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Bioethics Publishing Guidelines
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Bioethics Publishing Guidelines

In 1978, a small group of editors of general medicine journals met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, to establish guidelines for manuscripts submitted to their journals. The resulting “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” was published in 1979 and has become the standard editorial policy guiding the medical literature

Until recently, there were no equivalent “best practices” for the publication of bioethics manuscripts. Using the model of the Vancouver Group, The Program in Medicine and Human Values (PMHV) at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, supported by the Greenwall Foundation, invited editors from leading international bioethics journals to meet in San Francisco in February 2007 to formulate the much-needed guidelines.

Before convening in San Francisco, participants were asked to submit the ethical issues they found most problematic in their own role as editors and the ones they would like to place on the agenda for discussion. Keeping in mind the limited time for the meeting, the issues most often mentioned by editors were placed on the agenda, while others, necessarily were postponed to subsequent meetings.

Over the course of three days, chaired by PMHV Co-Director, Dr. Albert Jonsen, the agenda topics were discussed thoroughly, with participants contributing their own experiences with the issues as well as their views on how best they should be addressed. Before adjourning, participants volunteered to submit drafts of particular topics to be circulated among the editors for suggested changes and final approval. The resulting document, presented below, will be published in participating journals.

Throughout the meeting, editors were unanimous in their enthusiasm and support for the importance of sustaining the efforts toward common goals and the collegiality established in San Francisco. Plans are underway to expand and evolve this project into a standing international committee of journal editors who will meet periodically to explore other ways in which the group could work cooperatively to improve bioethics publications. [End Page 107]



  1. 1. Authors must declare to the journal any interests they believe would materially affect a reasonable reader’s judgment about the validity of the author(s)’ claims.

  2. 2. Such declarations will normally be published by the journal with the article when it appears in either electronic or paper form.

  3. 3. Authors must declare to the journal any external funding sources supporting the work that produced the paper and must state the source(s) in an Acknowledgements section of the article.


  1. 1. For original empirical research papers or review articles regarding empirical research, the journal asks authors to adhere to the authorship criteria of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

  2. 2. For philosophical, theological, policy, historical, legal, and other theoretical types of papers, criteria for authorship will be based upon the general standards of the humanistic disciplines. Specifically, those who claim authorship should:

    1. a. Thoroughly understand the argument of the paper;

    2. b. Agree with the argument and its conclusions at least at the level of a consensus among the authors; and

    3. c. Have been substantially involved in the writing of the article, generally understood to include at least two of the following:

      1. i. Generating the idea for the paper;

      2. ii. Outlining the argument;

      3. iii. Supplying the abstract;

      4. iv. Actual writing of parts of the paper’s text;

      5. v. Substantial critiquing and editing of drafts.

  3. 3. The following are considered insufficient in themselves as criteria for authorship:

    1. a. Mentoring of a student or junior colleague who writes the paper;

    2. b. Reading and commenting upon a draft of a paper conceived and written by someone else;

    3. c. Obtaining funding to support the work;

    4. d. Functioning as the head of the academic unit in which the work was produced.


Copying text directly from the work of other authors without setting it out as quotations and providing appropriate referencing constitutes plagiarism. [End Page 108]

Bioethics Publishing Guidelines

The journals will generally follow the COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) guidelines ( http://www.publicationethics.org.uk/guidelines , accessed 28 March 2008) concerning the handling of plagiarism. This entails inter alia that if a submitted manuscript contains clear plagiarism (i.e. unattributed use of large portions of text and/or data, presented as if they were by the author), the...