The COPE Case Taxonomy

In 2013, it became apparent that the publication ethics cases being brought to COPE for discussion and advice were becoming more complex.  A new and more comprehensive classification scheme was therefore developed to make it easier to code cases, to aid searching, and to provide a finer level of detail for analysis. The resulting COPE Case Taxonomy comprises 18 main classification categories and 100 keywords and is designed to be descriptive not judgemental.

All the cases in COPE’s database were recoded and all new cases are being coded according to the new taxonomy (up to two classifications, denoting the main topics discussed, and 10 keywords can be assigned per case). It is important to note that classification and keyword coding denotes that a topic was raised and discussed, not that a particular form of publication misconduct had occurred.

The COPE Case Taxonomy is available, with appropriate attribution, for use by other organizations and individuals. Attribution should include the version date and number, and a link to the taxonomy on COPE’s website.

For further information see:
COPE Case Taxonomy — Irene Hames
(Presented at the COPE European Seminar 2014)
Download presentation [PDF 552kB] | Watch presentation [14:19]

Publication Ethics: 16 years of COPE — Irene Hames, Charon A Pierson, Natalie E Ridgeway and Virginia Barbour
(Presented at the 7th International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, 8–10 September 2013, Chicago, USA)
Download presentation [PDF 552kb]

Classifications are in capitals, keywords in lowercase, descriptions in italics.

(Involves any aspect of authorship)


      Changes in authorship
      When changes to the authorship list are requested or made, after either submission or publication.

      Disputed authorship
      When there is disagreement about any aspect of authorship, e.g. who should be listed and order of listing.

      Ghost authorship
      When someone who should/deserves to be listed as an author is omitted on a submission or publication.

      Gift authorship
      When someone who has made little/no contribution to a research project/manuscript is included as an author on a submission or publication.

      Questionable authorship practice
      Dubious behaviour, e.g. making inclusion as an author dependent on something not linked to the project, depriving someone of appropriate listing.

(The existence of factors, situations or relationships that might inappropriately influence (bias), positively or negatively, a person’s actions)

      Conflict of interest

      Conflict of interest (author)

      Conflict of interest (editor)
      Includes any person with high-level editorial and decision-making responsibilities.

      Conflict of interest (journal)
      Includes (1) journal-associated individuals and staff, and (2) when journals don't have appropriate systems for ensuring people with conflicts of interest
      are not included in editorial decisions.

      Conflict of interest (reviewer)

(Permission/lack of to publish variety of things (personal details, other information, data, case report, article))

      Consent for publication

      Consent for publication (author)

      Consent for publication (institution)

      Consent for publication (participant)

      Consent for publication (supervisor)

(Involves any aspect of contributorship)


    Changes in contributorship
    When changes to the contributorship list or individual contributions are requested or made, after either submission or publication.

    Disputed contributorship
    When there is disagreement about any aspect of contributorship, e.g. who should be listed, actual contribution/s, order of listing.

    Ghost contributorship
    When someone who should/deserves to be listed as an contributor is omitted on a submission or publication.

    Gift contributorship
    When someone who has made little/no contribution to a research project/manuscript is included as a contributor on a submission or publication.

    Questionable contributorship practice
    Dubious behaviour, e.g. making inclusion as a contributor dependent on something not linked to the project, depriving someone of appropriate listing.

(Involves any aspect of copyright)


      Copyright disputes/breaches
      When there is disagreement about copyright or breaches are involved.

(Involves all discussion and categories of correction of the literature)

      Correction of the literature

      Correction of the literature, corrections

      Correction of the literature, corrigenda & errata
      Corrigenda are corrections due to author errors, errata are due to journal/publisher ones.

      Correction of the literature, disputes
      When various parties can’t agree on either whether a correction is needed or what kind of correction is needed; also when they refuse to correct.

      Correction of the literature, expressions of concern

      Correction of the literature, retractions

(Includes data, results, materials, and also submission/publication-associated documents, e.g. consent and copyright forms)


      Data fabrication
      Making up research details/findings/documents.

      Data falsification
      Altering research details/findings/documents.

      Data integrity
      When there is data falsification or fabrication, also mistakes/problems leading to data problems.

      Data manipulation
      Issues to do with handling and changing of data.

      Data misappropriation/theft

      Data ownership

      Data, selective/misleading reporting/interpretation
      Data or information omitted/misreported to mislead/fit a theory, desired outcome, etc.

      Data, sharing

      Data, unauthorized use

      Image manipulation
      Includes all changes to original images, whether appropriate or inappropriate; also image duplication.

(Restriction of editorial freedom/decision making or undue influence by an outside agency)

      Editorial independence

      Publisher role
      Appropriate and inappropriate intervention/influence by a publisher in editorial matters/decisions.

      Relation to society/owner
      Concerns about editor's relationship to journal owner/parent organization (e.g. incentive schemes that create conflicts of interest).

(All issues to do with funding or sponsorship of either the research/researchers or any of the individuals/practices/content of the journal)


      Financial support disclosure (publication)

      Financial support disclosure (research)

      Funder/sponsor role
      Inappropriate involvement or intervention in any part of the research or its publication; failure to disclose role.

      Funding/sponsorship concerns

(Ways of assessing/measuring ‘impact’ of research output/people including but beyond just Impact Factor (e.g. altmetrics, citations, downloads, social media)

      Impact Factor

      Impact Factor manipulation


      Metrics (article)

      Metrics (author)

      Metrics (journal)



      Social media

      Legal issues


      Misconduct/questionable behaviour

      Misconduct/questionable behaviour (author)

      Misconduct/questionable behaviour (editor)
      Editor contravening COPE principles of publication ethics outlined in the core practices.

      Misconduct/questionable behaviour (institution)

      Misconduct/questionable behaviour (journal)

      Misconduct/questionable behaviour (publisher)

      Misconduct/questionable behaviour (reviewer)

      Misconduct/questionable behaviour (society/journal owner)

      Misconduct sanctions

(What appear to be honest errors or where benefit of doubt has to be given)


      Mistakes (author)

      Mistakes (editor)

      Mistakes (institution)

      Mistakes (journal)

      Mistakes (publisher)

      Mistakes (reviewer)

      Mistakes (society/journal owner)

(Involving any aspect peer review)

      Peer review

      Editorial decisions
      Concern/complaint that decision/s not being made fairly/ethically (e.g. editor's potential conflict of interest not being handled appropriately
      or decisions being unduly influenced by commercial considerations); questions  regarding decisions or policy.

      Peer-review process
      Concern/complaint about a journal's peer-review process or components of that process (e.g. creates conflicts of interest,
      is unfair or inadequate, introduces bias, is unethical).

      Post-publication peer review


(Taking/using/presenting others’ ideas, data/results, writings and inventions without giving due or appropriate credit to the originator)


      Plagiarism (published article)

      Plagiarism (submitted article)

      'Self-plagiarism'/text recycling (published article)
      Reusing one’s own previous writing without being transparent about this or appropriately referencing/quoting from the original.

      'Self-plagiarism'/text recycling (submitted article)
      Reusing one’s own previous writing without being transparent about this or appropriately referencing/quoting from the original.

      Questionable/unethical research

      Ethical review/approval
      All issues and aspects of research ethical approval, e.g. whether by appropriate and independent review bodies, with appropriate/adequate processes.

      Participant consent
      In the research (consent for publication is in a separate classification above), failing to obtain fully informed consent or where voluntary
      participation/freedom to withdraw cannot be ensured.

      Participant confidentiality
      Respecting the right of individuals to have their personal details/data treated in confidence.

      Protection of subject (animal)
      With respect to treatments and adherence to recognized standards.

      Protection of subject (human)
      Protection of research participants from potential hazards/detriments to them of taking part in the research.

      Questionable/unethical treatments
      Administering questionable procedures (e.g. failing to inform of potential risks, that treatment experimental/unapproved).

      Research integrity
      Of the research, materials, procedures, etc; breaches may involve ethical issues but may also result from mistakes or equipment malfunction.

      Research integrity/ethics investigations
      Involving investigations at institutions or by official bodies on the integrity/soundness/ethics of the research done.

(The publication, or attempted publication, of whole or substantial parts of work/data/analysis that have already been published (or have been submitted elsewhere), without transparency or appropriate declaration/referencing)

      Redundant/duplicate publication

      Multiple submissions
      Submission of identical manuscripts or those with substantial overlap to more than one journal/publication venue at a time.

      Prior publication
      Where a journal considers posting of data or a pre-print before submission as 'publication', and which will therefore exclude those
      items from subsequent submission to the journal. Grey and rapidly changing area, varies greatly from journal to journal.

      Redundant/duplicate publication, translations

(Individuals who make allegations about potential research or publication misconduct, either privately or publicly, and anonymously or not)


      Whistleblowers, emails

      Whistleblowers, responding to