Cases

All the cases COPE has discussed since its inception in 1997 have been entered into a searchable database. This database now contains over 400 cases together with the advice given by COPE. For more recent cases, the database also includes follow-up information about outcome. We hope this database will provide a valuable resource for editors and those researching publication ethics.

You can search by keyword using either the search field top left or by filtering your inquiry using the years and keywords listed in the word cloud below.

We encourage members to look at the database before submitting a case to the Forum to see if similar cases have already been discussed and to see the format used for presenting cases. However, please note that advice from the COPE Forum meetings is specific to the particular case under consideration and may not necessarily be applicable to similar cases either past or future.

The keywords have been assigned to help users search the database. They do not necessarily indicate that a particular form of publication misconduct has occurred. Therefore the keywords should not be regarded as an indication of how often particular types of publication problems occur or a judgment on a specific case.

COPE accepts no liability for any loss or damage caused or occasioned as a result of advice given by them or by any COPE member. Advice given by COPE and its members is not given for the purposes of court proceedings within any jurisdiction and may not be cited or relied upon for this purpose.

All cases must be submitted via the website. To submit a case, you need to login to the COPE website with your COPE member username and password. Then go to SUBMIT A CASE. If you experience any problems please contact the COPE Administrator.

author mistakes

When journals publish notices to correct errors made by authors in published works (i.e. corrigenda)

authorship

When a case involves any issues to do generally with authorship

changes in authorship

When changes to the author list are requested at a late stage in the publication process (i.e. after submission to a journal or after publication)

consent for publication

When authors fail to obtain explicit consent to publish an individual’s personal details (e.g. for case histories)

copyright breaches

When copyright material is reproduced without permission

data fabrication

Making up research findings

data manipulation/falsification

Manipulating research data with the intention of giving a false impression. This includes manipulating images (e.g. micrographs, gels, radiological images), removing outliers or ‘inconvenient’ results, changing data points, etc...

data ownership

When ownership of, access to, or rights to publish or to published research data are disputed

disputed authorship

When those involved with a research project or publication cannot agree on how the authorship should be represented (e.g. who should be listed and the order of listing)

editorial decisions

When there are concerns that editorial decisions are being made in an unethical way (e.g. Editors’ conflicts of interests are not being handled properly or if decisions appear to be unduly influenced by commercial considerations)

editorial independence

Restrictions of editorial freedom (e.g. when a journal’s owner or publisher attempts to exert inappropriate influence over editorial decisions)

editorial misconduct

Where an editor or journal has acted in a way that contravenes the COPE Code of Conduct for Editors

ghost authorship

When somebody who deserves to be listed as an author or contributor on a publication is omitted

gift authorship

When somebody who has made little or no contribution to a research project or publication is included as an author

impact factors

When Editors or publishers attempt to manipulate their journal’s impact factor

journal mistakes

When journals publish notices (errata) to correct problems introduced by the editing process (e.g. typographic errors, omissions, misplaced text, incorrectly labelled figures)

lack of ethical review/approval

Carrying out experimental research that has not been approved by an appropriate ethical review body (such as a Research Ethics Committee or Institutional Review Board) despite such approval being required

NB: Some types of data collection, such as routine audit, which may result in publication, do not require ethical review. Lack of review/approval does not necessarily indicate that the research was unethical but simply that the appropriate safeguards/approval processes have not been applied. See also guidelines of differences between research and audit

multiple submissions

When a manuscript (or substantial sections from a manuscript) is submitted to a journal when it is already under consideration by another journal

overlapping publications

For research reports: when two (or more) articles report the same analysis of the same data set, or contain relatively small amounts of new data or alternative analyses compared with the original publication, particularly when this is done in such a way that reviewers/readers are unlikely to realise that some of the findings have been published before

For reviews and editorials: when two (or more) review articles or editorials include material that has been published elsewhere by the author(s)

participant confidentiality

Failing to respect the right of individuals to have their personal data treated in confidence; failing to obtain explicit consent from individuals to publish personal information obtained in the course of research or treatment

participant consent

Failing to obtain fully informed consent from individuals taking part in research or conducting experiments in circumstances in which voluntary participation (and freedom to withdraw from a study without fear of the consequences) cannot be ensured

peer-review process

Concerns that a journal's peer-review process is inappropriate (e.g. because it creates conflicts of interest, is unfair, introduces bias or is unethical)

plagiarism

When somebody presents the work of others (data, words or theories) as if they were his/her own and without proper acknowledgment

protection of subjects (animals)

Failing to minimise suffering and adhere to recommended standards for the care of laboratory (or other research) animals

protection of subjects (human)

Failing to protect research participants (patients, volunteers or others) from potential hazards of taking part in research

redundant publication

When a published work (or substantial sections from a published work) is/are published more than once (in the same or another language) without adequate acknowledgment of the source/cross-referencing/justification,
or
When the same (or substantially overlapping) data is presented in more than one publication without adequate cross-referencing/justification, particularly when this is done in such a way that reviewers/readers are unlikely to realise that most or all the findings have been published before

relation to society/owner

Concerns about an Editor’s relation to the journal’s owner or parent organisation (e.g. lack of editorial independence, undue interference from parent society, editor contracts or incentive schemes that create conflicts of interest)

research ethics investigations

Concerns about processes for ethical review of research (e.g. lack of independent review body or inadequate procedures)

retractions

Concerns arising from requests to retract published articles (i.e. for a journal to publish a notice of retraction), Editors’ decisions to retract articles or the process of retraction

reviewer misconduct

When reviewers: fail to treat submissions in confidence use information for their own benefit from a submission they have been asked to review (e.g. reporting data as if it were their own, plagiarising text, stealing data or ideas and using them in grant applications) try to delay publications from rivals/competitors submit a biased review or inappropriate recommendations in the hope of preventing or delaying publication by a rival fail to declare competing interests.

role of publisher

When a journal publisher attempts to exert undue influence over editorial decisions

role of sponsor

When there is any question over the role of a funder in a publication, including when the involvement of a funder in any part of the research or publication (e.g. study design, data collection, analysis, reporting) is inadequately disclosed

sanctions for misconduct

When journal editors, publishers or learned societies impose sanctions on authors who have committed publication or research misconduct (e.g. by banning individuals from publishing in their journals)

selective reporting

When unfavourable or inconvenient end-points (e.g. outcomes that fail to reach statistical significance or do not favour a particular product or hypothesis) are deliberately omitted from publications reporting research

undeclared CoI (authors)

When authors fail to declare all conflicts of interest relevant to their publication (i.e. relationships, both financial and personal, that might affect the conduct or interpretation of their work and about which editors or readers might wish to be made aware)

undeclared CoI (editors)

When editors (or other members of a journal’s staff or editorial board) fail to declare conflicts of interest relevant to the editorial processes of their journal (i.e. relationships, both financial and personal, that might introduce bias or prevent objectivity)

Or

When journals fail to adopt appropriate systems for ensuring that people with relevant competing interests (whether declared or not) are not involved in editorial decisions (e.g. systems to prevent editors from considering their own work or that of close colleagues or family members)

undeclared CoI (reviewers)

When reviewers fail to declare all conflicts of interest relevant to the submission being considered (i.e. relationships, both financial and personal, that might prevent an unbiased and objective evaluation of the work)

undeclared financial support for publication

When sources of support for a research project or publication are not declared (e.g. failing to disclose funding for research or for publication such as assistance from a professional writer or payment to an author)

unethical research

Experiments that contravene ethical norms, such as the protection of research participants, the treatment of research animals, patient confidentiality, consent to take part or withdraw from a study or informing participants about the nature of the research

unethical treatments

Administering questionable healthcare procedures (e.g. failing to inform patients of the potential risks of treatment, that a treatment is experimental / unapproved or that they are involved in an experiment)

whistleblowers

Individuals who make allegations about research or publication misconduct and the handling of these individuals