Please contact our Operations Manager, Natalie Ridgeway, or our Administrator, Linda Gough, for any queries about COPE.
Please note that COPE’s primary role is to provide advice to its member editors and publishers. We hope non-members will find the resources available on this website helpful. COPE cannot offer advice on specific cases to non-members unless they are bringing a complaint against a COPE member related to the Code of Conduct. See our FAQs for more information and guidance on whether your query can be answered by COPE.
Terms and conditions
The following outlines the parameters within which COPE can consider a complaint against a journal member.
These guidelines have been produced to help our members, authors and readers understand what COPE can, and can't, take into consideration on receipt of a complaint.
It is important that submitted complaints are specific and relate to the COPE Code of Conduct for Journal Editors. Journals who are members of COPE have agreed to abide by the Code as a condition of their membership. The Code of Conduct for Journal Editors is designed to provide a set of minimum standards to which all COPE members are expected to adhere.
Complaints can be submitted to COPE based on the following criteria:
- The journal must be a member of COPE and to have been a member at the time the alleged offence occurred.
- The complaint must relate to the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors.
- The complaint must relate to actions taken after 1 January 2005 when the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors was implemented.
- The complaint has been through the journal and publisher’s own complaints procedure. The complainant must provide COPE with the correspondence from the journal and publisher.
- The complainant must show which specific aspect(s) of the Code have not been adhered to and these must be listed.
- The complaint must be submitted to COPE using the complaint form with a CONCISE summary of the specific complaint.
COPE cannot review a complaint based on the following criteria
- COPE cannot investigate the underlying allegations of a complaint. COPE can only determine whether the journal has followed the COPE Code of Conduct for Journal Editors.
- COPE does not make any judgement on specific editorial decisions. COPE can only determine whether the journal has followed due process.
- COPE does not get involved in authorship disputes; these must be dealt with at the institutional level (see our guidelines on cooperation between research institutions and journals: http://publicationethics.org/files/Research_institutions_guidelines.pdf)
- COPE cannot investigate non-specific complaints about journals or publishers.
- COPE cannot review a complaint if it has been the subject of legal action or if legal action is being or is about to be taken.
- If a complaint falls outside COPE’s remit, the complainant may try other organisations (eg, Press Complaints Commission, World Association of Medical Editors (WAME)).
Outcome of a complaint
COPE will provide a report to the complainant and the journal summarising its conclusions based on evidence received by the complainant, the journal and/or the publisher. These conclusions may include a number of recommendations for the journal to implement. An anonymous version of the report may be published on our website if there are no legal concerns, as established by COPE.
COPE endeavours to report on all complaints within six months but, as COPE Council is run by a volunteer board of COPE officers and council members, as well as some cases being very complex, on occasions this deadline may not always be met.
If a complainant is unsatisfied with COPE’s report it can be referred to the COPE Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson adjudicates in the following circumstances:
- 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.
To submit a complaint to COPE
Please tick the boxes below to confirm that you have read the complaint guidelines above and that your complaint falls within COPE’s remit, and that you have read the complaint flowchart on "How COPE handles complaints against member journals" and understand how COPE will review your complaint. You will then be able to complete the complaints form.