The scientific community is paying increasing attention to the quality practices of journals and publishers. NIH recently released a Guide notice (NOT-OD-18-011) to encourage authors to publish in journals that do not undermine the credibility, impact, and accuracy of their research findings. This notice aims to raise awareness about practices like changing publication fees without notice, lacking transparency in publication procedures, misrepresenting editorial boards, and/or using suspicious peer review.
This may not be a big problem for NIH-funded publications now; our colleagues Jennifer Marill, Kathryn Funk, and Jerry Sheehan from the National Library of Medicine note that more than 90% of the 815,000 publicly available journal articles reporting on NIH-funded research are published in MEDLINE indexed journals. Nonetheless, we do know that a problem exists – there are articles reporting NIH-funded research appearing in journals that engage in questionable practices. Ensuring the credibility of NIH funded research is important to maintaining public trust in research.
NIH has taken—and continues to take—many steps to ensure the credibility of the research it supports. From enhancing rigor and reproducibility, to encouraging sharing of data and protocols, to promoting pre-prints, and to requiring timely registration and reporting of clinical trial results, NIH establishes policies to make our funded research as credible, transparent, rigorous, and full of impact as possible.
But what can we do?
Simply put, publish where you cite. If you are not familiar with a particular journal, then consider speaking with your local academic librarian as well as consulting resources from the publishing community (e.g. Think Check Submit) and the federal government (e.g. Federal Trade Commission).
In addition, there are other ways you can enhance the credibility of your research and publications, including: using rigorous practices, such as authenticating cell lines; clearly documenting methodology so others can replicate your work; sharing data; preregistering protocols; and issuing preprints to collect community feedback prior to publication.
All in all, to help convey the credibility of your work, be careful where you publish. We hope that our community publishes only in journals that do what they say they will do. If the rigor of your work is clearly conveyed in writing, and published in journals that maintain high quality standards, then your work will be viewed with respect. By taking these approaches, we can continue ensuring the credibility and trustworthiness of the biomedical and behavioral research findings resulting from public support.