Welcome to the inaugural edition of COPE Digest: Publication ethics in practice. Our aim was for a newsletter that was able to provide a timely resource on publication ethics, in a format that makes it easy to browse and reflect what COPE does best—provide practical support to members. The newsletter will therefore be coming out monthly and we intend it to reflect the dynamic nature of information on the web nowadays with links to content from within and external to COPE. The newsletter has come to life thanks to the inspiration, experience and work of three key members of COPE: Natalie Ridgeway, COPE Operations Manager, Irene Hames, COPE Council member, and Charlotte Haug, COPE Vice-Chair.
The first issue is a bumper edition as it provides information from over the past 9 months, when we made the decision to switch from our previous newsletter, Ethical Editing. Highlights include a Lancet study which analyzes national official guidance documents on research integrity in Europe and shows great heterogeneity within and between European countries; a Retraction Watch piece that reports on a study showing journals’ handling of retractions to be less than optimal; and, from COPE, the relaunch of our eLearning course for editors. We hope that you find the course informative and useful.
Over this past 9 months we have made some important decisions about the running of COPE, and specifically what our long-term strategy should be. To that end, we are conducting a strategic review and in the process of that have reviewed our aims as an organization and agreed our core priorities—educating and supporting editors and leading the debate into key issues in publication ethics.
One issue we therefore considered in some depth was the role of COPE in investigating complaints that we receive about member editors. Complaints are relatively small in number but are hugely time consuming to deal with and since we are not, and do not want to be, a statutory organization with the power to exert sanctions, we are rarely able to provide an outcome that both (or sometimes either) side is satisfied with. The Council felt strongly that the resources we use in our current way of handling complaints are also detracting from our ability to deal with other business. We are therefore implementing a new way of dealing with complaints, which will be much more advisory and which is aimed at helping the various parties involved to resolve disagreement between them. This approach we feel combines COPE’s main strength—of providing advice and support—while not diminishing the importance of complaints. We also hope it will allow us to be much quicker in handling complaints.
COPE continues to grow and in order for it to thrive we have to constantly consider the best way to run it to support our members. Over the next few months we be will reviewing the governance of COPE and will be surveying our members for input in various ways. Even in the early stages of that review we have come to recognize again how important communication with our members is—via our website, our seminars and Forums, and now this newsletter. We hope you find it valuable, will encourage colleagues to read it and will let us know what you think.