Home > Ethics > Statement of Ethics for LIS Editors Background

Statement of Ethics for LIS Editors Background

A Statement of Ethics for Editors of Library and Information Science Journals

July 2009
Revised September 2010


It is common for editors in a discipline to organize themselves and meet periodically to share information and consider best practices. Lacking a formal organization to promote the work of editors of library and information science (LIS) journals, in January 2008 a small group of editors of LIS journals met to discuss common concerns and identify practices that can strengthen the collective ability of the journals to serve the discipline and the professionals who create and apply that literature. Convened by the editors of two journals, Joseph Branin, editor of College & Research Libraries, and Charles Lowry, editor of portal: Libraries and the Academy, these editors and former editors gathered to discuss issues of shared concern and explore strategies for creating an opportunity for editors to convene and consider ethics and best practices. The eight attending editors represented a wide range of high impact journals in the discipline, largely, although not exclusively, association journals.

The discussion highlighted a diversity of practice and a substantial unity of concerns with regard to many issues. After considering some of the kinds of activities pursued by other disciplinary editors' groups and their own concerns, there was a strong consensus that LIS editors would benefit from an opportunity to meet and engage in frank and collegial discussions that would develop into best practice statements and simply to enrich their own roles as editors. Following a second meeting in Anaheim, California, in June 2008, several actions were initiated to advance the development of a set of statements regarding editorial ethics and best practices. A listserv was launched, lis-editors@arl.org, and a Web site for LIS Editors (http://lis-editors.org) was created for the group by the Association of Research Libraries. In addition, a small group of individuals volunteered to undertake the drafting of a statement based on an outline developed and approved during the group’s 2008 meetings.

In September 2010, at the request of the LIS Editors group, the original statement of ethics and guide to best practices was split into two separate documents. The Guide to Best Practices for Editors of Library and Information Science Journals can be found at (http://lis-editors.org).


Library and information science journals serve a diverse readership of practicing professionals, researchers, faculty instructing future professionals, and students preparing for LIS careers. While readers seek a variety of knowledge and have a wide range of interests and responsibilities, all expect that journals in the discipline adhere to high ethical standards and employ state-of-the-art editorial and publishing practices. In addition, authors submitting work for editorial and peer review similarly expect to be treated fairly, ethically, and consistently throughout the review and publishing process. They seek publications that will provide them with the best possible opportunity to reach their desired audience in the present and into the future.

While journal publishing generally follows norms that are broadly similar across fields, disciplines often develop unique characteristics or practices with regard to their journal literature over time. These may reflect the particular balance of theoretical and applied research, predominant research methodologies, specific values that may be preferenced within the discipline or a host of other factors. In the case of LIS journals, too, some characteristics of the discipline have implications for the journal literature. Practitioner research is common and generally reflects a strong service orientation. By its nature, the LIS discipline is populated with individuals with a high awareness of state-of-the-art publishing practices and technologies and, in many cases, strong opinions about publishing policies. Consequently, LIS authors are perhaps more likely than those in many other disciplines to penalize journals that are perceived as failing to provide up-to-date publishing services or that work with retrograde policies. LIS editors, therefore, need to be cognizant of evolving best practices and remain diligent in ensuring that their journals are offering authors the highest quality publishing experience from start to finish.

While editors are the main audience for this document, authors, readers, and publishers will likewise benefit from a clear and public articulation of a consensus view of ethical behavior and also reasonable and contemporary publishing practices. However, the authors hope that their work will also be useful to editorial board members and reviewers, or anyone involved in scholarly communication.

This document is a statement of ethics that describes reasonable expectations for the appropriate conduct of editors, the peer review process, and authors. The editorial committee believes that all LIS editors, and, where appropriate, authors should adhere to the ethical standards described here.

The companion piece to this statement of ethics, A Guide to Best Practices for Editors of Library and Information Science Journals, describes what the editorial committee agrees are reasonable expectations for publishing practices that are of particular concern to the editorial function. The editorial committee recognizes that the state-of-the-art in publishing practices is an evolving benchmark in the digital environment, particularly for journals transitioning from print to electronic publishing. In light of this, the best practices expressed are considered achievable in the current publishing environment, although the committee recognizes that some journals may still be in the process of implementing some of these practices. Rather than expressing a lowest common denominator of practice or describing all current LIS practices, achievable best practices consonant with the values and practices of LIS professionals and researchers are provided.

When a journal fails to conform with ethical standards and best practices appropriate to the discipline, all facets of the editorial function are affected. The editorial function includes the recruitment, selection, and production of publishable articles. With regard to the recruitment function, an editor’s effectiveness is affected by the quality of the publishing services the journal supports. Attracting the highest quality work is an inherently competitive activity, and publishers cannot reasonably expect editors to perform it successfully if they are not able to offer authors what they regard as state-of-the art publishing practices. Expeditiousness in turnaround on review, electronic availability to readers, wide dissemination, broad support for discovery, long-term access and preservation, and reasonableness in rights transfer agreements are all important to authors. Publications that cannot meet best practices within the discipline present even the best editors with real handicaps as they attempt to fulfill their responsibilities to their journals.

A journal’s reputation for equitable review practices similarly affects recruitment of manuscripts. Any lack of well-defined and consistently applied review practices also compromises the selection function. Recruitment and selection are intellectually demanding and indispensible in maximizing the quality of a journal’s content. Author communication, negotiation of various issues during the review and publishing process, and the preparation and improvement of manuscripts are integral to the editorial process. Policies consistent with disciplinary norms can help make these activities minimally demanding of the editor’s time to allow the editor to focus as much energy and attention on the activities that are entirely dependent on the editor’s unique expertise.

By adopting the ethical standards described here and working toward conformity with the best practices identified in the companion piece, an LIS journal editor will be positioned to meet the general expectations of authors and readers within the discipline, allied disciplines, fields, and related professions.

Section 1: Expectations of Editors in Executing Their Editorial Functions

Back to Index