News & Opinion

There has been much discussion recently on how journals handle risky or "dual use" research - ie research that has the potential to be used for harm. A Nature Editorial ( now discusses where things stand with regard to a pair of papers submitted to Science and Nature of papers reporting mammalian transmissibility of avian flu as a result of artificial genetic manipulation. One paper is now published in Nature (

Recent articles in the Scientist and Nature discuss publication ethics in China and point to a recent declaration by editors of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) to follow guidelines issued by CAST in 2009. This declaration is one part of increasing awareness of the importance of publication ethics and the need for journals within China to address the issue.

The NYT discusses how the sharp rise in retractions is prompting calls for reform.  Read the full article here.

How COPE manages complaints against member journals has been revised and updated and is now available via the website here.  Note: this revision has not yet been incorporated into the translated versions of the flowcharts.  These will be available shortly. 

Anesthesia & Analgesia have published an editorial which discusses the retraction of eight manuscripts by Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii published under the auspices of Toho University, as well as his dismissal from the university.  The editorial continues by discussing the journal's concern over papers published by Dr Fujii in Anesthesia & Analegesia - concerns which were fist highlighted to the Editors in a Letter to the Editor by Kranke, Apfel, and Roewer alleging research fraud by Dr. Fujii back in April 2000.  In his editorial, the Editor-in-Chief, Steven Schafer, apologises to the readers as "the Journal’s response to the allegations of research fraud in the 2000 Letter to the Editor by Kranke and colleagues was inadequate".  The editorial goes on to list 24 papers by Dr Fujii published in Anesthesia & Analegesia which may represent fraudulent research and are now the subject of a statement of concern.

Schafer highlights that the journal has a responsibility to pursue allegations of misconduct no matter how old they are - a policy COPE supports as outlined in the Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors (clause 11).  The full editorial by Schafer can be read here.


Download the Spring issue of Ethical Editing, the newsletter from COPE.
This issue's theme is ''15 Years of COPE!''. We would very much welcome any feedback or comments you may have. Please contact us via the website.

Due to vacancies on Council, we are seeking nominations for five 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 (in London) as well as take part in subcommittees and other COPE related tasks. It may be possible to attend some meetings by phone. There are also occasional strategy meetings and annual seminars in the UK and North America which we hope Council Members will attend one of. Council members are also trustees of COPE as a charity.

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.

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.

We are particularly seeking applications from journal editors with expertise in areas other than biomedicine, specifically humanities, law and ethics. Publishers and non-native English speakers are also particularly welcome.

Further details, including a job description, can be found below.

Those who are interested should send a short CV (no more than 4 pages) plus a covering letter stating what they can contribute to COPE Council. 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.

Further information can be obtained from the COPE Administrator, Linda Gough to whom applications and nominations can be emailed.

The closing date for applications is 6 April 2012.

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.

Appointment and length of tenure

  • Council members will be appointed by COPE Council for three years, with the possibility of an additional three years.
  • A candidate for Council membership must be nominated by two other current COPE members. If the candidate is the nominated representative of a member, at least one of the nominees for Council membership must not be employed by the same organisation as the nominee.
  • The candidate, or the organisation they represent, must have been a member of COPE for at least one year.

Key responsibilities

  • Act as a Trustee for COPE, as a UK charity
  • Attend and take a full part in quarterly meetings of Council
  • Attend and contribute to quarterly Forum meetings (Council and Forum meetings are held on the same day)
  • Take part in additional policy discussions (usually by email) and approve annual budget
  • Monitor expenditure and supervise the administration of COPE
  • Make appointments to Council and other positions
  • Take part in sub-committees and other tasks as agreed by Council
  • Represent COPE externally when required to do so by Council

Person specification

  • Good understanding and judgment of business matters
  •  Experience of academic publishing (in particular, gained as the editor or publisher of a peer-reviewed publication)
  •  Experience of committee work or involvement with charitable organizations
  •  Understanding of ethical issues in academic publishing (eg, having published on such matters)
  •  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

After extensive consultation with institutions and editors around the world, COPE has issued guidelines about how universities and journals should cooperate on cases of suspected research misconduct. The new guidelines are available here and the press release announcing the guidelines is here.  

The 2nd Brazilian Meeting on Research Integrity, Science and Publication Ethics takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre between 28 May 2012 and 1 June 2012.  Click here for more information.  

A new study on retractions shows that the system is effective for alerting the community to invalid work.  The Scholarly Kitchen discusses an article ("Governing knowledge in the scientific community: Exploring the role of retractions in biomedicine“ pub in Research Policy, March 2012 by, J Furman, K Jensen, and F Murray) that reports on a study of 677 article retractions identified in MEDLINE between 1972 and 2006. The results show that the retraction system is fast (nearly 15% of all retractions took place during the year of publication and 50% within 24 months); democratic (there does not appear to be bias due to geographical location or institutional affiliation); and the effect of issuing retractions on article citations is severe and long-lived. Read in full here.