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Editorial policies and practices

Revised July 18, 2012

The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) is published by the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI). The Editor is elected by the ASCI membership. The Editor appoints the Editorial Board, which meets weekly to consider manuscript decisions and general editorial policies. The Board establishes the policies and practices of the JCI with the advice of the ASCI Council; however, the JCI Editorial Board is exclusively responsible for all JCI content. Consulting Editors and other scientists with appropriate interests and expertise aid the Board. A listing of all Editors can be found here: Editorial Board

Scope of publication. Apart from general quality and scientific rigor, important criteria for acceptance are originality and interest to the JCI’s broad readership. Thus, articles that are otherwise scientifically sound may be rejected because they are felt to lack novelty and/or breadth of appeal. Manuscripts that fall into the following categories are unlikely to be accepted unless there are exceptional reasons:

  1. Simple descriptive and observational studies with no specific question and no substantial discovery
  2. Reports of new reagents (including genetically modified mice), clones, or antibodies without characterization and/or application to specific questions
  3. Single case reports, unless they provide thoroughly documented and important mechanistic insights or illuminate a novel principle
  4. Findings that are repetitive of previously published information and provide no further mechanistic insight
  5. Development or use of a new drug closely related to a previously described one with no remarkably different features or advantages
  6. Genetic linkage analysis or association studies related to complex disorders, or those detailing genetic abnormality or polymorphic variation in a sequence of a gene with previously well-characterized mutations and no major biological insights arising from the study
  7. Work in knockout mice that duplicates already established principles

Types of articles. Please see the descriptions of the allowed manuscript types.

Rules of submission. Manuscripts may be submitted from any country and must be in clear, concise English. All submissions should report original research that has not been published or submitted for publication elsewhere (see section on Prior publication below). The format should follow the most recent instructions to authors. All listed authors should have seen and approved the final version of the manuscript. All personal communications and unpublished observations cited in the text must be accompanied by a letter from the source approving use of the information. All in-press or submitted works that are pertinent to the manuscript under consideration by the journal must accompany the submission.

Prior publication. The JCI considers the following to be prior publication and therefore unacceptable:

  1. any printed material describing the findings, methods, or results of a submitted/in-press manuscript in excess of 400 words
  2. any published tables or illustrations that in any way duplicate the content of another manuscript
  3. any posters shown other than at a professional meeting and leaflets distributed other than to a professional audience
  4. videotapes of professional meetings distributed to the public or the press describing data included in a manuscript submitted for publication or in press
  5. any interview given to members of the scientific or lay press describing data included in a manuscript submitted for publication or in press

Review of manuscripts. The Science Editors assign manuscripts to appropriate Associate Editors. Papers may be rejected without external review if the Associate Editor, together with a Science Editor or the Editor-in Chief, determine that the study does not significantly advance the field or the subject material is inappropriate for the JCI’s readership. When papers are sent for external review, the choice of reviewers is made by the Associate Editor and may include reviewers suggested by the authors. Requests by authors to exclude a specific potential reviewer will be honored to the greatest extent possible if a compelling reason is provided. At least two, and generally three, expert referees are asked to review the manuscript in a timely manner and to assign a priority based on content, originality, quality, relevance, and interest. Authors are informed of the final decision by e-mail, with applicable comments from reviewers and Editors included.

Confidentiality. The peer-review process rests on the assumption that an assigned reviewer will treat all manuscripts as privileged information. A reviewer may request advice from another party, subject to the general principle of confidentiality and notification of the JCI.

Revisions, rejections, and rebuttals. Manuscripts may be accepted with no changes, provisionally accepted pending minor revisions, or rejected. For a rejected manuscript, if the reviewers and the Board believe that the paper, if appropriately revised, will merit a high enough priority to be published in the JCI, the authors are invited to submit a revision. All revised manuscripts are carefully reexamined. While acceptance cannot be guaranteed, the Board will make every effort to ensure that revised manuscripts are accepted presuming that the authors are able to address all reviewer criticisms and that no new studies published in the interim have compromised the paper’s novelty. If the authors of a rejected manuscript believe that a serious scientific error occurred during the review process, they may send a rebuttal explaining why the Board should reconsider the decision (see Contacting the JCI below). While few rebuttals are successful in reversing the original decision, they are taken seriously, and their handling can take several weeks; we receive a large number of manuscripts each week to which we must give first priority. Final decisions regarding all rebuttals are made after discussion at the Board meeting.

If authors of rejected manuscripts are subsequently able to make new advances that go far beyond the original submission, they may consider submitting a substantially revised manuscript for de novo review. The authors should refer to the prior version in their cover letter, particularly to indicate how the present version differs. The Editors will make a determination of whether the work is substantially advanced beyond the original submission. Note that de novo submissions are considered as new papers and may be sent to the same or independent referees.

Contacting the JCI. Questions regarding manuscript handling and status should be addressed to To avoid the possibility of misinterpretation and/or errors in communication, information will be given only to the corresponding author and will not provide extensive details (e.g., exact status of review, the name of the handling Editor, or a predicted time to final decision).

Questions concerning editorial policies or decisions should be addressed to the Science Editors at Other members of the Editorial Board do not take calls or written inquiries from authors concerning decisions or other editorial matters. In general, responses are sent after evaluation of the written material and subsequent discussion by the Editorial Board.

Authors may submit inquiries to the JCI regarding manuscripts of potential suitability (see general guidelines). Inquiries must include the manuscript abstract and a statement detailing the reasons why the manuscript might be of interest to the journal’s readership. Decisions on such inquiries are not a substitute for peer review but are intended to provide informal guidance to authors in determining where to submit their research for full peer review.

Legal status of submitted manuscripts. By submitting a manuscript to the JCI, the authors agree to subject it to the confidential peer-review process outlined above. However, all manuscripts remain the property of the submitting author(s) unless a decision to accept the manuscript is made and the authors officially assign copyright to the ASCI.

Embargo policy. The Board recognizes the some authors may wish to publicize their work in the lay press. The journal also stands to benefit from such publicity if it is appropriate and accurate. An embargo date and time is established for each article to be published in the JCI, and violation of the embargo by authors is considered grounds for withdrawal of the manuscript from publication and/or other measures that the Editors may choose to take. Any specific questions about the JCI embargo policy should be addressed to the Science Editors.

Scientific integrity. In general, the JCI adheres to guidelines established by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. For further information, refer to the Office’s website at

Duplicate publication and scientific fraud are rare events that have a very serious impact on the integrity of the scientific community. If the Board discovers or is presented with evidence of such problems, the Board will contact the appropriate official(s) at the institution(s) from which the manuscript originated. It is then left to the institution(s) in question to pursue the matter appropriately. Depending upon the circumstances, the journal may choose to publish errata, corrigenda or expressions of concern, or to retract the manuscript in its entirety. If we detect any manipulation of images or figures prior to publication, we will automatically request all primary data for all figures for verification purposes.

When a member of the scientific community disagrees strongly with the methodology and/or conclusions of an article the JCI has published, but does not allege fraud, the JCI encourages the concerned individual to contact the authors of the article directly or to allow the natural corrective mechanisms of science to settle the issue with time.

Conflicts of interest. A detailed conflict of interest policy is available here: Conflict of interest policy

In brief:

  • Conflicts for authors. All authors are expected to disclose financial relationships, consultancies, stock or equity interests, patent-licensing arrangements, or any other interest of a financial nature, whether or not directly related to the subject material of the study, since it could undermine the objectivity, integrity, or perceived value of the publication.
  • Conflicts for referees. Referees should exclude themselves in cases where there is a significant conflict of interest, financial or otherwise. The Board asks that referees disclose any potential conflicts that might be perceived as relevant, and the Board will determine whether to proceed.
  • Conflicts for Editors. All Editors have declared their conflicts to the Editor in Chief. The Editor in Chief handles any manuscripts arising from these institutions in a confidential manner so that no untoward conflicts influence a manuscript’s acceptance.
  • Internal submissions. Like all other members of the biomedical research community, scientists at Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke-NUS, and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute are encouraged to submit suitable manuscripts to the JCI. To avoid conflicts of interest, the assessment of manuscripts with any authors from these institutions will not be conducted by members of the Editorial Board but rather by external editors and reviewers selected by the Science Editors and outside advisors.

In the final analysis, the peer-review process has its inherent flaws and, in the eyes of an author, the outcome of the review process may not always be equitable. However, in the absence of a better system, expert refereeing by peers remains a tried-and-true method for the scientific community to maintain its standards of excellence. The Editors are committed to promoting the quality and fairness of this process in every way possible, as well as enhancing its speed and efficiency. The Board remains open to suggestions from the scientific community on ways to improve this process and to sustain the excellence of the JCI.

Howard A. Rockman, M.D.
for the Editorial Board