are those listed on the ICMJE website as well as any of the primary registries that participate in the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, including the ISRCTN registry, which is administered and published by Biomed Central.

The trial registration number (TRN) and date of registration should be included as the last line of the manuscript abstract.

For clinical trials that have not been registered prospectively, BioMed Central encourages retrospective registration to ensure the complete publication of all results. Further information on retrospective registration is available from the AllTrials campaign, the Public Accounts Committee and the Department of Health. Many BioMed Central journals consider manuscripts describing retrospectively registered studies. The TRN and date of registration should be included as the last line of the manuscript abstract.

Registration of systematic reviews

BioMed Central journals support the prospective registration of systematic reviews and encourages authors to register their systematic reviews in a suitable registry (such as PROSPERO). Authors who have registered their systematic review should include the registration number as the last line of the manuscript abstract.

Availability of data and materials

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Submission of a manuscript to a BioMed Central journal implies that materials described in the manuscript, including all relevant raw data, will be freely available to any scientist wishing to use them for non-commercial purposes, without breaching participant confidentiality. For all journals, BioMed Central strongly encourages that all datasets on which the conclusions of the paper rely be either deposited in publicly available repositories (where available and appropriate) or presented in the main manuscript or additional supporting files, in machine-readable format (such as spreadsheets rather than PDFs) whenever possible. Please see the list of recommended repositories below. For several journals, deposition of the data on which the conclusions of the manuscript rely is required. Please check individual journal’s Instructions for Authors for more information.

Availability of data and materials section

All authors must include an “Availability of Data and Materials” section in their manuscript detailing where the data supporting their findings can be found. Authors who do not wish to share their data must state that data will not be shared, and give the reason. The following format for the Availability of Data and Materials section should be used:

"The dataset(s) supporting the conclusions of this article is (are) available in the [repository name] repository [unique persistent identifier and hyperlink to dataset(s) in http:// format]."

The following format is required when data are included as additional files:

"The dataset(s) supporting the conclusions of this article is (are) included within the article (and its additional file(s))."

BioMed Central endorses the Force 11 Data Citation Principles and requires that all publicly available datasets be fully referenced in the reference list with an accession number or unique identifier such as a digital object identifier (DOI).

List of recommended repositories

A list of recommended repositories by subject area and data type is below. If you have questions as to the suitability of a given repository, please contact the journal Editor. If you are a repository and would like to be added to the list below, or an author who would like a repository added, please contact us at info@biomedcentral.com.

Nucleic acids sequences and variation

Sequence information should be deposited following the MIxS guidelines.

Data scope and type

Database

Annotated collection of all publicly available nucleotide sequences and their translated amino acid sequences

DNA Data Bank of Japan (DDBJ)

 Nucleic acid sequence, gene, genome

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL/EBI) Nucleotide Sequence Database

Nucleic acid sequence, gene, genome

GenBank (National Center for Biotechnology Information)

SNPs, variation

dbSNP

Variation

European Variation Archive (EVA)

Variation

dbVar

Variation, structural variants

Database of Genomic Variants Archive (DGVa)

Metagenome, sequence alignment, sequence information

EBI Metagenomics

Sequencing

NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA)

Protein sequences

Data scope and type

Database

Protein information

 Universal Protein Resource (UniProt)

Mass spectrometry

Mass spectrometry data should be supplied in the mzML format recommended by the HUPO Protein Standards Initiative Mass Spectrometry Standards Working Group guidelines.

Proteomics

Data scope and type

Database

Proteome

ProteomeXchange through the PRIDE website

Protein interaction

MEx consortium

Structures

Data scope and type

Database

Protein structures

Worldwide Protein Data Bank

Nucleic acid structures

Nucleic Acid Database

Crystal structure data

Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre

Crystal structure data, atomic coordinates

Crystallography Open Database (COD)

Microscopy, electron density map, structure

Electron Microscopy Data Bank (EMDB)

Imaging (all types)

Coherent X-ray Imaging Data Bank (CXIDB)

Neuroscience

Data scope and type

Database

Raw fMRI data

OpenfMRI

Resting-state fMRI, DTI, phenotypic information

Functional Connectomes Project International Neuroimaging Data-Sharing Initiative

Human brain statistical maps

NeuroVault

Digitally reconstructed neurons

NeuroMorpho

Chemical structures and assays

Data scope and type

Database

Chemical structures

PubChem Substance

Bioactivity screens

PubChem BioAssay

Nanomaterials and their composition, nanomaterial characterizations from physico-chemical characterizations, nanomaterial chracterizations from in vitro characterizations

caNanoLab

Metabolite concentrations (time-series and steady-state), flux data, and enzyme measurements and tools to build ODE-based kinetic models

Kinetic Models of Biological Systems (KiMoSys)

Functional genomics data (such as microarray, RNA-seq or ChIP-seq data)

Where appropriate, authors should adhere to the standards proposed by the Functional Genomics Data Society and must deposit microarray data in MIAME-compliant format in one of the public repositories below, such as ArrayExpress or Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO).

Data scope and type

Database

Microarray

ArrayExpress

Microarray

Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO)

Expression, epigenetics, phenotype, genotype, genomic variants (GWAS studies)

Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP)

Protein-protein interaction, protein-DNA interaction, molecular interactions, protein-RNA interaction

The IntAct molecular interaction database (IntAct)

miRNA sequences and annotation

miRBase

Biological materials

We encourage the deposition of biological materials, such as plasmids, mutant strains, and cell lines, in established public repositories where one exists. Authors are also asked to check the list of known misidentified cell lines maintained by the International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC).

Data scope and type

Database

Cell lines, tissue biopsies, environmental isolates

BioSample database

Plasmids, DNA

Addgene or PlasmID

 Phylogenetic data

Data scope and type

Database

Phylogenetic data (alignments, phylogenetic trees, or other relevant primary data)

TreeBase

Phylogenetic data (alignments, phylogenetic trees, or other relevant primary data); general data repository

Dryad

 Environmental and ecological data

Data scope and type

Database

Georeferenced data from earth systems research

PANGEA

All environmental data, those funded by NERC

NERC Data Centres

Biodiversity metadata, occurrences (observations, specimens, etc), checklists (names)

Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Ecological data, phylogenetic data; general data repository

Dryad

Other data

Much scientific data do not currently have a dedicated subject repository. In such cases, we recommend the following general repositories and workspaces through which authors can archive their data and make them publicly available.

Data scope and type

Database

Ecological data, phylogenetic data; general data repository

Dryad

General, free (especially recommended for code archiving)

Zenodo

General (max file size 250MB, unlimited storage)

FigShare

Big Data General, free (restrictions: must publish a Data Note with GigaScience)

GigaDB

General data repository and workflow management/versioning, connects to other services; free

Open Science Framework

General Lab Workspace (subscription)

LabArchives

Publication of clinical datasets

For datasets containing clinical data, authors have an ethical and legal responsibility to respect participants’ rights to privacy and to protect their identity. Ideally, authors should gain informed consent for publication of the dataset from participants at the point of recruitment to the trial. If this is not possible, authors must demonstrate that publication of such data does not compromise anonymity or confidentiality or breach local data protection laws, for the dataset to be considered for publication. Authors must consider whether the dataset contains any direct or indirect identifiers (see here for further information) and consult their local ethics committee or other appropriate body before submission if there is any possibility that participants will not be fully anonymous. Authors must state in their manuscript on submission whether informed consent was obtained for publication of patient data. If informed consent was not obtained, authors must state the reason for this, and which body was consulted in the preparation of the dataset.

Software and code

Any previously unreported software application or custom code described in the manuscript should be available for testing by reviewers in a way that preserves their anonymity. The manuscript should include a description in the Availability of Data and Materials section of how the reviewers can access the unreported software application or custom code. This section should include a link to the most recent version of your software or code (e.g. GitHub or Sourceforge) as well as a link to the archived version referenced in the manuscript. The software or code should be archived in an appropriate repository with a DOI or other unique identifier. For software in GitHub, we recommend using Zenodo. If published, the software application/tool should be readily available to any scientist wishing to use it for non-commercial purposes, without restrictions (such as the need for a material transfer agreement). If the implementation is not made freely available, then the manuscript should focus clearly on the development of the underlying method and not discuss the tool in any detail.

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Statistical methods

Authors should include full information on the statistical methods and measures used in their research, including justification of the appropriateness of the statistical test used (see the SAMPL guidelines for more information). Reviewers will be asked to check the statistical methods, and the manuscript may be sent for specialist statistical review if considered necessary.

Resource identification

To enable effective tracking of the key resources used to produce the scientific findings reported in the biomedical literature, authors are expected to include a full description of all resources with enough information to allow them to be uniquely identified. In support of the Resource Identification Initiative (RII), we encourage authors to use unique Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) within their manuscript to identify their model organisms, antibodies, or tools.

If human cell lines are used, authors are strongly encouraged to include the following information in their manuscript:

·       The source of the cell line, including when and from where it was obtained

·       Whether the cell line has recently been authenticated  and by what method

·       Whether the cell line has recently been tested for mycoplasma contamination

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

Gene nomenclature

Standardized gene nomenclature should be used throughout. Human gene symbols and names can be found in the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) database; requests for new gene symbols should be submitted here and any enquiries about gene nomenclature can be directed here. Alternative gene aliases that are commonly used may also be reported, but should not be used alone in place of the HGNC symbol. Nomenclature committees for other species are listed here.

Reporting of sequence variants

We endorse the recommendations of the Human Variome Project Consortium for describing sequence variants (Human Genome Variation Society) and phenotypes (Human Phenotype Ontology).

We recommend that authors should submit all variants described in a manuscript to the relevant public gene/disease specific database (LSDB): a list is available here. The database URL and the unique identifier should be reported in the manuscript.

Data

To drive the maximum re-use and utility of published research, we expect authors to comply with available field-specific standards for the preparation and recording of data. Please see the BioSharing website for information on field-specific data standards. Authors must comply with best practice in their field for sharing of data, with particular attention to maintaining patient confidentiality.

Authors using unpublished genomic data are expected to abide by the guidelines of the Fort Lauderdale and Toronto agreements. Based on broadly accepted scientific community standards, the key requirement of third parties using genomic data is to contact the owners of unpublished data (i.e. the principal investigator and sequencing center) prior to undertaking their research, to advise them about their planned analyses.

Standards of reporting

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BioMed Central advocates complete and transparent reporting of biomedical and biological research. Please refer to the Minimum Standards Reporting Checklist when reporting your research. Exact requirements may vary depending on the journal; please refer to the journal’s instructions for authors. We also strongly recommend that authors refer to the minimum reporting guidelines for health research hosted by the EQUATOR Network when preparing their manuscript, and the BioSharing Portal for reporting checklists for biological and biomedical research, where applicable. Authors should adhere to these guidelines when drafting their manuscript, and peer reviewers will be asked to refer to these checklists when evaluating such studies.

Checklists are available for a number of study designs, including:

*Authors of systematic reviews should also provide a link to an additional file from the ‘methods’ section, which reproduces all details of the search strategy. For an example of how a search strategy should be presented, see the Cochrane Reviewers' Handbook.

Statistical methods

Authors should include full information on the statistical methods and measures used in their research, including justification of the appropriateness of the statistical test used (see the SAMPL guidelines for more information). Reviewers will be asked to check the statistical methods, and the manuscript may be sent for specialist statistical review if considered necessary.

Resource identification

To enable effective tracking of the key resources used to produce the scientific findings reported in the biomedical literature, authors are expected to include a full description of all resources with enough information to allow them to be uniquely identified. In support of the Resource Identification Initiative (RII), we encourage authors to use unique Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) within their manuscript to identify their model organisms, antibodies, or tools.

If human cell lines are used, authors are strongly encouraged to include the following information in their manuscript:

  • The source of the cell line, including when and from where it was obtained
  • Whether the cell line has recently been authenticated  and by what method
  • Whether the cell line has recently been tested for mycoplasma contamination

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

Gene nomenclature

Standardized gene nomenclature should be used throughout. Human gene symbols and names can be found in the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) database; requests for new gene symbols should be submitted here and any enquiries about gene nomenclature can be directed here. Alternative gene aliases that are commonly used may also be reported, but should not be used alone in place of the HGNC symbol. Nomenclature committees for other species are listed here.

Reporting of sequence variants

We endorse the recommendations of the Human Variome Project Consortium for describing sequence variants (Human Genome Variation Society) and phenotypes (Human Phenotype Ontology).

We recommend that authors should submit all variants described in a manuscript to the relevant public gene/disease specific database (LSDB): a list is available here. The database URL and the unique identifier should be reported in the manuscript.

Data

To drive the maximum re-use and utility of published research, we expect authors to comply with available field-specific standards for the preparation and recording of data. Please see the BioSharing website for information on field-specific data standards. Authors must comply with best practice in their field for sharing of data, with particular attention to maintaining patient confidentiality.

Authors using unpublished genomic data are expected to abide by the guidelines of the Fort Lauderdale and Toronto agreements. Based on broadly accepted scientific community standards, the key requirement of third parties using genomic data is to contact the owners of unpublished data (i.e. the principal investigator and sequencing center) prior to undertaking their research, to advise them about their planned analyses.

Describing new taxa

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Algal, fungal, and botanical names

Since January 2012, electronic publication of algal, fungal, and botanical names has been a valid form of publication. Manuscripts containing new taxon names or other nomenclatural acts must follow the guidelines set by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. Further helpful information by Sandra Knapp et al. is available here.

Authors describing new fungal taxa should register the names with a recognized repository, such as Mycobank, and request a unique digital identifier which should be included in the published article.

Zoological names

Since January 2012, electronic publication of zoological names has been a valid form of publication if certain conditions are met. Manuscripts containing new taxon names or other nomenclatural acts must follow the guidelines set by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. We require the new taxon name and the article it is published in to be registered with ZooBank. The unique identifier provided by ZooBank should be included in the published article. Authors will be able to update ZooBank with the final citation following publication. Further helpful information by Frank-T. Krell is available here.

Bacterial names

In accordance with the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP) effective publication of new prokaryotic names in electronic journals is possible. In order to comply with rules of the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP) for valid publication authors must submit a copy of the published article in its final form, together with certificates of deposition of the type strain (for unrestricted distribution), in at least two internationally recognized, publicly accessible culture collections located in different countries, to the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) editorial office. Following review by the List Editor, effectively published names that conform to all of the rules of the ICNP will appear on a subsequent Validation List, in the order received, thereby becoming validly published.

Virus names

The proposal of new virus names must follow the guidelines established by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) in the International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature. Proposals for new virus taxa should be forwarded to the relevant Study Group of the ICTV for consideration.

Competing interests

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BioMed Central requires authors to declare all competing interests in relation to their work. All submitted manuscripts must include a ‘competing interests’ section at the end of the manuscript listing all competing interests ([financial] and [non-financial]). Where authors have no competing interests, the statement should read “The author(s) declare(s) that they have no competing interests”. The Editor may ask for further information relating to competing interests.

Editors and reviewers are also required to declare any competing interests and will be excluded from the peer review process if a competing interest exists.

What constitutes a competing interest?

Competing interests may be financial or non-financial. A competing interest exists when the authors’ interpretation of data or presentation of information may be influenced by their personal or financial relationship with other people or organizations. Authors should disclose any [financial competing interests] but also any [non-financial competing interests] that may cause them embarrassment if they were to become public after the publication of the manuscript.

Please see [Commercial organizations] for more information relating to competing interests on manuscripts from commercial organizations.

Financial competing interests

Financial competing interests include (but are not limited to):

  • Receiving reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of the manuscript, either now or in the future
  • Holding stocks or shares in an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of the manuscript, either now or in the future
  • Holding, or currently applying for, patents relating to the content of the manuscript
  • Receiving reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that holds or has applied for patents relating to the content of the manuscript

Non-financial competing interests

Non-financial competing interests include (but are not limited to) political, personal, religious, ideological, academic, and intellectual competing interests. If, after reading these guidelines, you are unsure whether you have a competing interest, please contact info@biomedcentral.com.

Commercial organizations

Authors from pharmaceutical companies, or other commercial organizations that sponsor clinical trials, should declare these as competing interests on submission. They should also adhere to the Good Publication Practice guidelines for pharmaceutical companies (GPP2), which are designed to ensure that publications are produced in a responsible and ethical manner. The guidelines also apply to any companies or individuals that work on industry-sponsored publications, such as freelance writers, contract research organizations and communications companies. BioMed Central journals will not publish advertorial content.

To give appropriate credit to each author, the individual contributions of authors should be specified in the manuscript.

An 'author' is generally considered to be someone who has made substantive intellectual contributions to a published study. According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines, to qualify as an author one should have:

  1. made substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data;
  2. been involved in drafting the manuscript or revising it critically for important intellectual content;
  3. given final approval of the version to be published. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content; and
  4. agreed 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.

Acquisition of funding, collection of data, or general supervision of the research group, alone, does not usually justify authorship.

Please see individual journal's Instructions for Authors for information on the format for listing author contributions.

Acknowledgements

All contributors who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed in an ‘Acknowledgements’ section. Examples of those who might be acknowledged include a person who provided purely technical help or writing assistance, or a department chair who provided only general support.

Changes in authorship

In line with COPE guidelines, BioMed Central, as part of SpringerNature, requires written confirmation from all authors that they agree with any proposed changes in authorship of submitted manuscripts or published articles. This confirmation must be via direct email from each author. It is the corresponding author’s responsibility to ensure that all authors confirm that they agree with the proposed changes. If there is disagreement amongst the authors concerning authorship and a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, the authors must contact their institution(s) for a resolution. It is not the Editor’s responsibility to resolve authorship disputes. A change in authorship of a published article can only be amended via publication of an [Erratum].

Scientific (medical) writers

The involvement of scientific (medical) writers or anyone else who assisted with the preparation of the manuscript content should be acknowledged, along with their source of funding, as described in the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) guidelines. The role of medical writers should be acknowledged explicitly in the ‘Acknowledgements’ or ‘Authors’ contributions’ section as appropriate.

Comments Policy

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You can comment on all articles published in our journals. To make use of this feature, follow the 'Post a comment' link in the top left box of any article abstract or full text. If comments have already been posted on an article there will be a link to them here too.

To post a comment you need to be a registered user and to verify your email address. Verification is a one-time only process - when you first try to post a comment you will be sent a verification email to your registered email address. Click the link in the email and your address will automatically be verified and you can continue with your posting. Our comment system is moderated to prevent abuse, but you will receive a prompt decision on your comment and it will appear on the site immediately on acceptance.

BioMed Central reserves the right to decline to post a comment if in its absolute discretion it believes it would be inappropriate to do so, and reserves the right to remove a comment at any time.

Comments will not be accepted if they appear to be indecent or offensive, or contain negative content of a personal, racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, or religious character. We will not post comments that appear to be libellous or otherwise legally problematic.

BioMed Central will also not accept comments that present evidence suggestive of the need for changes in practice or thinking in terms of preventive or therapeutic interventions, if that evidence has not previously been published in a peer-reviewed journal. We will not post comments that give information on individual patients.

Comments which may also be refused are those that:

  • are irrelevant to the article;
  • are trivial;
  • appear to be advertising;
  • are a repetition of comments posted elsewhere on BioMed Central;
  • are not in English;
  • are badly written or incomprehensible.

We cannot include figures, tables or equations within a comment, although hyperlinks may be included. If your response is substantial then you may wish to consider submitting an article - in this case you should discuss this with the editorial office.

BioMed Central asks that anyone posting a comment complete a competing interests declaration.

Competing interests policy

A competing interest exists when your interpretation of data or presentation of information may be influenced by your personal or financial relationship with other people or organizations. Those who post comments should disclose any financial competing interests but also any non-financial competing interests that may cause them embarrassment were they to become public after the publication of the comments.

When completing your declaration, please consider the following questions:

Financial competing interests

  • In the past five years have you received reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of this comment, either now or in the future?
  • Do you hold any stocks or shares in an organization that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of this comment, either now or in the future? If so, please specify.
  • Do you hold or are you currently applying for any patents relating to the content of the comment? Have you received reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that holds or has applied for patents relating to the content of the comment? If so, please specify.
  • Do you have any other financial competing interests? If so, please specify.

Non-financial competing interests

Are there any non-financial competing interests (political, personal, religious, ideological, academic, intellectual, commercial or any other) to declare in relation to this comment? If so, please specify.

If you are unsure as to whether you have a competing interest please discuss it with the editorial office.

Authorship

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To give appropriate credit to each author, the individual contributions of authors should be specified in the manuscript.

An 'author' is generally considered to be someone who has made substantive intellectual contributions to a published study. According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines, to qualify as an author one should have:

  1. made substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data;
  2. been involved in drafting the manuscript or revising it critically for important intellectual content;
  3. given final approval of the version to be published. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content; and
  4. agreed 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.

Acquisition of funding, collection of data, or general supervision of the research group, alone, does not usually justify authorship.

Please see individual journal's Instructions for Authors for information on the format for listing author contributions.

Authors wishing to make changes to authorship will be asked to complete our change of authorship form. Please note that changes to authorship cannot be made after acceptance of a manuscript

Acknowledgements

All contributors who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed in an ‘Acknowledgements’ section. Examples of those who might be acknowledged include a person who provided purely technical help or writing assistance, or a department chair who provided only general support.

Scientific (medical) writers

The involvement of scientific (medical) writers or anyone else who assisted with the preparation of the manuscript content should be acknowledged, along with their source of funding, as described in the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) guidelines. The role of medical writers should be acknowledged explicitly in the ‘Acknowledgements’ or ‘Authors’ contributions’ section as appropriate.

Permanency

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We have taken steps to ensure that all BioMed Central publications are deposited in a number of safe digital archives. Should BioMed Central fail, open access to the publications is guaranteed to continue via those archives.

Corrections and retractions

Corrections to or retractions of published articles will be made by publishing a correction or retraction note and without altering the original article in any way other than to add a prominent link to the note. In this way, the original article remains in the public domain and the subsequent correction or retraction will be widely indexed.

Removal

The preservation of scientific research is a cornerstone of science and as such we will use our best efforts to ensure that material published with BioMed Central is preserved and remains available for access. However in the exceptional event that material is considered to infringe certain rights or is defamatory we may have no option but to remove that material from our site and those sites on which we have deposited the material in question.

BioMed Central therefore reserves the right to cease to make available publications that it has been advised are potentially defamatory or that infringe any intellectual property right, or are otherwise unlawful.

Where this occurs the publication will remain indexed. However in place of the content or header the following will appear:

"BioMed Central regrets that this article/book is no longer available to avoid threatened legal claims".

Citations

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Research articles and non-research articles (e.g. Opinion, Review, and Commentary articles) must cite appropriate and relevant literature in support of the claims made. Excessive and inappropriate self-citation or coordinated efforts among several authors to collectively self-cite is strongly discouraged.

Authors should consider the following guidelines when preparing their manuscript:

  • Any statement in the manuscript that relies on external sources of information (i.e. not the authors' own new ideas or findings or general knowledge) should use a citation
  • Authors should avoid citing derivations of original work. For example, they should cite the original work rather than a review article that cites an original work
  • Authors should ensure that their citations are accurate (i.e. they should ensure the citation supports the statement made in their manuscript and should not misrepresent another work by citing it if it does not support the point the authors wish to make)
  • Authors should not cite sources that they have not read
  • Authors should not preferentially cite their own or their friends’, peers’, or institution’s publications
  • Authors should avoid citing work solely from one country
  • Authors should not use an excessive number of citations to support one point
  • Ideally, authors should cite sources that have undergone peer review where possible

Authors should not cite advertisements or advertorial material

Duplicate publication

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Any manuscript submitted to a BioMed Central journal must be original and the manuscript, or substantial parts of it, must not be under consideration by any other journal. In any case where there is the potential for overlap or duplication we require that authors are transparent. Authors should declare any potentially overlapping publications on submission and, where possible, upload these as additional files with the manuscript. Any overlapping publications should be cited. Any ‘in press’ or unpublished manuscript cited, or relevant to the Editor’s and reviewers' assessment of the manuscript, should be made available if requested by the Editor. BioMed Central journals reserve the right to judge potentially overlapping or redundant publications on a case-by-case basis.

In general, the manuscript should not already have been formally published in any journal or in any other citable form. If justified and made clear upon submission, there are exceptions to this rule. Details of these exceptions follow below and are also summarized in [Table 1].

BioMed Central, as part of SpringerNature, is a member of CrossCheck’s plagiarism detection initiative and takes seriously all cases of publication misconduct. Any suspected cases of covert duplicate manuscript submission will be handled as outlined in the COPE guidelines and the Editor may contact the authors’ institution (see [Misconduct] policy for more information).

Complete manuscripts

Co-publication in multiple journals

If transparent, and with prior agreement of the relevant journals, co-publication in multiple journals will be considered at the Editor's discretion.

Pre-print servers and author/institutional repositories

Posting a manuscript on a pre-print server such as ArXiv, BioRxiv, Peer J PrePrints, or similar platforms (both commercial and non-commercial) is not considered to be duplicate publication. BioMed Central journals will also consider peer reviewing manuscripts that have been posted on an author's personal or institutional website. Material that has formed part of an academic thesis and been placed in the public domain, as required by the awarding institution, will also be considered by BioMed Central journals.

SpringerNature encourages [self-archiving] by authors of manuscripts accepted for publication in its journals.

Translations

Authors should seek approval from the original publisher to check that they do not breach the copyright terms of the original publication and that the original publisher gives permission for publication of the translation under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0.

Incomplete manuscripts

Abridged articles

At the Editor's discretion, some BioMed Central journals will consider manuscripts that are substantially extended versions of articles that have previously been published in another peer-reviewed journal. In such cases the prior publication of an abridged version of the article would therefore not preclude publication, provided the new manuscript represents a substantially novel contribution to the scientific record. If applicable, the authors should seek approval from the original publisher before submitting the extended version of the manuscript.

Abstracts/posters

Prior abstracts of up to 400 words and posters presented at, or published as part of, academic meetings do not preclude consideration for peer review of a full manuscript, as the full manuscript represents a formal advance to the citable scientific record. Published abstracts should be cited. Authors should be aware that many conference proceedings exceed the allowable word limit and constitute a citable form.

Datasets

Making scientific data sets publicly available before associated manuscripts are submitted will not preclude consideration by a BioMed Central journal. Because an increasing number of research funding agencies require that their grant holders share the 'raw data' research outputs, such data sharing is encouraged by BioMed Central, provided appropriate safeguards are in place to protect personal or sensitive information..

Non-research articles

Authors of non-research articles (usually commissioned reviews and commentaries) can include figures and tables that have been previously published in other journals provided they confirm on submission that permission has been obtained from the original publisher (if applicable) and cite the original article. Documentary evidence to support this permission must be made available to the Editor on request.

In order to avoid the potential for self-plagiarism, inadvertently or otherwise, authors agreeing to write commissioned articles should notify the Editor of any recent publications or invitations to write on a similar topic.

Open science

If authors have previously discussed or posted their own data in venues such as blogs, wikis, social networking websites, or online electronic lab notebooks, they are still able to submit their findings to BioMed Central journals. However, given the rapidly evolving nature of these resources, where discussion of data or manuscripts posted to these venues has subsequently been incorporated into the manuscript, the Editor will make their own assessment as to whether there may be duplication in the submitted manuscript.

Study protocols

Publication of study protocols reduces the risk of non-publication of research findings and facilitates methodological discussion, and is encouraged by a number of BioMed Central journals. Therefore prior publication of a study protocol before submission of a manuscript reporting the results is not considered duplicate publication.

Summary clinical trial results in public registries

Posting of summary clinical trial results in publicly accessible databases is generally not considered duplicate publication. BioMed Central requires authors of manuscripts reporting clinical trials to have registered their trial in a suitably accessible registry (see our [Trial Registration] policy for more information). In the US, submission of trial results to ClinicalTrials.gov is a statutory requirement. More information on this requirement can be found here.

Table 1. Generally permissible and non-permissible forms of duplicate/overlapping publication

Previous publication

Guidance on permissibility

 Abridged articles

At the Editor's discretion, provided there is agreement from the original journal/publisher and the original publication is cited

Abstracts up to 400 words or posters presented at scientific meetings

Yes - published abstracts should be cited

Co-publication in multiple journals

At the Editor's discretion

Datasets in public or restricted access repositories

Yes - datasets should be cited in/hyperlinked from the manuscript if possible

Figures and tables in non-research articles

Yes, if, where applicable, permission has been obtained from the original publisher by the submitting author

Open science: data posted and discussed on wikis, blogs, online electronic lab notebooks, networking websites incorporated into submitted manuscript

Yes, usually permissible

Pre-print servers, including authors' personal and institutional websites

Yes

Study protocol published

Yes - published protocols should be cited

Summary results in clinical trial registries

Yes - accession number should be included in the abstract

Translations

At the Editor's discretion, provided there is agreement from the original journal/publisher, no breach of copyright and the original publication is cited.


Text recycling

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Authors should be aware that replication of text from their own previous publications is text recycling (also referred to as self-plagiarism), and in some cases is considered unacceptable. Where overlap of text with authors’ own previous publications is necessary or unavoidable, duplication must always be reported transparently and be properly attributed and compliant with copyright requirements. If a manuscript contains text that has been published elsewhere, authors should notify the Editor of this on submission.

Peer review

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All research articles, and most other article types, published in BioMed Central journals undergo thorough peer review. This usually involves review by two independent peer reviewers. Individual journals may differ in their peer review processes; for example, some journals operate an [open] and others a [closed] peer review system. For an individual journal’s peer review policy, please select the journal you are interested in from the drop-down menu below.

Peer review policy

All submissions to BioMed Central journals are assessed by an Editor, who will decide whether they are suitable for peer review. Where an Editor is on the author list or has any other competing interest regarding a specific manuscript, another member of the Editorial Board will be assigned to assume responsibility for overseeing peer review. Submissions felt to be suitable for consideration will be sent for peer review by appropriate independent experts. Editors will make a decision based on the reviewers’ reports and authors are sent these reports along with the editorial decision on their manuscript. Authors should note that even in light of one positive report, concerns raised by another reviewer may fundamentally undermine the study and result in the manuscript being rejected.

Open peer review

For journals operating an open peer review process, the reviewers' names are included on the peer review reports. In addition, if the manuscript is published, the named reports are published online alongside the article as part of a 'pre-publication history'. All previous versions of the manuscript and all author responses to the reviewers are also available to readers on request. On rare occasions, information from the pre-publication history may not be available for a specific article.

Closed peer review

Most journals operate a closed peer review process. Reviewers will be treated anonymously and the pre-publication history of each article will not be made available online.

Peer reviewers

Authors may suggest potential reviewers if they wish; however, whether or not to consider these reviewers is at the Editor's discretion. Authors should not suggest recent collaborators or colleagues who work in the same institution as themselves. Authors who wish to suggest peer reviewers can do so in the cover letter and should provide institutional email addresses where possible, or information which will help the Editor to verify the identity of the reviewer (for example an ORCID or Scopus ID).
Authors may request exclusion of individuals as peer reviewers, but they should explain the reasons in their cover letter on submission. Authors should not exclude too many individuals as this may hinder the peer review process. Please note that the Editor may choose to invite excluded peer reviewers.
Intentionally falsifying information, for example, suggesting reviewers with a false name or email address, will result in rejection of the manuscript and may lead to further investigation in line with our [misconduct] policy.

Portability of peer review

Within BioMed Central journals

To support efficient and thorough peer review, we aim to reduce the number of times a manuscript is re-reviewed after rejection from a [BioMed Central journal], thereby speeding up the publication process and reducing the burden on peer reviewers. If a manuscript does not reach the interest criteria of a given [BioMed Central journal], but is sound and in scope for another BioMed Central or SpringerNature journal, we offer authors the option to transfer the manuscript together with the reviewer reports to the other journal.

Editors may share manuscripts with Editors of other BioMed Central or SpringerNature journals before contacting authors in order to assess suitability for transfer to another journal. Authors who do not wish their manuscript to be shared with other BioMed Central or SpringerNature journals should indicate this in their cover letter on submission. Reviewers who do not wish us to share their report with another BioMed Central or SpringerNature journal should indicate this in the confidential section of their report. Transfer of a manuscript does not imply that it will be automatically accepted by the receiving journal, and on some occasions the Editor of the receiving journal may need to conduct their own peer review and/or reject the manuscript if it is not suitable.

If a manuscript is transferred to, and published in, a journal with open peer review, we will, wherever possible, make the reviewers' reports available through the pre-publication history of the article (see ‘Open peer review’ above). On some occasions this will not be possible; for example, when the manuscript has been peer reviewed in a closed peer review journal first. Although we will ask reviewers to make their reports available, reviewers providing reports for closed peer review journals will sometimes prefer to maintain this confidentiality and their anonymity. In such cases we will publish a note from the Editor on the pre-publication history of the manuscript to explain the peer review history for that particular case.

Where a manuscript was initially reviewed in an open peer review journal and is subsequently transferred to a closed peer review journal and published, the reviews will not be published alongside the article. If reviewers wish to make their report publicly available, they can post it as a comment on the article upon publication.

Confidentiality

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Editors will treat all manuscripts submitted to all BioMed Central journals in confidence. Reviewers are also required to treat manuscripts confidentially. BioMed Central will not share manuscripts with third parties outside of SpringerNature except in cases of suspected misconduct. See our [Misconduct] policy for further information.

Misconduct

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BioMed Central takes seriously all allegations of potential misconduct. As members of COPE, all SpringerNature journals will follow the COPE guidelines outlining how to deal with cases of suspected misconduct.

In cases of suspected [research] or [publication] misconduct, it may be necessary for the Editor to contact and share manuscripts with third parties, for example, author(s)’ institution(s) and ethics committee(s). SpringerNature may also seek advice from COPE and discuss anonymized cases in the COPE Forum.

Research misconduct

All research involving humans (including human data and human material) and animals must have been carried out within an appropriate ethical framework (see our [Ethics] policy for further information). If there is suspicion that research has not taken place within an appropriate ethical framework, the Editor may reject a manuscript and may inform third parties, for example, author(s)’ institution(s) and ethics committee(s).

In cases of proven research misconduct involving published articles, or where the scientific integrity of the article is significantly undermined, articles may be retracted. See our [Retraction] policy for further information.

Publication misconduct

As members of COPE, all BioMed Central journals will follow the COPE guidelines outlining how to deal with cases of potential publication misconduct.

Plagiarism

BioMed Central as part of SpringerNature is a member of CrossCheck’s plagiarism detection initiative and uses plagiarism detection software. If plagiarism is identified, the COPE guidelines on plagiarism will be followed.

Corrections and retractions

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Rarely, it may be necessary for BioMed Central to publish [corrections] to, or [retractions] of, articles published in its journals, so as to maintain the integrity of the academic record.

In line with BioMed Central's [Permanency] policy, [corrections] to, or [retractions] of, published articles will be made by publishing an Erratum or a Retraction article, without altering the original article in any way other than to add a prominent link to the Erratum/Retraction article. The original article remains in the public domain and the subsequent Erratum or Retraction will be widely indexed. In the exceptional event that material is considered to infringe certain rights or is defamatory, we may have to remove that material from our site and archive sites.

It may be possible for minor corrections to published articles to be made by the original author(s) posting a comment on the published article. This would only be appropriate where the changes do not affect the results or conclusions of the article. See our [Comments] policy for further information on posting comments.

Corrections

Changes to published articles that affect the interpretation and conclusion of the article, but do not fully invalidate the article, will, at the Editor(s)’ discretion, be corrected via publication of an Erratum that is indexed and linked to the original article. Changes in authorship of published articles are corrected via an Erratum. See [Changes in authorship] for further information.

Retractions

On rare occasions, when the scientific information in an article is substantially undermined, it may be necessary for published articles to be retracted. BioMed Central as part of SpringerNature will follow the COPE guidelines in such cases. Retraction articles are indexed and linked to the original article.

 

Appeals and complaints

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BioMed Central adheres to COPE guidelines regarding appeals to editorial decisions and complaints. Please check individual journal’s ‘About’ pages for more information.