Discussion Documents

COPE discussion documents

When aspects of publication ethics are particularly fast-moving or controversial COPE cannot always provide detailed guidance. The COPE discussion documents are a new venture for COPE (launched May 2011) and aim to stimulate discussion rather than tell editors what to do. We hope that, by raising the issues, we can contribute to the debate within the academic publishing community and work towards agreement or definition of difficult problems.

We encourage you to comment on the documents. We are happy to receive comments from anybody with an interest in the area (whether they are COPE members or not). In particular, we would like to hear from researchers and authors as well as from editors and publishers. We cannot respond to individual cases but we will use any comments we receive to inform future guidelines and policies.

Future documents are planned to address 'What constitutes publication?' and 'Data sharing.

Current discussion documents available are:

  • What constitutes authorship?  [Download PDF]

  • Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct 
        [Download PDF]

  • Responding to anonymous whistle blowers [Download PDF]

  • How should editors respond to plagiarism? [Download PDF]

  • If you have any comments, please email the Operations Manager, Natalie Ridgeway, here.

    Forum discussion documents

    In a new undertaking for the COPE Forum, a specific topic will be discussed at the start of each quarterly COPE Forum meeting. As well as those at the virtual meetings, people unable to take part in the meetings can comment via the COPE website in advance.

    COPE Forum 23 September 2014

    Topic: Standard retraction form

    Hervé Maisonneuve, Université de Lyon, France, suggested “a standard retraction form” as the topic for discussion at this Forum. A copy of the form can be downloaded here.

    Retractions are often used as a proxy for publication quality. Retractions have been studied with cohorts of various sizes over differing time periods. Time after time these studies have pointed out that there is often no clearly stated reason for retraction and when given these reasons are often lacking in detail. More details and a summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 185kb).

    COPE Forum 8 July 2014

    Topic: Fair play for “researchers”: Can editors and regulators develop a common approach to the need (or lack of need) for ethical review?

    There are a number of legitimate and valuable tools for gaining information and evidence for scientific advance and improving health care. These include research, evaluation, audit, and others. There is a real danger that UK “researchers” using tools other than “research”, duly following guidance in UK research regulation stating a lack of need for ethical review, find that journal editors will not consider their manuscript for publication because editors dispute the definition of what needs or does not need ethical review. Many of these issues, of course, also apply to animal ethics approval. A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 273kb).

    COPE Forum 4 March 2014:

    Topic: Issues related to papers submitted to “discussion” journals

    Authors in any subject area have always had a number of potential publications to choose from when they decide that they want to publish their research. As well as subscription journals to pick from, the increasing number of Open Access models has meant that the choices for authors are expanding all the time. A new type of publication that has arisen from the OA movement is the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and Copernicus model of open peer review and “Discussion” journals, examples of which are: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences: Discussions and Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Earth Surface Dynamics: Discussions and Earth Surface Dynamics. This Forum discussion document concerns this model of peer review and publication, but primarily the consequences of the decision of “reject” on papers. A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 280kb).

    COPE Forum 4 December 2013:

    Topic: How should a journal deal with persistent complainers?

    The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘How should a journal deal with persistent complainers?’ Every so often a journal may get not one, but a series of complaints from the same source. These complaints may be directed at an author, an editor, or the journal in general. If these complaints turn out to be well founded, obviously there is a serious problem with the publication. However, we are aware of cases where a complainant continuously comes up with cases that turn out to be baseless. How should editors act when the complaints do not stop, get personal, and start humming around the community? A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 262kb).

    COPE Forum 4 September 2013:

    Topic: Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct

    The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct’. Recent high profile cases of research misconduct have relied upon the sharing of relevant information among the Editors-in-Chief of the journals concerned during the months and years leading up to the final settlement of the cases. However, discussions with publishers suggest that such sharing of information risks accusations and/or legal claims of defamation, since submissions should be handled confidentially, even though the journals concerned might carry a statement on their website saying that manuscripts and related documents may be shared if that is considered necessary to investigate possible misconduct. A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 335kb).

    COPE Forum 3 June 2013:

    Topic: Authorship, contributorship, who’s doing what, and what do we need?

    The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Authorship, contributorship, who’s doing what, and what do we need?’ Authorship issues are one of the most common issues that COPE members have to deal with.  Leaving aside the ethically problematic issues of ghost, guest and gift authorship, seemingly simpler authorship disputes of for example, who deserves authorship, or what author order should be are very common across most disciplines. A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 52kb).

    COPE Forum 12 March 2013:

    Topic: Text recycling

    The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Text recycling’. Self-plagiarism, also referred to as ‘text recycling’, is a topical issue and is currently generating much discussion among editors.Opinions are divided as to how much text overlap with an author’s own previous publications is acceptable, and editors often find it hard to judge when action is required. In an attempt to get some consensus and consistency on the issue, editors at BioMed Central produced some guidelines. These guidelines were posted on the COPE website and members were invited to comment, and the topic was discussed at the COPE Forum on 12 March 2013. A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 112kb).

    COPE Forum 4 December 2012:

    Topic: Citation manipulation

    The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Citation manipulation’. The issue of self citation has been discussed in a number of places before. The focus here is on a form of citation manipulation that qualifies as coercion, where an editor or others affiliated with a journal pressure an author to add citations from that journal for the implied purpose of increasing citation rates and, by extension, journal impact factor. A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 65kb).

    COPE Forum 11 September 2012:

    Topic: Publishing offensive material

    The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Publishing offensive material’. Specifically, what constitutes bad taste, indecency or obscenity? How do you deal with expletives (as part of interviews or transcripts)? Where is the line between censorship and freedom of expression? A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 19kb).

    COPE Forum 18 June 2012:

    Topic: Electronic Responses to Blogs and Journal Articles

    The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Electronic Responses to Blogs and Journal Articles’. Specifically, what are the issues, in terms of publication ethics, surrounding blogs where journals are the target of concerted 'attacks' by the proponents of one particular viewpoint, and are there appropriate guidelines on managing such situations? A summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog can be found here (PDF 49kb).

    Comments

    • Posted by Amanda, 14/10/2013 11.00pm

    What guidelines exist for publication of valid research that conflicts with your mentor's old data? How does one ethically proceed if that data does align itself with the mentor's mentor's publications? If publish or perish is the author's responsibility, how do we ethically bypass the politics to disseminate quality research? Should the innocent suffer for the guilty?

    • Posted by Thomas Jones, 4/9/2014 9.47am

    Editors who plagiarise really need action against them - referencing to other journals and papers is fine but not giving due credit is a big nono!

    • Posted by Thomas Jones, 4/9/2014 9.53am

    Not to mention the editors should be named and shamed..

    It would just be cleaner that way and promote being completely pro-crediting.

    Sorry for the rambling!

    • Posted by Carlean Gilbert, 23/10/2014 8.01pm

    Just a general comment that I find your articles and discussions not only useful for my role as an editor but also for teaching doctoral students.

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