Addressing Doubtful Ethical Issues in Manuscripts
Typically, ethical issues are identified by a peer reviewer (though in some cases, the editor may discover such issues) and reported to the editor. Upon receiving the report, the editor should:
Thank the peer reviewer and request a thorough examination of the manuscript.
Once the detailed review is received, contact the author and ask for clarification on the ethical issue.
At this point, there can be two possible responses from the author:
Author provides a reasonable and logical explanation:
The editor should apologize for any inconvenience and inform the peer reviewer about the resolution, requesting that the review process be resumed.
Author gives an unacceptable or vague response, or remains silent:
The editor should notify the author that the review process will be put on hold until a satisfactory response is provided.
Copies of this notice should also be sent to the senior authority of the author's institution or the head of their research department.
If a satisfactory response is received, the editor should conclude the matter and inform the peer reviewer, requesting that the review process resume.
If no response or an inadequate response is obtained, the editor should follow up with the author's institution regularly (every 2-4 months) until a final decision is reached. Meanwhile, the peer reviewer should be instructed to keep the review process on hold.