Guidelines to Publication of Geophysical Research

First adopted April 1988

Since these guidelines were first adopted by the Publications Committee with the endorsement of the Board of Journal Editors, they have been adopted by several other scientific and engineering societies and one international scientific union. AGU’s statement to a great extent was based on “Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research” of the American Chemical Society (ACS). AGU acknowledges its appreciation to ACS for granting permission to quote extensively from that work. The Guidelines were first adopted in April 1988 and were last revised in May 2006.


The American Geophysical Union serves the geophysical community and society at large in several ways, among them by publishing journals that present the results of scientific research. The editor of an AGU journal has the responsibility to maintain the AGU guidelines for reviewing and accepting papers submitted to that journal. In the main, these guidelines derive from AGU’s definition of the scope of the journal and from the community’s perception of standards of quality for scientific work and its presentation. The guidelines that follow reflect a conviction that the observance of high ethical standards is so vital to the whole scientific enterprise that a definition of those standards should be brought to the attention of all concerned.


A. Obligations of Editors of Scientific Journals

  1. An editor should give unbiased consideration to all manuscripts offered for publication, judging each on its merits without regard to race, gender, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy of the author(s).
  2. An editor should process manuscripts promptly.
  3. The editor has complete responsibility and authority to accept a submitted paper for publication or to reject it. The editor may confer with associate editors or reviewers for an evaluation to use in making this decision.
  4. The editor and the editorial staff should not disclose any information about a manuscript under consideration to anyone other than reviewers and potential reviewers. Reviews and reviewer identity can be shared with other Editors of AGU journals if the author consents to having the paper transferred. It is contrary to AGU policy for Editors to release reviews or reviewers’ identity to Editors of non-AGU journals.
  5. An editor should respect the intellectual independence of authors.
  6. Editorial responsibility and authority for any manuscript authored by an editor and submitted to the editor’s journal should be delegated to some other qualified person, such as another editor or an associate editor of that journal. Editors should avoid situations of real or perceived conflicts of interest. If an editor chooses to participate in an ongoing scientific debate within his journal, the editor should arrange for some other qualified person to take editorial responsibility.
  7. Editors should avoid situations of real or perceived conflicts of interest. Such conflicts include, but are not limited to, handling papers from present and former students, from colleagues with whom the editor has recently collaborated, and from those in the same institution.
  8. Unpublished information, arguments, or interpretations disclosed in a submitted manuscript should not be used in an editor’s own research except with the consent of the author.
  9. If an editor is presented with convincing evidence that the main substance or conclusions of a paper published in an editor’s journal are erroneous, the editor should facilitate publication of an appropriate paper pointing out the error and, if possible, correcting it.

B. Obligations of Authors

  1. An author’s central obligation is to present a concise, accurate account of the research performed as well as an objective discussion of its significance.
  2. A paper should contain sufficient detail and references to public sources of information to permit the author’s peers to repeat the work.
  3. An author should cite those publications that have been influential in determining the nature of the reported work and that will guide the reader quickly to the earlier work that is essential for understanding the present investigation. Data and software referenced in the work should be cited using repositories that practice the FAIR principles.
  4. Information obtained privately, as in conversation, correspondence, or discussion with third parties, should not be used or reported in the author’s work without explicit permission from the investigator with whom the information originated. Information obtained in the course of confidential services, such as refereeing manuscripts or grant applications, cannot be used without permission of the author of the work being used.
  5. Fragmentation of research papers should be avoided. A scientist who has done extensive work on a system or group of related systems should organize publication so that each paper gives a complete account of a particular aspect of the general study.
  6. It is unethical for an author to publish manuscripts describing essentially the same research in more than one journal of primary publication.
  7. An author should make no changes to a paper after it has been accepted. If there is a compelling reason to make changes, the author is obligated to inform the editor directly of the nature of the desired change. Only the editor has the final authority to approve any such requested changes.
  8. A criticism of a published paper may be justified; however, in no case is personal criticism considered acceptable.
  9. Only individuals who have significantly contributed to the research and preparation of the article should be listed as authors. All of these coauthors share responsibility for submitted articles. While not all coauthors may be familiar with all aspects of the research presented in their article, each should have in place an appropriate process for reviewing the accuracy of the reported results. A deceased person who met the criteria described here may be designated as an author. The corresponding author accepts the responsibility of having included as authors all persons who meet these criteria for authorship and none who do not. Other contributors who do not meet the authorship criteria should be appropriately acknowledged in the article. The corresponding author also attests that all living coauthors have seen the final version of the article, agree with the major conclusions, and have agreed to its submission for publication.

C. Obligations of Reviewers of Manuscripts

  1. Inasmuch as the reviewing of manuscripts is an essential step in the publication process, every scientist has an obligation to do a fair share of reviewing.
  2. A chosen reviewer who feels inadequately qualified or lacks the time to judge the research reported in a manuscript should return it promptly to the editor.
  3. A reviewer of a manuscript should judge objectively the quality of the manuscript and respect the intellectual independence of the authors. In no case is personal criticism appropriate.
  4. A reviewer should be sensitive even to the appearance of a conflict of interest when the manuscript under review is closely related to the reviewer’s work in progress or published. If in doubt, the reviewer should return the manuscript promptly without review, advising the editor of the conflict of interest or bias.
  5. 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 bias judgment of the manuscript.
  6. A reviewer should treat a manuscript sent for review as a confidential document. It should neither be shown to nor discussed with others except, in special cases, to persons from whom specific advice may be sought; in that event, the identities of those consulted should be disclosed to the editor.
  7. Reviewers should explain and support their judgments adequately so that editors and authors may understand the basis of their comments. Any statement that an observation, derivation, or argument had been previously reported should be accompanied by the relevant citation.
  8. A reviewer should be alert to failure of authors to cite relevant work by other scientists. A reviewer should call to the editor’s attention any substantial similarity between the manuscript under consideration and any published paper or any manuscript submitted concurrently to another journal.
  9. Reviewers should not use or disclose unpublished information, arguments, or interpretations contained in a manuscript under consideration, except with the consent of the author.

D. Obligations of Scientists Publishing Outside the Scientific Literature

  1. A scientist publishing scientific results in the popular literature should be as accurate in reporting observations and unbiased in interpreting them as when publishing in a scientific journal.
  2. The scientist should strive to keep public writing, remarks, and interviews as accurate as possible consistent with effective communication.
  3. A scientist should not proclaim a discovery to the public unless the support for it is of strength sufficient to warrant publication in the scientific literature. An account of the work and results that support a public pronouncement should be submitted as quickly as possible for publication in a scientific journal.