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Ethics requirements and impact factor
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  1. Philippe Charlier1,2,
  2. Valérie Bridoux1,2,
  3. Laurence Watier3,
  4. Melissa Ménétrier4,
  5. Geoffroy Lorin de la Grandmaison4,
  6. Christian Hervé1
  1. 1Department of Medical Ethics and Legal Medicine, University Paris 5, 45 Saints-Pères street, F-75005 Paris, France
  2. 2Department of Odontology, University Hospital, Rouen, France
  3. 3Inserm U657, Public Health Department, UVSQ, EA4499, University Hospital R. Poincaré, Garches, France
  4. 4Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, University Hospital R. Poincaré (AP-HP, UVSQ), Garches, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Philippe Charlier, Department of Forensic Medicine, University Hospital R Poincaré (AP-HP, UVSQ), 104 R. Poincaré boulevard, Garches 92380, France; ph_charlier{at}yahoo.fr

Abstract

Do all clinical research publications show strong application of ethics principles and respect for biomedical law? We examined, for the year 2009, the ethics requirements displayed on the website of 30 leading medical journals with an impact factor (IF) >10, and 30 others with an IF <10. We carried out a short study looking at the relationship between the IF of a journal and the ethics requirements in its instructions to authors. We show that the IF of a biomedical journal bears a direct relationship to its ethics requirements. Such results should improve the ethics requirements of all biomedical journals, especially those with low IF, so that they are internationally standardised to the higher standard required by journals with higher IF.

  • Biomedical research
  • biomedical law
  • publication rules
  • ethical principles
  • definition/determination of death
  • demographic surveys/attitudes
  • epidemiology
  • ethics committees/consultation
  • forensic medicine

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Do all clinical research publications comply with ethics principles and biomedical law?1 2

We examined, for the year 2009, the ethics requirements displayed on the websites of 30 leading medical journals with an impact factor (IF) >10, and 30 others with an IF <10. We carried out a short study looking at the relationship between the IF of a journal and the ethics requirements in its instructions to authors. We used a scoring system that gave one point for each of the ethics criteria required in the instructions to authors. These criteria were: respect for the STROBE initiative for epidemiological studies,3 respect for CONSORT reporting guidelines for clinical trials,4 mention of local ethics committee/institutional review board approval, mention of signed patient permission/consent form. If quoted, each criterion carried a score of 1 point, giving a maximum score of 5 points. We then compared the points scored by journals with an IF ≥10 against those with an IF <10.

The distribution of the score in relation to the IF is presented in figure 1. Scores were higher for journals with an IF ≥10. Average scores between groups were significantly different (Student t test, 2.8 vs 3.6; p=0.005). Large differences in ethics requirements between journals can be observed (table 1). It can be noticed that ‘mention of conflict of interest’ is not discriminated, since all the journals presented this item.

Figure 1

Distribution of total score in relation to impact factor (IF).

Table 1

Inventory of ethics criteria for the 60 medical journals examined

In this short study, we show that the IF of a biomedical journal bears a direct relationship to its ethics requirements. Such results should improve ethics requirements for all biomedical journals, especially those with low IF, so that they are internationally standardised to the higher standard required by journals with a higher IF (even though the IF seems to be a good indicator of a journal's notoriety, but not necessarily of the quality of its articles).5

References

Footnotes

  • As the subject is non-clinical, no signed consent to publication was needed. All authors, external and internal, had full access to all of the data (including statistical reports and tables) in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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