Ethical Standards for Publication of Aeronautics and Astronautics Research
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) serves the engineering and scientific aerospace communities and society at large in several ways, including the publication of journals that present the results of original scientific and engineering research. It also publishes books that synthesize the results of scientific and engineering research, educate the next generation of aerospace scientists and engineers, and document aerospace industry developments, history, and trends. As a publisher, AIAA has the responsibility to protect those who contribute their original work to the Institute, as well as those who use AIAA publications to further their own understanding or research. As a publisher of peer-reviewed scientific, scholarly content, AIAA sets and maintains a high ethical standard for its books and journals. One way it does this is by developing and communicating standards of ethical behavior for editors, reviewers, and authors.
The term Editor when used alone, applies to Editor-in-Chief, Deputy Editor, Associate Editor, or Special Issue Editor. The Editor has the responsibility for the technical quality, operating procedures, and the ethical standards of their journal or book series.
The term Author refers to all contributing authors of the manuscript under consideration.
2.1. Obligations of Editors
- The Editor-in-Chief has the responsibility to maintain and, if necessary, improve the ethical standards for reviewing, processing and publishing accepted material. The Editor-in-Chief can delegate this responsibility to an Associate Editor, a Deputy Editor or Special Issue Editor. The Editor-in-Chief can request that the AIAA Publication Ethical Standards Subcommittee investigate and make recommendations to the Chair of the AIAA Publications Committee concerning questionable ethical conduct of an Editor, author, or reviewer.
- The Editor will give unbiased and impartial consideration to all manuscripts offered for publication, judging each on its scientific and engineering merits without regard to race, gender, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, age, or political philosophy of the author(s).
- The Editor must process all manuscripts promptly, regardless of the Editor’s personal perspective of the author or the manuscript.
- The Editor will not disclose any information about a manuscript under consideration or its disposition to anyone other than those from whom professional advice is sought. The names of reviewers will not be disclosed, even in indirect communication, without the reviewers’ permission.
- The Editor must avoid situations of real or perceived conflicts of interest either with them personally or with their employer. If an Editor chooses to publish in an ongoing scientific debate within their journal or book series, the Editor must arrange for some other qualified, independent Editor to take editorial responsibility for publishing the debate.
- The Editor will not use his/her access and knowledge of submitted manuscripts in their own research or in any of their professional or personal activities.
- If an Editor is presented with convincing evidence that the main substance or conclusions of a paper published in the journal are erroneous or fraudulent, the Editor will address the issue. Two examples how an issue may be addressed are (a) use of Crossmark software using a Digital Object Identifier for notification of Erratum, Retraction, Withdrawal, etc.; and (b) facilitate publication of an appropriate paper or technical comment pointing out the error and, if possible, correcting it.
2.2. Obligations of Authors
Because plagiarism is the most common violation of publication ethics by authors, it is defined and discussed here. Plagiarism is defined as an author using or appearing to claim the ideas, concepts, writings, or material from another author and presenting them as their own work. Plagiarism is an act of theft as well as fraud. Plagiarism is unacceptable and is considered a serious breach of professional conduct, with potentially severe ethical, professional, and legal consequences. Plagiarism includes, for example, failure to provide a citation in the immediate context to previously published work, thereby creating the implication that the work is original.
A specific type of plagiarism is referred to as self-plagiarism, literary recycling, or text recycling. Self-plagiarism is defined as the use of the authors’ previous work without proper citation in the immediate context of its reuse. Extensive reuse of the authors’ previous work, or duplication from a previous publication, undercuts the perceived originality of the new work and is considered ethical misconduct. Self-plagiarism is an act of fraud or deceit, as opposed to an act of theft. The threshold for plagiarism and self-plagiarism is more sensitive in research journal publications, as opposed to book publications.
The AIAA regularly uses software to aid in the detection of plagiarism and self-plagiarism when a manuscript is submitted for publication.
- The author should present a concise, accurate account of the research, development, or application performed, as well as an objective discussion of its significance.
- The author should clarify how the work relates to the present state of knowledge and what is an extension to the state of knowledge. The author should cite those publications that have been influential in the reported work and that establish precedence or originating concepts, theories, or techniques that are used in the present work.
- The author should present sufficiently detailed information about the reported work such that the author’s peers could repeat the work.
- Information obtained privately, as in conversation, correspondence, or discussions, cannot be used or reported in the author’s work without explicit permission from the investigator with whom the information originated and with appropriate citation. Information obtained in the course of confidential services, such as refereeing manuscripts, reviewing proposals, or professional consulting cannot be used without explicit permission from the source of the information.
- Fragmentation of research publications should be avoided. Authors should organize publication so that each publication gives a complete account of a particular aspect of the general study.
- In certain situations, an accurate, nontrivial criticism of the content or results of published work is justified. However, in no case is personal criticism appropriate or acceptable. Criticism must be expressed in a professional, polite, and respectful manner.
- Persons who have significantly contributed to the reported work must be listed as co-authors. All co-authors attest to the fact that any others named as co-authors have seen the final version of the paper and have agreed to its submission for publication. Deceased persons who meet the criterion for co-authorship should be included, with a footnote reporting date of death.
- It is inappropriate and professionally unethical to submit manuscripts with obvious marketing character, whether it is regarding a product or organization.
- The author is responsible to obtain any required government, company reviews, or security clearances for submission. Furthermore, the author is responsible to obtain any reprinting or copyright permissions for the submission.
- In any response to reviewer criticism, the author will express any disagreements or rebuttals in a professional, polite, and respectful manner. Intimidating or insulting language is not acceptable. The author will not refer to their professional titles or status in the scientific community as a means of defending their work; only technical and logical arguments are appropriate.
- The author who discovers a significant error or significantly incorrect conclusions in their work, subsequent to publication of their work, should submit errata or a retraction as appropriate. The correction to the published work should be sent to the Editor of the publication.
2.3. Obligations of Reviewers of Manuscripts
- Every engineer and scientist who publishes work has an obligation to do a fair share of reviewing. On average, an author should expect to review twice as many papers as an author writes.
- A reviewer who feels inadequately qualified or lacks the time to judge the reported work should return it promptly to the Editor.
- A reviewer should judge the quality of the manuscript objectively and respect the intellectual independence of the author(s). In no case is personal criticism appropriate. Reviewers will write their critique in a professional, polite, and respectful manner. Reviewers will not refer to their professional titles or status in the scientific community as a means of criticizing an article. Only technical and logical arguments are appropriate.
- A reviewer must consider if real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest exist regarding work they are asked to review. If in doubt, the reviewer should return the manuscript promptly without review, advising the Editor of the real or perceived conflict of interest or bias. Conflicts of interest or bias include financial interests in conflict with submitted work, funding proposals in competition with submitted work, intense professional or personal competition with any of the authors or their organization, rivalry to publish similar work first, or anything that might hinder a reviewer’s objectivity.
- A reviewer should not evaluate a manuscript authored or co-authored by a person with whom the reviewer has a personal or professional connection if the relationship would in any way bias their judgment of the manuscript.
- A reviewer should treat a manuscript sent for review as a confidential document. Its contents, as well as their reviewer recommendations or recommendations of other reviewers, should neither be shown to nor discussed with others outside of the review process.
- A reviewer should explain and support judgments adequately so that the Editor and the author understands the basis of the comments. Any reviewer statement that a concept, observation, derivation, or results have been previously reported, should be accompanied by the relevant citation to the previously published work.
- A reviewer should be alert to the failure of the author to cite relevant work or the failure to properly explain how the work goes beyond previous work. A reviewer should call attention to the Editor any substantial similarity between the manuscript under consideration, any published work, or any manuscript submitted concurrently to another journal.
- A reviewer should not use or disclose information, arguments, or results contained in a manuscript under consideration, until after the manuscript has been published.
3.1. Importance of Compliance
AIAA’s archival journals and books are of lasting value to the scientific and technical community, and thus their quality, credibility and reputation must be carefully and continually safeguarded. Violations of publication ethical standards are generally classified as plagiarism and other forms of ethical misconduct. Since plagiarism and self-plagiarism were discussed earlier in Section 2.2, these violations will not be discussed here.
3.2. Other Ethical Violations
Examples of other types of ethical violations include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Listing authors who did not significantly contribute to the work, omitting those who did contribute, and providing false contact or organizational information.
- Failing to correctly state company or government clearance information.
- Failing to correctly state the copyright status of any part of the submission.
- Failing to correctly state the funding source for the work.
- Submitting the current or a closely related work to another publisher while it is under consideration or review by AIAA; referred to as multiple submissions.
- Failing to provide, at the time of submittal, the AIAA related publication/presentation history of the current work.
- Other violations, including but not limited to improper referencing or failure to cite closely related previous work.
- Unprofessional, disrespectful, or abusive communications by the author with anyone involved in the submission process, e.g., the Editor, reviewers, or AIAA staff.
3.3. Sanctions for Ethical Misconduct
Depending on the seriousness of plagiarism, self-plagiarism, or other ethical misconduct, the following sanctions may be applied to an author (note that author refers to all co-authors of a manuscript):
- All current submissions to AIAA journals or book series by the author may be withdrawn from further consideration.
- If unethical conduct is discovered after a manuscript has been published by AIAA, an official notice of unethical conduct may be sent to the Crossref, Inc. This notice would be publicly available to a reader who selects the Check for updates link using the Crossmark software that appears on the first page of every AIAA publication.
- A limited or permanent ban from publication in AIAA journals and books may be imposed on the author.
- If more severe sanctions are warranted, then the Publications Committee can request that the AIAA Ethics Committee further investigate the unethical conduct.
An author guilty of ethical misconduct will be noted in the journal manuscript tracking system and the book database system such that details of previous violations will be available to the Editor for any new submissions.
4.1. Editor-Led Investigations
When a manuscript is submitted for publication, whether for a journal or for a book series, the first ethics assessment deals with potentially false statements made during the submittal process. All authors attest to items such as proper authorship, copyright status, manuscript history, etc., at the time of submission. If any inconsistency or irregularity is detected, the author will be questioned concerning the matter. If the Editor determines that any of the submittal assertions to be false or erroneous, then the author may be immediately sanctioned. For journals, submittal and tracking of information occurs through ScholarOne software. For books, submittal and tracking of information is done independently.
All submitted manuscripts are then assessed for plagiarism using the Crossref software. If there is an indication of plagiarism, the Editor will investigate the matter more carefully. If the Editor determines that plagiarism has occurred, then the Editor, in consultation with the chair of the Publications Committee, may immediately sanction the author. If the Editor determines that a more detailed investigation is needed, the Editor can recommend that the Publication Ethical Standards Subcommittee (PESS) investigate the matter in detail.
4.2. PESS-Led Investigations
4.2.1. Request for an Investigation
Request for an investigation of publication ethics can be submitted to the PESS by an Editor, author, reviewer, or any other party who believes that ethical misconduct has occurred. An individual can contact any AIAA journal Editor; AIAA Book Series Editor; or AIAA Publications Staff.
All requests for investigation must be accompanied by evidence of the alleged ethical misconduct. For allegations of plagiarism, the following documentation is required: a) copies of both the original document and the alleged plagiarized document, with relevant passages highlighted; b) full publication details of both documents; c) a written description of the alleged violation; and d) copies of any and all communications the complainant may already have had with the accused author(s).
The brief description of the investigation procedures for the PESS are as follows:
- The preliminary evidence is evaluated to determine if an investigation should be initiated.
- If an investigation is initiated, the Chair of the PESS sends a letter to the accused author(s) informing them of the nature of the complaint and that the matter is being investigated. This letter requests a response from the accused, including any information that could provide a defense for their action, and an explanation of any special circumstances related to the investigation.
- If the accused responds, the PESS considers the content of that response, as well as other information that the PESS discovers as part of the investigation. The investigation may also include additional communication with the complainant. If the accused does not respond, the PESS proceeds without their input.
- After all of the relevant information is compiled, the PESS discuss all aspects of the case and the strength of all the evidence. Members of the PESS consider and discuss a wide range of perspectives, not only the perspective of the accused, but also of the complainant.
- The PESS writes a report describing all aspects of the investigation conducted. The report also includes the findings of the investigation and the recommendations for resolution of the matter. The report is sent to the Chair of the AIAA Publication Committee. Note that the Chair of the AIAA Publication Committee is not involved in any way with the investigation.
- The Chair of the AIAA Publication Committee makes the final decision on the resolution of the case. The Chair of the AIAA Publication Committee notifies the accused and the complainant how the case will be resolved. For example, it may be determined that the accused is not guilty of ethical misconduct, or if guilty, an appropriate sanction will be imposed on the accused. The Chair will also share the final decision with other Editors and/or staff that need to know the outcome of the investigation.
4.3. Appeal by the Author
The author(s) will have two weeks to submit a written appeal to the Chair of the AIAA Publication Committee. If the author(s) appeals the decision, the Chair will make one of two decisions. First, the Chair may decide not to reopen the investigation, thereby declining the appeal. Second, if the Chair decides that the case should be reopened, the Chair requests additional information from the author(s) for consideration in the case. The Chair can request that the PESS consider this new information, or the Chair may decide on the matter without further involvement of the PESS.
If the author is still not satisfied with the decision of the Chair of the AIAA Publication Committee, the author can appeal to the AIAA Ethics Committee.
The ethical standards were revised and approved by the AIAA Publications Committee in January 2022 and are endorsed by the AIAA Editors-in-Chief. These standards are adapted from those published by the American Geophysical Union and are used with their permission.