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Why did the journal contact my university for IRB approval when I have already submitted it?

Question Description: 

I have submitted my paper to an English Journal managed by a Japanese medical society. During the review process, the journal office contacted the Institutional Review Board of my university, and requested them to submit the documents for ethical review regarding my research. I have already mentioned the ethical review number on my paper and also sent a copy of the approval (written in Japanese). However, I have also told the Review Board to send all the necessary documents to the journal as requested.

I was surprised with this request and felt resentment, since this was not a requirement as per the Instruction for Authors. This journal is an English Journal Managed by a Japanese society, and recive submissions from many foreigners. I don’t think the journal always contacts the university as they did in my case, so is there a reason why they did so? Has this become common in recent times?

Answer

Generally speaking, journals would not always contact the Institutional Review Board (IRB) separately for the documents if they have already been submitted by the author. However, they might contact the university if they feel the need to, particularly if the topic is a sensitive one and they want a copy from the IRB for verification. They might also contact the university if they want some other document apart from the one you have provided or if they want the approval in a specific format which has not been provided in your document.

I don't think you should feel resentful towards the journal because of this. While this is not always the norm, such exceptional cases do occur. Moreover, since cases of academic misconduct are on the rise, journals have become more cautious. I think it is commendable that the journal is taking pains to ensure that the ethical approval is an authentic one. As long as you have not committed any misconduct, you have nothing to worry about. In fact, it shows that you have selected a good quality journal who are concerned about ethical publication.

Related reading:

  • The need for ethics approval: A case study
  • The ethical approval for my study is not ready. What should I do?
  • What to do if a manuscript gets rejected because ethical approval was not obtained?

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Why did the journal contact my university for IRB approval when I have already submitted it?

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