The secure sharing of data between publishers is legally problematic due to data handling and anti-competition laws. Manuscripts submitted by researchers to journals are confidential and cannot be easily shared between journals and editors. But the center implements a series of technical procedures so that only minimal information is collected from publishers. “The center works in such a way that information can be linked and compared with each other,” says Hylke Koers, who runs STM Solutions – a subsidiary of STM that is developing the center. The information will also be encrypted for security purposes.

This collaboration between editors is crucial, says Elena Vicario, head of search integrity at open-access publisher Frontiers in Lausanne, Switzerland. “If we don’t work together, the problem can only be transferred from one journal or publisher to another,” she says.

The final technical component of the hub will be a review of available software that can detect manipulated images in manuscripts.

Editors help

Joris van Rossum, director of research integration at STM, says the organization expects to have versions of paper mill detection and duplicate submission alerts available for wider use early next year.

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The apps will support, rather than replace, editors and reviewers, says Nicola Nugent, editorial director for quality and ethics at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London, who was involved in developing the centre. Alerts will still need to be triggered by people, but some degree of automation is important because “publishers often operate at scale, building large volumes of submissions,” she says.

In addition to online tools, the STM works with the Publishing Ethics Committee, an advisory body based in Eastleigh, UK, to provide publishers with guidance and policies on how to handle integrity issues. It produces a series of workshops for editors to exchange information and learn from each other.

To date, the center has been funded through an undisclosed prior investment from STM. Over the next year, the company will seek voluntary funding from Center members and look at how to make the project financially sustainable. “It’s still too early to speculate, but we expect to offset at least some of the operating costs with fees for integrating the hub into our publishers’ editing systems,” says Van Rossum.