News & Opinion
The next COPE Forum meeting is being held on Wednesday 4 December 2013, 11am–1pm GMT. The COPE Forum will be held virtually via Webinar. Download the agenda and materials (PDF, 433kb). The invitation to join the webinar is below. We can accommodate up to 100 attendees, so please register quickly if you wish to join in the discussion.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
The website link will be open from 10.00am to enable you to test your audio settings. The Forum, however, will start promptly at 11.00am. FAQS on using the webinar can be found here: http://publicationethics.org/files/u7140/Webinar%20gudelines.pdf
Due to vacancies on Council, we are seeking nominations for two new candidates.These are voluntary positions. Council is responsible for COPE’s policy and management. Council members are expected to attend four meetings a year (at least 2 of which are in London and 2 may be attended by phone or other media). There is also an annual 1 day strategy meeting which Council Members are expected to attend. Annual seminars are held in a number of locations worldwide and it is hoped that Council Members will attend one of these. COPE has subcommittees, and Council Members will also be expected to be involved in other COPE related tasks, which are undertaken electronically. It is anticipated that the work of Council Members should amount to about 1–2 days per month, in addition to attendance at meetings.
In accordance with COPE’s constitution, the candidate, or the organisation they represent, must have been a member of COPE for at least 1 year.
Candidates for Council membership will be short-listed by council following an interview. Short-listed Ordinary Council Members shall be elected by the Full and Associate Members with voting rights or (if the candidates are unopposed) by the approval of the Council.
Further details, including a job description, can be found below.
Those who are interested should contact the COPE administrator. A candidate for Council membership should be nominated by two other current members of COPE, at least one of whom must not be employed by the same organisation as the nominee.
The closing date for applications is 6 December 2013.
COPE council member: role description
Purpose of role
• To be responsible, together with other council members, for the policy and management of the Committee on Publication Ethics.
• To be a trustee of COPE as a charity in accordance with UK legislation.
• Act as a Trustee for COPE, as a UK charity.
• Attend and take a full part in quarterly meetings of Council at least twice a year, either in person or by webinar.
• Attend and contribute to quarterly Forum meetings (Council and Forum meetings are held on the same day).
• Attend and take a full part in the annual strategy meeting of Council.
• Take part in additional policy and advisory discussions (usually by email) and approve the annual budget.
• Monitor expenditure and supervise the administration of COPE.
• Make appointments to Council and other positions.
• Take part in subcommittees and other tasks, as agreed by Council.
• Represent COPE externally when required to do so by Council.
• Experience of academic publishing (in particular, gained as the editor or publisher of a peer-reviewed publication).
• Understanding of ethical issues in academic publishing (eg, having published on or with experience of such matters).
• Experience of committee work or involvement with charitable organizations.
• Expertise that will benefit COPE, such as writing, editing, publishing, training, law, accountancy, charity administration, public relations, human resources, fundraising, etc.
• Sufficient time to commit to COPE activities, including attending meetings and contributing to the work of Council as required.
• Good understanding and judgment of business matters.
News / COPE response to Science paper submission of fake paper, by Virginia Barbour, on behalf of COPE council
At COPE we have followed with intense interest the recent report in Science of a fake paper submitted to multiple journals, some of whom accepted it. There is no doubt that this "sting" raises a number of issues, that academic publishing and those who seek to improve it, need to tackle head on-though I'd argue they are not necessarily the ones that Science thinks are top priorities.
What have we learnt?
First, that out on the Internet there exist many journals whose peer review is scanty or non-existent. Indeed for many of these journals their editorial processes, reviewer boards and editors may not even exist. That, in other words, the Internet has sites we cannot trust. This is of course not news; as Mike Eisen said in an earlier discussion on this issue, journals such as this are the publishing equivalent of Nigerian banking scams.
Second, that some of these questionable journals have managed to get themselves onto the lists of respected industry association bodies - including COPE. At COPE, some may have been included because they were in the lists of journals submitted by reputable publishers but others may have been included because, as we are very aware at COPE, our processes for inclusion have not in the past been set up to screen every journal individually or to scrutinise publishers in great depth. We have been aware of the increasing number of journals seeking to join us and we have recently increased our checks on those who seek to join - either as a publisher or an individual journal - and this will be a further spur to improve our processes here.
Third, we have learnt that considerable confusion still remains about what constitutes an "open-access" journal and that the term may be used as a cover for journals that seek credibility. However, as many commentators have said, because this article only looked at journals that styled themselves as "open access" it tells us nothing about whether the failing of peer review demonstrated here are due to a particular business model, particularly as practised by reputable publishers.
Fourth, and perhaps most worryingly of all, we have learnt from the coverage in the non-scientific press, who are always looking for a good scandal, that an unforeseen consequence of this experiment may be to cast doubt on the entire publishing industry and peer review’s place in it. It may further confuse the public who genuinely struggle to understand what they should trust in the myriad of research findings that are published each day.
What are the constructive next steps?
First, COPE was founded as an organisation that seeks to educate and support its members and this drives what we do day-to-day. Our focus is on practical, pragmatic advice and to that end we produce a number of resources for members, which provide concrete guidance that can also be used by anyone involved in publishing. Our most recent guidelines, which are especially relevant, set out the basic principles and standards to which all peer reviewers should adhere during the peer-review process. We encourage everyone involved in journal publishing to read them.
Second, journals or publishers who do not share COPE's values have no place as members. We are looking at which of our member journals accepted the paper; however, we do not think it is our role to punish journals who are genuinely trying to improve their processes and we will continue to work with them, including providing advice for any members that have to retract the fake paper submitted to them by Science.
Third, we also believe that this is an opportunity to further educate the public about the role that journals and peer review play in science communication, to help them understand that no paper published is ever perfect or carries a stamp that it won't at some time in the future be revised or called into question and that peer review, even at the most prestigious journals, frequently does not spot fraud or questionable research.
Finally, we hope at COPE that this article provides further impetus to the debate about how science is communicated and its strengths and flaws, whatever the business model.
COPE will be running a seminar entitled “Publication ethics in India: Inspiring excellence” on 15 November 2013 at the Annual Conference of the Indian Association of Medical Journal Editors (IAMJE), 16–17 November 2013. There will also be a Workshop on Scientific Writing for Authors on 15–16 November 2013 and a Workshop for Peer Reviewers on 17 November 2013. COPE Vice-Chair, Charlotte Haug, and COPE Alumnus, Trish Groves, will be leading the seminar.
The seminar will take place at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. To register, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
There has been much discussion recently on government, specifically US government, sanctions against Iran, the potential effect on Iranian researchers and some publishers have cautioned editors and reviewers about handling papers from Iran. A recent BMJ news item reported on this, which followed an earlier report in Science.
COPE has discussed the issue of geopolitical intrusion into editorial decision making on two occasions over the past year, most recently at the June council meeting. We agreed to clarify COPE’s position on this by adding the following clause, that is drawn from text developed by WAME, to our Code of Conduct for journal editors.
"Editorial decisions should not be affected by the origins of the manuscript, including the nationality, ethnicity, political beliefs, race, or religion of the authors. Decisions to edit and publish should not be determined by the policies of governments or other agencies outside of the journal itself."
When the Code is revised we will formally add the new text within the body of the Code; in the meantime this new clause and any subsequent interim amendments will be noted at the bottom of the Code.
News / EASE/ISMTE joint meeting
23-24 September 2013, Blankenberge, Belgium COPE will be holding an interactive workshop at the joint meeting of the European Association of Science Editors (EASE) and the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE). In this workshop, a number of cases based on real-life examples brought to COPE, and covering some of the most pressing problems currently faced by editors and journals, will be discussed. Co-Secretary Andre Van Steirteghem and council memebers Mirjam Curno and Irene Hames will be chairing the workshop. The workshop will take place on Tuesday 24 September. The full programme can be found here: http://www.ease.org.uk/node/872
Full details on the meeting, including registration information, can be found here: http://www.ease.org.uk/node/852
Still on the subject of retractions, a recent study published in PLOS ONe by R. Grant Steen, Arturo Casadevall, and Ferric C. Fang asks why are the number of scientific retractions rising? Is it because the number of flawed articles being published are increasing, or that they are being retracted more quickly? Click here to read the article in full.