Background to why the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors has been replaced with the Core Practices

A Code of Conduct was in place at COPE from 2004 until 2017. The purpose of the Code of Conduct for Editors was to provide guidance on current thinking in the practice of publication ethics. Later, a revised code and Best Practice Guidelines for Editors was developed, along with a Code of Conduct for Publishers - all much more detailed. The Code of Conduct in particular evolved.Though these various documents were immensely valuable in guiding COPE and how editors, publishers and journals function, they were also criticised as being overly specific in some areas and not specific enough in others. Furthermore, they did not reflect many new practices in publishing nor did they have flexibility for future developments.

COPE’s role is to assist editors of scholarly journals and publishers/owners - as well as other parties, such as institutions and funders, albeit less directly - in their endeavor to preserve and promote the integrity of the scholarly record through policies and practices that reflect the current best principles of transparency, as well as integrity. COPE’s new recommendations, the core practices, are intended to reflect these aims, in a practical way.


COPE reviewed the Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Editors and consolidated them into one, much shorter, document entitled “Core Practices”. The choice of the name is deliberate. The phrase “Code of Conduct” was misinterpreted as being quasi legal, which is inappropriate given COPE’s role as a membership organisation with no statutory or regulatory powers. COPE’s intention is to advise on what the expectations are of core practices for all journals, editors and publishers to work towards, with the aim of building a set of professional practices, not just for members of COPE.

COPE took a two step approach in devising the core practies:

  1. It radically simplified the core expectations of all involved in publishing the scholarly literature: editors and their journals, publishers (and institutions).
  2. The expectations laid out in the core practices are just the framework. Hanging off each of these core practices are hyperlinks to the detailed documents and resources COPE already publish.

Already we have a suite of documents ranging from flowcharts to guidance documents (e.g. on peer review), which are derived from consultation documents and, before that, from informal conversation at forums. COPE’s intention is to use all methods of consultation with our membership to build the library of Core Practices.

Core Practices should be considered alongside specific national and international codes of conduct for research and is not intended to replace them. 

Specific changes:

  • We now have just 10 headings
  • All headings apply to all parties, unless specifically noted

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