We have accepted a systematic review for publication and have commissioned an accompanying commentary. The authors of the commentary noticed that a particular randomised controlled trial was included in the systematic review while a duplicate version of the trial, published in another journal, was excluded because of inadequate randomisation. The authors of the commentary pointed this out in their commentary. We showed the commentary to the authors of the review (as is our practice) and they said that they had excluded the duplicate version of the study, not because of inadequate randomisation, but because it was a duplicate. The authors of the review have thus changed their text. The authors of the commentary find this explanation hard to believe and want to include a sentence in their commentary, making the point that the review was changed in the penultimate draft. We think that it is unsatisfactory to publish the commentary in this way, because it leaves a serious accusation hanging in the air. Either we must accept that the authors of the systematic review made an error and not mention it in the commentary, or we must raise the possibility of research misconduct and ask the host institution to investigate. What does COPE think we should do?
The authors’ explanation is adequate; the commentary can only be published without the criticism.
The commentary was published without the criticism.