The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was established in 1997 by a small group of medical journal editors in the UK but now has over 9000 members worldwide from all academic fields. Membership is open to editors of academic journals and others interested in publication ethics. Several major publishers (including Elsevier, Wiley–Blackwell, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Palgrave Macmillan and Wolters Kluwer) have signed up some, if not all, of their journals as COPE members.
COPE provides advice to editors and publishers on all aspects of publication ethics and, in particular, how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct. It also provides a forum for its members to discuss individual cases. COPE does not investigate individual cases but encourages editors to ensure that cases are investigated by the appropriate authorities (usually a research institution or employer).
All COPE members are expected to follow the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors.
COPE has produced an eLearning course for new editors. Eleven modules in total, the course currently includes: An Introduction to Publication Ethics, Plagiarism, and Authorship among others. COPE also funds research on publication ethics, organises annual seminars globally and has created an audit tool for members to measure compliance with its Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors.
What guidance is available on this website (for members and non-members)?
- COPE Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors
- Flowcharts on how to handle common ethical problems
- Other COPE guidelines (eg on retractions)
- Sample letters (to adapt for use)
- Database of all cases discussed at COPE Forum (including podcasts of the discussion (where available), the advice given and the outcome of cases)
Benefits of COPE membership
COPE members can:
- receive advice on individual cases via the Forum
- access the eLearning package
- use the ethical audit tool to see how well their journals match COPE’s guidelines
- use the COPE logo in their journal
- apply for COPE research grants
- stand for election to COPE Council
How is COPE run?
COPE is registered as a charitable company limited by guarantee in the UK and was set up by a Memorandum of Association on 3 October 2007 (updated 18 March 2011). It is also a registered charity (number 1123023). COPE’s principal Objects are the promotion, for the public benefit, of ethical standards of conduct in research and ethical standards in the publication of academic journals. COPE’s income is derived exclusively from subscriptions from its members – journal editors, publishers and others affiliated with publishing. COPE submits an annual report to the Charities Commission and to Companies House.
Appointment or election of Trustees
The members of COPE Council act as the Trustees; they and the COPE officers are nominated and elected by the full COPE membership according to the procedures laid out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association and in the Regulations of COPE. COPE officers are the Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary. There are up to 14 other Council members. The biographies and conflict of interest declarations of all the council members are posted on the COPE website.
COPE Council members and officers work voluntarily, without any remuneration except for travel, accommodation and other necessary expenses incurred in undertaking COPE business, according to COPE’s expenses policy.
The COPE Ombudsperson is appointed by the full Council and works voluntarily and independently without any remuneration except for travel and accommodation expenses. The Ombudsperson adjudicates complaints brought against COPE by its members; appeals against COPE rulings or advice relating to complaints against COPE members for not following the COPE codes of conduct for editors and publishers; if two or more members cannot agree on how to handle a complaint involving both their publications. The Ombudsperson does not have any voting rights on council.
Organisational structure and decision making
Strategic management of COPE forms the principal responsibility of the elected Council and the officers. The Council members are also required to become directors of the limited company. Day-to-day operational activities are managed by COPE’s full time Operations Manager. The administration of the activities of COPE is carried out by a freelance Administrator. Managing the bank account and all financial transactions is the responsibility of the Operations Manager with oversight by the Treasurer and the finance sub-committee if needed. The COPE website is managed by a freelance Web Manager who is contracted to work for COPE. The officers meet monthly to decide on operational issues. All meetings have agendas and minutes that are circulated to the full Council. All strategic decisions (or for example expenditure over a certain amount) are decided by the full Council at the quarterly meetings, of which agendas and minutes are circulated to the full Council. Some activities are delegated to sub-committees but these are answerable to the full Council and any decisions are agreed by the full Council at the quarterly meetings.
Conflicts of interest
All council members are required to declare potential or actual conflicts of interests on a yearly basis. These declarations are posted on the COPE website. In addition, council members are required to declare potential or actual conflicts of interests at the beginning of each council meeting. These declarations are minuted and the council member must recuse themselves from discussions on any items where they have a competing interest.
COPE was established to provide a range of services and products aimed primarily, but not exclusively, at editors and publishers of academic journals and designed to provide advice and guidance on best practice for dealing with ethical issues in journal publishing. In addition, COPE has published a Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors and Publishers and expects those editors and publishers registered as Members to adhere to the Code. Other COPE resources include: flowcharts on managing ethical issues; a full archive of all cases presented at Forum; guidelines and discussion documents; an eLearning course (members only); and video, audio and PowerPoint slides of seminar presentations.
COPE has supported the UK Panel for Research Integrity (UKRIO) and the World Conferences on Research Integrity (Lisbon 2007, Singapore 2010, Montreal 2013). It also has links with the Council of Science Editors, the European Association of Science Editors, the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors and the World Association of Medical Editors. You can read more about COPE's history here.