COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. July 2015 (Vol. 3, Issue 7)

The month’s round up starts with news that an HIV scientist from Iowa State University is sentenced to prison and ordered to repay more than $7 million to the US National Institutes of Health. The scientist admitted he faked results in AIDS vaccine experiments, whose supposed success drew up to $20 million in extra federal grants. Hopefully this will act as a deterrent to others.

Detecting fake data is a difficult undertaking. John Carlisle gives practical advice about screening for non-random (ie, unreliable) data in randomized controlled trials submitted to journals.

An investigation by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, National Center for Scientific Research) established the existence of deliberate chart/diagram manipulations by Olivier Vionnet. This involved modifications and duplications of diagrams/charts or erroneous captions. The CNRS concludes that “Such inappropriate presentation of experimental data, however, does not amount to fabrication”. 

Concerns about fake peer reviewers continue. After a detailed investigation, Hindawi identified three editors who created fraudulent accounts.

More positive news items are about sharing data from clinical trials, publication of negative trial  results and improved incentives to ensure research integrity.

And finally, COPE is conducting a survey of its members. Watch out for the email appearing in your inbox soon.

If you have any items for COPE Digest, would like to contribute items or have other suggestions, as always, please get in touch (contact us here), and please do forward COPE Digest to your colleagues.

Every month we highlight a publication ethics case that has been brought to the COPE Forum, Ask COPE session or a query posted to COPE council by one of our members.

The ethics of self-experimentation (case # 15-03)

An author was the subject of his own study. He depleted himself of a vital nutrient until he had overt clinical and biochemical signs of the deficiency and submitted two manuscripts presenting his results. Reviewers raised concerns about the experimental model used and also concerns about the ethics of the study, particularly the lack of any oversight from an institutional research board. What criteria should editors use to determine whether such studies are acceptable?

Read the full case details, along with the discussion and advice from the Forum here:

Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing

Report from the COPE Education Committee

Version two of the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing was recently released, incorporating clarifications about how the criteria were developed and how they will be used. The 14 Principles were developed in a collaborative effort among four membership organizations: the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME). These organizations do not share information about member applications, but all use the criteria to screen and vet the journals and publishers applying for membership in any of these organizations. There is no attempt to create a “blacklist” of journals or publishers who do not meet the transparency criteria. The effort is primarily educational, to assist journals in meeting the highest standards of scholarly publishing. Another group that has adopted these principles for screening and vetting journals is the International Academy of Nurse Editors (INANE); there will likely be more groups using these helpful guidelines.

The 14 principles include clear guidelines about the following issues:
1. Peer review process
2. Governing body
3. Editorial team/contact information
4. Author fees
5. Copyright
6. Process for identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconduct
7. Ownership and management
8. Web site
9. Name of the journal
10. Conflicts of interest
11. Access
12. Revenue sources
13. Advertising
14. Publishing schedule
15. Archiving
16. Direct marketing

Scientist sentenced to 57 months in prison

HIV scientist sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to repay more than $7 million to the US National Institutes of Health. Will this be a deterrent?

Hindawi concludes an in-depth investigation into peer review fraud

Three editors were identified who appear to have subverted the peer review process by creating fraudulent reviewer accounts

Screening tool to check for non-random data in randomized controlled trials submitted to journals

Excellent paper by Carlisle et al in Anaesthesia based on the investigation of Fujii

Sharing data from clinical trials

Data sharing is in the public interest as data hoarding prevents others from using clinical trial information to inform or accelerate their own research

Disclosure of negative trial results—a call for action

As efficacy of treatments cannot be properly assessed

Top scientists call for improved incentives to ensure research integrity

Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology and other leading institutions outline what can be done to improve research integrity

Data privacy statement

From Ingentaconnect;jsessionid=4a9gv6opvtpe1.alice

Study data may have been used without permission and authorship concerns

Leads to expression of concern for MERS paper.

Olivier Vionnet: CNRS commission of inquiry establishes the existence of deliberate chart/diagram manipulations

A breach of the ethical standards applicable to the presentation of scientific results amounting to scientific misconduct.

Predatory journals

Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) warns its researches to steer clear of at least 700 predatory journals and publishers

COPE membership survey

One of COPE’s main goals in 2015 is to gain a much deeper understanding of our members’ needs so we can ensure that we are providing you with the support and guidance you need. Publication and research ethics are becoming ever complex and challenging and we want to understand from you exactly what you need from COPE during this rapidly evolving environment.

We are working with a specialist company, Spotlight Market Research, to help us with this, and you will shortly be receiving from Spotlight an invitation to complete a survey which should take no more than 10 minutes. We would be extremely grateful if you could take the time to complete the survey and give us your feedback. Your thoughts and opinions are very important to us and will feed into not only our short term objectives but also our longer term strategy. We will also ensure that we feedback to you the results of the survey with an outline from us on how we will work to implement what you tell us is important to you.

June Forum cases

The cases presented at the COPE June 2015 Forum, along with the advice given and updates on previous cases, are now on the COPE website to view.

New cases     
15-06 Authorship dispute
15-07 Ethics committee approval
15-08 Author disagreement regarding article corrections
15-09 Revoked parental consent
14-11 Possible omission of information essential for conclusions in a research paper
15-01 Institution alleges that paper includes fabricated data
15-02 Author disagreement blocks submission

Prior publication and theses: Forum discussion topic

The Forum discussion topic on 10 June was “Prior publication and theses”, which discussed what should be the best and most responsible general advice to provide to students and faculty on this question. A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found on the COPE website. COPE will convene a group to draft an initial discussion document on this issue, with the aim of providing advice and guidance to editors and publishers.