Skip Navigation

Journal ethical guidelines and mandatory requirements

Back to main page

Journal ethical guidelines

Conflicts of interest
Patient consent
Availability of data and materials
Publishing misconduct
Image manipulation
Ghost writing or writing assistance

Mandatory requirements

Study design: ethical approval and patient consent
Clinical trial registration
Reporting guidelines (RCTs)


Rheumatology follows the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) criteria of authorship. All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship, and will be required to submit a statement confirming that they meet the authorship criteria.

The order of authorship should be a joint decision by all the co-authors. Every author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content.

Authorship credit should be based on authors fulfilling four criteria:

  • substantial contribution to conception and design, execution, or analysis and interpretation of data;
  • drafting the article or revising it critically;
  • reading and approval of the final version;
  • agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved

Acquisition of funding, collection of data, or general supervision of the research group alone does not, in themselves, constitute authorship.

All non-authors who have made substantial contributions (including writing and editing assistance) must be named in the Acknowledgements and must have given permission to be named. Changes to the authorship list are not allowed after a paper has been accepted.

Members of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) (or Data Monitoring Committee [DMC]) should be independent of the trial and not be involved in the preparation of the manuscript for publication or act as an author on the paper.

For studies involving a large multicentre group, the group should jointly make a decision about authorship by listing only those members who qualify for authorship and are willing to accept responsibility for the manuscript as authors. List the other members of the group who have contributed to the study in the Acknowledgements section including their name and town. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) indexes the group name and authors and lists the names of collaborators if listed in Acknowledgements.

The involvement of a group in the authorship list should be indicated by the connector and with the name of the group, e.g.

Eric Hachulla, Patrick Carpentier, Virginie Gressin, Elisabeth Diot, Yannick Allanore, Jean Sibilia, David Launay, Luc Mouthon, Patrick Jego, Jean Cabane, Pascal de Groote, Amélie Chabrol, Isabelle Lazareth, Loïc Guillevin, Pierre Clerson, Marc Humbert, and the ItinérAIR-Sclérodermie Study Investigators

All authors must be aware and agree to the submission of the paper to the Journal.

When the study has been carried out on behalf of a group, the connector for should be used in the authorship list, e.g.

Raashid Luqmani, Sheena Hennell, Cristina Estrach, Damian Basher, Fraser Birrell, Ailsa Bosworth, Frank Burke, Carole Callaghan, Jaime Candal-Couto, Chris Fokke, Nicola Goodson, Dawn Homer, John Jackman, Paula Jeffreson, Susan Oliver, Mike Reed, Luis Sanz, Zoe Stableford, Peter Taylor, Nick Todd, Louise Warburton, Chris Washbrook, and Mark Wilkinson for the British Society for Rheumatology and British Health Professionals in Rheumatology Standards, Guidelines and Audit Working Group

Contributors from the collaborating group(s) or investigators in the study can be listed in the appendix.

When the authorship list contains a group name but no individual names, all members of the group must qualify for authorship and the members of the group listed in the acknowledgement section (including their name and town).

Back to top of page


Rheumatology’s policy requires that every author disclose any direct or indirect financial or personal interests. All papers when submitted should contain a disclosure statement indicating any potential conflicts of interest that might constitute an embarrassment to any of the authors were it not declared and emerged after publication.

The Journal encourages authors to err on the side of full disclosure. Such conflicts might include, but are not limited to:

  • shareholding in a company,
  • receipt of a grant, or
  • consultancy fee from a company whose product features in the submitted manuscript or manufactures a competing product.

See the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) policy statement on conflicts of interest for more information of the different types of conflicts.

If no conflicts of interest are declared, then this should be stated in the article. On acceptance of a manuscript authors are also required to complete an author disclosure form.

The aim of the disclosure statement is not to discourage authors from involvement with or from receiving financial support for their scientific work from commercial sources. Rather, it is designed to maintain the scientific and professional integrity of the Journal and ensure transparency.

If conflicts of interest become known from other sources after a manuscript has been submitted or published, the Journal may investigate the allegations and appropriate action may be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Back to top of page


Informed Patient Consent

Rheumatology follows the ICMJE guidelines for reporting about patients. Patients have a right to privacy that should not be infringed without prior informed consent.

Identifying information should not be published in written descriptions, photographs and pedigrees unless the information is essential for scientific purposes and the patient (or parent or guardian) has given written informed consent for publication. Informed consent for this purpose requires that the patient be shown the manuscript to be published.

Identifying details should be omitted if they are not essential, but patient data should never be altered or falsified to attain anonymity. We understand that complete anonymity is difficult to achieve, and informed consent should be obtained if there is any doubt. For example, masking the eye region in photographs of patients is inadequate protection of anonymity.

When informed consent has been obtained, please indicate this in the published article.

Mandatory patient consent form

For publication of material that contains detailed patient information about a living individual, it is compulsory for a signed patient consent to be obtained irrespective of whether there are any photos of the patient. Only the official Rheumatology form, available for download here, will be accepted. Please ensure the manuscript reference number is included on this form.

Images of patients

For publication of pictures of patients when there is any chance the patient may be identified from the photo/image or legend, consent is required from the patient.

The Editorial Board reserves the right to reject papers for which the ethical aspects are, in the Board's opinion, open to doubt.

Back to top of page


A condition of publication in Rheumatology is that the authors agree to make materials, data and associated protocols promptly available to readers if requested. Where reagents are not available commercially, authors must make these freely available to academic researchers for their own use. If there are any restrictions on materials/data, authors must disclose this at the time of submission.

If readers encounter authors who do not comply with this policy, please contact the Managing Editor.

Back to top of page


Funding for a research project or publication should always be disclosed. Research funders should be disclosed in the funding statement. Funding for any type of publication, for example by a commercial, private, government or charity company/department should be stated within the publication under the acknowledgements section with the heading ‘Funding’.

Click here for more information on how to format your funding statement. Other sources of funding should be included in the acknowledgements section, for example funding for the Oxford Open charge, individual authors funding sources, or funding for writing or editing assistance.

Back to top of page


An article is reviewed for publication on the understanding that the work it represents has not been submitted for publication elsewhere. All authors will be required to submit a statement confirming that the manuscript represents original work that has not been published, accepted or is currently being considered for publication elsewhere except as an abstract. If you have submitted your manuscript and are awaiting a decision, please do not submit elsewhere. Duplicate submissions is a strain on reviewers and journal office resources.

If the work or an abstract of it has been previously published, for instance, in another language, then this fact should be made clear in the covering letter. Authors must declare, and submit copies of, any manuscripts in preparation or submitted elsewhere that are closely related to the manuscript to be considered. Duplicate or redundant publication is considered a serious form of misconduct and may be reported to employing institutions and funding bodies, or lead to a public notice in the Journal.

Plagiarism of other people’s words/ideas is a serious scientific misconduct. Plagiarism is the unauthorized use of others published or unpublished words or ideas and presenting them as your own original work. Such work includes abstracts, research grant applications, ethics committee applications, or unpublished or published manuscripts in any publication format (print or electronic).

Salami publications (papers that have overlapping data with another paper by the same authors) are discouraged.

The Editor may request raw data, copies of relevant correspondence (e.g. ethical approval) or an explanation from the authors if they have concerns about a manuscript.

Rheumatology is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and is committed to the highest ethical standards in journal publishing. The Editor may refer cases of misconduct to COPE for advice. All identifying information is removed before a case is sent to COPE.

Rheumatology takes publication ethics very seriously. If misconduct is found or suspected after the manuscript is published, the journal will investigate the matter and this may result in the article subsequently being retracted.

Back to top of page


Rheumatology does not allow certain electronic enhancements or manipulations of micrographs, gels, or other digital images.

Figures assembled from multiple photographs or images must indicate the separate parts with the lines between them.

Linear adjustment of contrast, brightness, or colour must be applied to an entire image or plate equally and are allowed as long as they do not obscure, eliminate or misrepresent any information present in the original.

Nonlinear adjustments must be specified in the figure legend. Selective enhancements or alterations of one part of an image are not acceptable.

When suspicions are raised regarding the authenticity of an image it is the Journal’s policy to investigate. Rheumatology may ask authors to provide additional documentation of their primary data and/or for copies of the original figures.

Back to top of page


Ghost writing is when someone has made a substantial contribution to the research, writing or editing of a manuscript and this role is not mentioned in the paper. Such writers are contributors to the manuscript and if they are not included in the authorship list their involvement, affiliations and any funding that was provided for their assistance should be included in the acknowledgement section of the paper.

Back to top of page


All submitted manuscripts are treated as confidential documents. They may be reviewed by the Editors, Editorial Office staff and assigned peer reviewers unless otherwise permitted by the authors. By accepting to review a manuscript, referees agree to treat the material as confidential.

Back to top of page


All manuscripts in which experiments on patients or healthy volunteers, patients' case histories or use of genetic material are reported should contain a statement that:

  • the subjects' written consent was obtained according to the Declaration of Helsinki (updated 2008), and
  • the study has been approved by a local ethics committee/institutional review board or that it conforms to standards currently applied in the country of origin; the name of the authorizing body should be stated in the paper.

All manuscripts in which experiments on animals are reported should include a statement that the experiments were conducted with full compliance with local, national, ethical, and regulatory principles and local licensing regulations. The name of the authorizing body should be stated in the paper.

The Editorial Board reserves the right to reject papers for which the ethical aspects are, in the Board's opinion, open to doubt.

Back to top of page


Rheumatology requires the registration of all clinical trials in line with the ICMJE and WHO declarations. From 1 January 2009, all prospective, interventional studies whether begun before or after that date must be registered with either a WHO primary registry or an approved ICMJE registry before the onset of enrolment of patients to be considered for publication. Trials beginning after 1 January 2009 must be registered before recruitment of the first patient. Rheumatology will accept retrospective registration (i.e., registration after patient enrolment begins) of trials that began before 1 January 2009.

For submission of a randomized controlled trial, please provide the registration number of the trial and the name of the trial registry in the last line of the paper’s structured abstract. Click here for more information on how to format the registration. You may also like to read the published editorial for more information about the Journal’s policy on clinical trial registration.

For further information, see Statement from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform.

Back to top of page


To ensure the highest quality of research reporting, Rheumatology follows the EQUATOR network resource centre for good research reporting. Rheumatology strongly advises authors to follow the standard formats and guidelines provided. The EQUATOR website lists the guidelines for various studies.

1.) Randomised Controlled Trials

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) should be reported according to the standard guidelines outlined in the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement. CONSORT has developed a checklist to include when reporting such trials. See the EQUATOR website for the most recent copy of the guideline. Rheumatology also encourages authors to include the patient flow diagram. For more details click here.

2.) Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs (QUOROM)

Systematic reviews or meta-analyses of RCTs should be based on the Quality of Reporting of Meta-analyses (QUOROM) guidelines.

3.) Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE)

Meta-analysis of observational studies should be developed according to the Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) guidelines.

4.) Studies of diagnostic accuracy (STARD)

Reports of studies of diagnostic accuracy should be prepared according to the Studies of Diagnostic Accuracy (STARD) guidelines.

For further guidelines see the EQUATOR website.

Back to top of page