A known expert in a certain content area was asked to review a manuscript. He asked if one of his trainees (not a content expert) could review the manuscript instead, with some oversight and as a training exercise. He stated that he would provide the trainee with a full explanation of confidentiality. The section editor replied that it was the particular expertise of the invited reviewer that was being sought. The invited reviewer agreed to review the manuscript. Subsequently, the reviewer contacted the section editor, stating that his trainee had reviewed the manuscript and felt the manuscript should be rejected; the reviewer also read it and concurred, suggesting that the editor reject the manuscript as poor science (my words), but did not include a detailed review. The section editor pushed him to return a detailed review, which he has now done.
My question is: is giving this manuscript (not blinded, ie, author names and affiliations are evident) to the trainee a breach of confidentiality on the part of the reviewer? If so, what steps do you recommend taking?
The Forum suggested that this type of behaviour probably occurs quite frequently. As the editor did not specifically state that the reviewer should not share the manuscript with the trainee, the Forum believed it was not strictly a breach of confidentiality. If the manuscript is unblinded and the editor is happy for the reviewer to see the author names and affiliations, then it is probably acceptable for the trainee reviewer to see this information, but the journal should be informed. The journal may need to ensure that the trainee does not have a conflict of interest and has the expertise to review the manuscript.
The Forum questioned how trainees can gain experience in reviewing manuscripts. A suggestion was to circulate good reviews to trainee reviewers, but with the consent of the reviewer and probably also the author.
The editor shared the Forum’s advice with the section editors, that they need to be very clear in the invitation to review if they do not wish a trainee to review the manuscript.
Last March we accepted a paper written by a post-doctoral fellow (PD) and an assistant professor (AP). The work was done by PD in AP's laboratory; PD has now moved on (to another country, in fact). Soon after the manuscript was sent to production, AP sent an email asking to delay production of the manuscript because AP was worried that there may be an ‘error’ in the manuscript that might require ‘some adjustments’. Months passed with no further word from AP. A few weeks ago, I wrote to AP regarding an update. Last week, AP replied, asking to remove his/her name from the manuscript because AP and PD “... have an insurmountable scientific disagreement over how the data for this study should be tabulated and presented”.
AP called yesterday to provide some additional background. AP believes that PD made some questionable decisions with respect to the data and AP is unable to replicate the findings in his/her own analyses of the data.
AP's university looked into the matter and found insufficient evidence to pursue a claim of scientific misconduct. According to AP, PD interprets this to mean that PD has done nothing wrong.
I have not yet said anything to (or heard from) PD. I am certainly not comfortable in moving forward with this publication. Yet, without knowing more details and without hearing PD's side of the issue, it would seem unfair to PD to withdraw our decision to publish the paper. And, anticipating what PD might say ("I did everything correctly"), I find it hard to imagine how we can adjudicate the issue.
The editor updated the Forum by telling them that PD had provided him with a copy of the email from AP’s institutional panel saying that after careful review of the evidence, the panel unanimously reached the conclusion that allegations of misconduct against PD were not merited and no further proceedings were warranted. Also, AP emailed the editor and requested that the manuscript be withdrawn. AP continues to insist that s/he cannot back up the data but refuses to say why.
The Forum agreed that for the editor to make a decision on whether or not to publish the paper, he needs more facts. The Forum suggested the editor should contact the institution and ask them for the details of the allegations. The editor is perfectly within his rights to push the institution for this information. It is critical for the editor to know why AP wants the paper withdrawn before he can make a decision. Another suggestion was for the editor to respond to AP asking her for her scientific reasons as to why the paper should be withdrawn.
The editor contacted AP’s university for additional information regarding its inquiry but was provided with nothing useful. In essence, the editor was told that the inquiry had found no evidence for scientific misconduct.
At this point, with no firm evidence of misconduct, the journal was inclined to move forward with the paper. The editor told AP that she had one last chance to provide specific details regarding the nature of her disagreement with PD. It turns out that it involved two data points (out of 22) in a supplementary analysis. AP and PD could not agree on the value of those data points.
The editor then suggested to AP and PD that they re-do the supplementary analysis, based on the 20 scores that were not in dispute; if the pattern reported originally was confirmed in the new analysis, then the journal would publish the paper.
The editor has just received the revised manuscript reporting these new analyses; it looks as if the results are not affected by the disputed data points so that the journal will be able to publish the paper.
Recently, as co-editor of my journal, I received a manuscript submitted for publication. The author had recommended two reviewers along with their Gmail accounts and affiliations. I was curious about the affiliation of one of the reviewers. I looked this person up and discovered they had a different email address than that provided by the author. So I used the email address that I found to contact the reviewer (reviewer 1). For the second recommended reviewer (reviewer 2), I also looked up a current email address and used the one I found instead of the Gmail address that was provided by the author.
Reviewer 1 responded with the comment that the title of the manuscript looked similar to a manuscript review that he/she had been asked to confirm for another journal (journal 1). Reviewer 1 asked me to contact the editor of journal 1. After contacting the editor of journal 1, I discovered that the author had provided bogus email accounts for the recommended reviewers.
The editor of journal 1 became suspicious of the reviews when he received a review within hours of the request to review the manuscript. It was at this point that the editor of journal 1 discovered that the email addresses provided were bogus.
Reviewer 2 declined my request to review the manuscript. To test that the Gmail provided by the author was bogus, I sent a request to review the manuscript to reviewer 2’s bogus Gmail account. Within hours I received a review. I then called reviewer 2 to confirm that he/she had not provided a review. He/she had not, and was very concerned that a Gmail account was created using their name.
In summary, this author has been creating false email accounts for suggested reviewers which are going to unknown individuals who are providing reviews under false pretences and giving inaccurate information as to their identity and affiliation. The outcome of this is that my fellow co-editor and I have banned this individual from publishing in our journal. The author has also been banned from publishing in journal 1. Does COPE have any additional advice on this case?
The Forum agreed that this was a serious form of misconduct and may even be criminal, as the author was impersonating the reviewers. The advice was to contact the author’s institution and inform them of the situation, explaining the author’s inappropriate behaviour. Other advice was to look at the peer review of previous submissions/publications from this author in case they also involved fraudulent reviews. The Forum suggested that good practice is always to check the names, addresses and email contacts of reviewers, and especially those that are recommended by authors. Another suggestion was for the editor to write an editorial on this issue.
The editor reported that the author had his papers published in another journal. The editor plans to write to the other editor asking him to check the reviewers on the manuscripts.
An article was submitted for publication. This was a survey of research activity in a specialist area and included, among other things, research funding amounts from each institution. This led to a sort of 'league table'. The information was provided by the responding director of the specialty area or head of school/research group of each institution. The cover letter stated this is for research purposes. No particular ethics approval was sought for the study as it was based on staff/professionals and most were known to the principal author.
The question is whether these data on amount of funding are private or public. While grant income data can be available in funders' websites/reports or the institutional/departmental websites, certainly it exists in Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) reports that are available to the public for past research, this may not be the case for all research grants (ie, industry grants or private donations).
Is research grant income classified as private data (in which case, consent is needed) or it is public data and the cover letter to the study means that returning completed questionnaires implies consent?
The Forum suggested that although the authors may have a responsibility to the individual researchers at the institutions who provided the data, this case appears to relate to institutional data. As there are no individual data, breaching any privacy laws is not an issue. There was some concern from the Forum that the individuals may face disciplinary action by their superiors for supplying the data, but all agreed that this was not really an ethical issue, and there is no ethical principle to protect the institution. Most believed that it did not appear to be a very well-designed study and perhaps the editor should talk to the authors about anonymising their data and broadening the message of the paper. The editor might also like to draw their attention to the potential obligation the authors have to the individual researchers. However, no one suggested that the paper should not be published
The authors were allowed to continue with the submission and the paper is now undergoing peer review.
In May 2011 a letter from the Vice-Rector for Personnel of a reputable university was sent to the editor mentioning that two articles published in the journal contained two statements not supported by documented evidence. The two statements related to: (1) approval of the local ethics committee and (2) representation of the experimental evidence.
With regard to point (1), the authors stated in the article that they had approval in 1995 for their research protocols but the authorities state that there is no written documentation of this agreement and that this cannot substitute for formal approval of the research. The journal and the university rules indicate that formal approval of an ethics committee is required.
With regard to point (2), a statement in both articles cannot be sustained for one of three patients in one of the articles and for one case in the second article. Laboratory analysis revealed contradictory evidence from the authors’ statements in the articles. The authors gave three reasons why they ignored this information. Unfortunately, the samples kept in the authors’ laboratory were destroyed in a fire.
According to the letter from the academic authorities, “the authors have been kept informed of these facts, which are in breach of the rules of good scientific conduct”.
One of the articles is coauthored by three colleagues from another university. They have asked the journal that their names be removed.
The author of the articles, who received a copy of the letter from the Vice-Rector, asked to have some time to send in his rebuttal of the accusations. For both issues the answers provided by the authors were submitted to the university and were judged as unsatisfactory.
Long discussions within the publications committee of the journal with representatives of the publisher and the scientific society led to the decision that an “expression of concern” should be published. Prior to publication, the expression of concern was sent to the authors and the university for their comments. Just before the deadline, a letter arrived from the university (signed by the Vice-Rector and the Rector). The conclusion of the letter was that the university believed an expression of concern was not needed. The university believed that the authors recognized that they made mistakes in relation to both issues but since they acted “in good faith” the university had closed the case and did not consider an expression of concern appropriate.
So the journal was faced with an author admitting two serious “mistakes” in two articles. The institution that originally raised the concerns backed off in the end. After consulting with the editorial team I wrote to the author asking him to send a letter to the editor signed by all authors correcting the serious mistakes in the literature. A confidential draft letter was received from the author, and edited and completed by the editor so that both issues were mentioned. This letter was signed by all authors at this author’s institution. Three authors at a different institution refused to sign the letter as they believed that the letter to the editor did not clarify the situation. These three authors confirm their initial position and encourage the other authors to retract both articles. A copy of the email correspondence between the author and a spokesman for the other institution indicates that the author does not want to do this.
A possible conclusion would be to publish the letter to the editor signed by the authors from the institution of the first author as well as a letter to the editor from the three authors from the other institution. This would be accompanied by an expression of concern or an editorial by the editor, highlighting the necessity of proper ethics approval and reporting all experimental data.
An additional question to COPE: should other editors be informed of this? In a sister journal, an article was submitted mentioning the same very outdated ethics approval.
The Forum agreed that this was a very interesting but complicated case. There are two issues here: (1) approval of the local ethics committee and (2) representation of the experimental evidence.
Regarding the first point, the Forum suggested that if the validity of the ethics approval is not in question, then this may not be an issue. The editor does have a right to expect a higher standard from the authors, but they do not seem to have broken the rules as at the time of submission (in 1995), formal approval was not considered mandatory.
In terms of the data, the Forum agreed that the editor needs to decide whether the basic findings of the study are sound. By leaving out some of the data, were the readers mislead? If the data that have been omitted are incidental and do not change the findings of the study, then the advice was for the editor to issue a correction. If however, the editor feels that the study is flawed and the findings were presented in a misleading way, then the article should be retracted.
Some felt that as the authors at the second institute want the article retracted, then the editor should consider retracting it (since these authors no longer stand by the findings). As these three authors believe there are grounds for removing their names because they were unaware of the lack of ethics approval and the omitted data, then the editor should consider this option too.
In the end, it is up to the editor to decide. If s/he decides to issue a correction, s/he could detail in the correction notice which authors were aware of (or responsible for) the errors that occurred. But if the editor has doubts about the underlying science, then s/he should retract the paper.
After the COPE Forum discussion, a decision was taken to correct the literature by publishing two letters to the editor. The first letter from all of the authors recognises the errors made and explains the reason why the omission of the experimental evidence did not put into question the validity of the work. The letter was signed by all of the authors except the three authors from the other institution; they had asked that their names be removed as authors and they explain in a letter to the editor why they requested this. An editorial was written in relation to these two letters, reiterating the facts and insisting that proper ethical approval is required and that all experimental evidence needs to be reported. The conclusion of the editorial is that the journal decided not to retract the paper but to publish a correction. Both letters to the editor and the editorial will be linked to the two articles in the literature.
A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study which was a final year student's project was submitted as an original article to our journal on 30 April 2011. On initial review it was obvious that it was conducted by students and written by them, but the list of authors had the supervisor as the first author, followed by 13 students.
The supervisor, who was also the corresponding author, was questioned on authorship criteria. If it was the supervisor’s project and the students had helped, then why were there so many students listed (13 in all)? If it was the students’ project, which is a requirement of their curriculum, then why was the supervisor the first author? He/she should be acknowledged only.
The authors decided to withdraw the article on the grounds that they wanted to send it to a foreign journal. We obtained the signatures of all of the authors and closed the file.
The same article was resubmitted as a new article on 29 August 2011. The declaration that it had not been previously published was sent to our journal on 5 September 2011. No change had been made in the names of the authors. The signatures of the students were a photocopy of the original ones submitted previously. Apparently the supervisor thought that the journal office would not be able to associate this article with the previous submission.
The journal believes it would be useless to explain the authorship criteria to the supervisor as apparently he/she is eager to have another article on their CV. The students are the ones who suffer.
What steps should the journal take, particularly with regard to the false authorship?
The Forum agreed that the initial response from the editor was very good, and s/he handled the case well, and it was disappointing that the message did not get through to the authors. The Forum questioned whether the editor would be able to contact all of the students individually. The Forum emphasised once again that journals should consider having the email addresses of all authors when a paper is submitted, not just the corresponding author.
Even if the editor feels it is pointless contacting the corresponding author following this second submission, the Forum argued that the editor should follow due process. The editor should contact the corresponding author and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is unsatisfactory, the editor should contact the author’s superior at the institution informing them that this person is not following the accepted guidelines on authorship. The editor could also contact someone at the institution (e.g. the Dean) and ask them if they have an institutional policy on authorship.
For the future, the editor should consider publishing a list of the contributions of all authors in every paper.
The consensus from the Forum was that I should ask for the email addresses and cell phone numbers of all of the student authors and ask the university for their authorship policy. I did both of these. The university has not replied, despite a reminder. Unofficially, I was told that they have no such policy.
I spoke to one of the students who “off the record” told me that the supervisor had asked for these contact details, which the students had provided. These were never sent to the journal. I asked the student to send them to the journal office, which he did. The following statement, signed individually by all of the students and the supervisor, was mailed to the journal.
“Contribution: I as the undersigned author of the article titled xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, has contributed significantly in the various steps of the research starting from topic selection, literature review, introduction, methodology, questionnaire, analysis, discussion and final review. I am further submitting that there is no conflict among us on any matter regarding the order of authorship.”
The student also told me unofficially that they were coerced into signing this statement. The students who have done all of the work are the sufferers. They cannot raise any objections against the supervisor for fear of an impact on their career.
Can COPE suggest what I should do now?
Advice on follow up:
The editor informed the Forum that the paper has now been withdrawn. The Forum advised that although the editor has to accept that the paper has been withdrawn, she should still pursue the institution for a response. The supervisor has acted inappropriately and the institution should be made aware of this. One suggestion was to send a registered letter (rather than an email) so that the editor is sure the letter has been received. Another suggestion was to contact any professional bodies that the author might be a member of, informing them of the inappropriate behaviour.
The editor could also write an editorial on authorship policies, referring to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME) guidelines. For the future, the editor might consider altering the journal’s instructions to authors stating that the names and contact details of all authors (not just the corresponding author) should be provided to the journal on submission of a paper. The editor could also consider publishing the list of contributors, detailing what contribution each author made to the paper.
FOLLOW UP (June 2012):
I first wrote to the corresponding author asking for the policy of the institution regarding authorship criteria. Simultaneously I wrote to the head of department of the research section and the Dean asking for the same. I received no reply. Recently the corresponding author, who is the supervisor and the first author, sent a letter stating that they wanted to withdraw both articles as they have decided to have the article published in a European journal. I have not replied to that request as I feel cornered. Two more articles from another medical college of the same university are of a similar nature. I have followed the same procedure but again with no response.
Does the Forum think that I should write to the higher authorities, such as the Higher Education Commission and Medical Council, about the largest medical university in the country having no specific policy on authorship and the credit of the research being usurped by the faculty members, thus depriving the young students?
I am collecting all of these cases and will make a presentation at the next conference on publication ethics.
ADVICE ON FURTHER FOLLOW UP (June 2012):
The Forum agreed with the editor’s proposed course of action. In this case, the students are powerless and so it is left to the editor to pursue this case.
As editor-in-chief of a journal (journal A), I was contacted by an individual (N) who indicated the following: authors of an article published in journal A were questioned as to the similarity of a figure and a table appearing in both journal A and in another journal (journal B). N noted that reanalysis of the data of the published work by the authors suggested errors and inconsistencies of the similar data across journal A and journal B.
Subsequently, N provided additional details, including notice of a third journal (journal C) that appeared to have published a table similar to those in journals A and B. The editor of journal B responded to this saying that although the authors had been contacted by the editor of journal B and a response from the authors was pending, they agreed that retraction from journals A, B and C was required. Of note, journal B had previously resolved a challenge from N with respect to the study in question as a letter to the editor regarding data interpretation with a response from the authors. The editor of journal B shared both of these publications with the other journals involved at the request of journal A.
Although the authors referenced journal B in the article they published in journal A and stated that it was an extension of the study published in journal B, they only indirectly referenced the figure and table. The figure and table did not include a reference or acknowledgment to indicate where they were initially accepted/published or submitted elsewhere. Hence it appears that a very similar figure and table appeared in three publications and a figure in two publications without appropriate assigning credit.
This appears to journal A to be a possible case of overlapping publications by the authors. Taking the first publication dates (including Epub dates) on PubMed, it appears all three articles were published at around the same time, with the article in journal C publishing first as an Epub article.
It should be noted that the authors retained the copyright to their article published in journal B. I am not sure about journal C.
Most recently, N sent another email to all three journals questioning the housing conditions of the animals used in the study and whether the statement indicating that the authors had received approval from their ethics committee of experimentation on animals is actually true.
As editor of journal A, I forwarded all the information to my publisher. I plan to contact the authors on review and after discussion with COPE. My publisher has also informed journals B and C of our plans to contact COPE before taking any initial action.
As well as asking for guidance on how best to handle this case, we would like COPE’s opinion on which journal should be taking the lead to resolve these concerns, as it involves multiple journals.
The advice from the Forum was to follow the COPE flowchart on redundant publication. Initially the editor should contact the authors and ask for a full explanation. If the editor feels that the explanation from the author is not satisfactory, he can then retract the paper, if his is the second journal which published the paper. If a paper is published online it should be considered as being published, so the epublication date is the date to go by. The first version of the paper should remain and the others should be retracted.
However, if the editor feels that there is only partial overlap and readers would benefit from the availability of new data, then the editor could issue a notice of redundant publication.
Another scenario would be if the editor accepts the explanation of the authors that they made a genuine mistake. In this instance, the editor could issue a correction (for example, figure 7 has appeared in a previous publication).
The Forum stressed it is important to contact all of the authors, not just the corresponding author. The Forum also agreed that regardless of whether or not N is acting in good faith, the editor should investigate the accusations by contacting the authors and asking for an explanation.
The Forum advised liaising with the other editors if possible, and jointly contacting the institution.
The Forum also suggested looking at the copyright issues (e.g. the date on which copyright was transferred to a journal, if applicable).
The editor retracted the paper. To the best of his knowledge the other papers in question have also been retracted.
An associate editor of one of our journals has asked whether we can configure our online peer review system to restrict access to reviewer correspondence to corresponding authors. His concern is that some of the review materials (eg, a harsh critique) might be embarrassing for the principal investigator if accessed by a co-author who was a junior investigator or laboratory technician. Similarly, he thinks that a cover letter that requests exclusion of reviewers could be embarrassing to the principal investigator if read by certain co-authors.
Our editor in chief is not convinced by this editor’s arguments and prefers transparency to all co-authors. He suggests that the principal investigator should explain to junior co-authors that scientific publishing is similar to making sausages—the process is a little messy but the final product is usually good. Is there any consensus as to whether all co-authors or only the corresponding author should be permitted to access review materials?
The Forum was unanimous that there should be no restriction of reviewer comments to authors. The process should be transparent. All authors bear responsibility for their paper. It is up to senior authors to explain the process to junior authors, and this can be a good learning tool. Also, the Forum noted that ideally the journal should communicate with all of the authors and not just the corresponding author. This may prevent some cases of guest authorship arising. However, the Forum agreed that publishers may edit reviewers’ comments before sending them to authors if they contain rude or libellous remarks. The publisher should keep the original reviewer comments on file for internal use but it is acceptable to send a ‘cleaned up’ version to the authors.
The editor-in-chief agreed with the recommendations and communicated them to the editor who had raised the question. No change was made to the peer review system.
This case involves four manuscripts. Three of the manuscripts were originally published in another language and then published in our English language journal. There is overlap in the authors who were involved in all four manuscripts.
The first and second manuscripts were duplicated publications from another journal. The evidence is very clear. The papers were published in another country in another language, and then in English. A native speaker of the other language was able to read both versions and found only minor differences, and the editor of the foreign language journal also did this, and recommended that our journal retract the papers. The authors checked the box on our submission form that indicated that the submissions had not been published elsewhere, and they made no mention of any previous publication in their covering letter.
For the third paper, which shares authors, we had no evidence of duplicate publication until we heard from the editor of the foreign language journal who said that it came from two other articles. However, the editor did not say in which journals these were published. Again, the authors checked the box indicating that the paper was original and had not been previously published.
For the fourth manuscript there is no evidence of duplicate publication, but it shares one author and is therefore included. The editor of the foreign language journal did not find a duplicate publication.
Two authors are in common on the three duplicated papers. The paper for which we do not have evidence of duplication has different authors for the most part, but one of its authors is also an author of two of the duplicated papers. To try to make this clear, the authorship of the four papers is as follows, where each letter indicates an author: 1) A, B, C, D 2) A, B, C, E 3) A, B, F, G, H 4) C, I, J, K, L
The editor in chief of our journal wrote to the authors (A, B, and C) telling them that they had violated international standards against duplicate publishing and received an email in reply from a supervisor at their institution, apologising for this. We seek guidance from COPE on how to publish a retraction in our journal concerning these four manuscripts, or is another course of action more appropriate?
The Forum noted that publication of a translation of a paper is permissible if the process is transparent and the original paper is cited in the translation. In this case, the authors failed to inform the editor of the previous versions of papers 1 and 2, and checked the box on the submission form saying the papers had not been published previously. One option suggested by the Forum was to publish a notice of duplicate publication, as then readers would not be deprived of reading the translated version of the paper. The Forum suggested contacting all of the authors, not just the corresponding author, and asking them for an explanation. If the editor is satisfied with the evidence of duplicate publication, he should retract both papers. There should be one retraction notice per paper so that the notice can be linked to the original paper. The retraction notice should clearly identify the original paper.
Regarding the third paper, the editor should obtain full details from the other editor about where the paper was published previously. When the editor has definite evidence and the names of the other journals, he can then decide on whether or not to retract the third paper.
For the fourth paper, as there is no evidence of duplicate publication, the editor should not retract this paper. COPE advises against punishing authors or imposing bans because of the risk of litigation. However, the editor can contact the authors and ask them questions about the paper, but he needs to have evidence before taking any further action.
After the editor contacted all of the authors, and received all of the information with regard to the third paper, the journal decided to retract the three papers.
Our journal (journal A) received a complaint from a 'Clare Francis' alerting us to a case of duplicate publication involving our journal and another (journal B). The article in journal A was published first, but submitted after the article in journal B. Clare Francis requested that the article in journal A should be withdrawn as it is duplicate publication. However, the article in journal B was an extended abstract, included in a section of selected conference proceedings. Our records do not go back far enough to check whether the authors informed us of this but they did not reference their abstract in the article in journal A. The article in journal A is a full paper, with a materials and methods section, detailed results and enough information for someone else to replicate the experiment. The extended abstract in B was not. When we contacted the editor of journal B, we were informed that they had received several such complaints from Clare Francis which have turned out to be somewhat spurious.
A simple Google search revealed that 'Clare Francis' is a widely known self-styled whistleblower in scientific publication.
We responded that we had looked in detail at both papers and did not consider it to be a case of duplicate publication, and that we considered the matter closed. Clare Francis did not agree, and reiterated the issue of the article submission timings, insisting that the paper be withdrawn, and seeming to ignore the substance of what had actually been published. 'She' appealed to our status as a member of COPE as a reason that we should take on board these concerns. We believe not only that using a pseudonym to pursue these matters is unethical, but that we have followed the correct procedure and have made the correct decision regarding these papers. We would be interested in hearing if the Forum agrees (on the former points, if not the latter).
The Forum agreed with the editor that it would not consider prior publication of an extended abstract as duplicate publication, unless the extended abstract was very detailed and included lots of data, which was not the case in this instance. The editor made the right decision. COPE supports a whistleblower’s right to remain anonymous and would encourage editors to respond to any allegations of unethical behaviour as long as there is specific evidence and not just vague accusations.
We replied to Clare Francis saying we had been to COPE and were satisfied that we had done the right thing, and we are not going to change our course of action. She responded along much the same lines as the original complaint—we did not respond and consider the matter closed.