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COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. February 2014 (Vol. 2, Issue 2)

Letter from the Chair

As the memories of the holidays fade away, at COPE we are now full swing into conferences. Our European Seminar (the first European one outside of the UK) will be on March 14 in Brussels. Later in the year, in addition to our own meetings, COPE and its council members will be participating in a number of different conferences, and we see these as an important part of our outreach to members. Please check the website to keep up to date with all the activity.

We have also just completed our first round of elections to council this year and we are delighted that Geri Person and Behrooz Astaneh have been re-elected; ordinary council members can serve two three-year terms. Geri has done sterling work overseeing our conferences and Behrooz has done much to raise the profile of publication ethics in the Middle East; we look forward to their further contributions to council. In addition, we have a new co-opted council member, Alison Taylor of the American Institute of Physics. She joins Tara Hoke of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who is our other co-opted member. The refreshment of our Council is important for COPE’s evolution and we are constantly looking to ensure that the council is representative of our members. All council members are volunteers and are experts in their own fields.

We hope you are also enjoying our newsletter, where we aim to provide a snapshot of what else is going on in publication ethics and related fields. We welcome any feedback you have and suggestions for items to be included.


COPE eLearning course

One of the most common issues that editors encounter is plagiarism. The COPE eLearning module on Plagiarism ( can help editors address this form of misconduct. The module covers definitions of plagiarism, tools to use for text-matching, and suggestions for steps to take to resolve the issue. This module takes about 20 minutes to complete and is available to all members.

Recent advice from COPE Council

Changing affiliation after publication
Council advice is that the original affiliation should be used as this is where the work was done. The university where the research was done should remain as the affiliation of the publication. In many countries, the number of academic publications of an institution is taken into account in the state's funding formula and so the original affiliation should remain. Adding current contact information while maintaining the original institutional affiliations prior to, but not after, actual publication is valid. There is no reason to change the information on the published version in any way—otherwise this would be happening all the time. An ORCID account is a good way of keeping contact information updated while having a link to all papers.

In the news

Plagiarism in the press

The developmental biologist, Professor Lewis Wolpert, has admitted incorporating unattributed text from a variety of sources in his recent books, one of which has been withdrawn from sale. The Guardian discusses the role of authors and publishers.

COPE Resources: 
Plagiarism Discussion document
Plagiarism flowcharts

Patterns of plagiarism

From large chunks to paraphrasing and repeated use of the same text.

COPE Resources: 
Plagiarism Discussion document
Plagiarism flowcharts

Gender balance in publication

Debate about gender balance in scientific papers in Nature.


More retractions from Joachim Boldt. This time a paper from 1996 in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, cited because of doubts regarding veracity.

COPE Resources: 
Retraction guidelines

Publication of research funded by the drug industry

Head to head debate in the BMJ: Richard Smith, Peter C Gøtzsche, and Trish Groves.

Research: increasing value, reducing waste

Five papers in The Lancet about improving research publication.

The Office of Research Integrity and scientific misconduct

Case summary of Eric T Poehlman, found responsible for misleading and deceptive practices.

Is it ethical to ghost write a paper? 

So Ask Retraction Watch. COPE's flowchart provides guidance.

COPE Resources: 
Suspected guest, ghost or gift authorship flowchart

Postpublication peer review on stripy nanoparticle paper on PubPeer

Critical assessment of the evidence for striped nanoparticles

What's been happening at COPE

Updated Health Research Authority guidance

COPE's guidelines on 'Guidance for Editors: Research, Audit and Service Evaluations' has been updated to reflect changes to the authority that determines what studies require ethical approval in the UK.

COPE Council elections

We are pleased to announce that Behrooz Astaneh and Geri Pearson have been re-elected to Council during COPE's recent elections. It was, as ever, a close fought race and we thank all candidates for their interest in COPE.

COPE European seminar

COPE's European seminar, being held in Brussels, Belgium, on 14 March, is filling up fast. For more information and to register see

COPE North American seminar in collaboration with ISMTE

COPE is pleased to give advance notice of its North American seminar. Taking place in collaboration with the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE), it will be held in Philadelphia, PA on 13 August 2014. More details will follow soon.


Case of the month

Every month we will be highlighting a publication ethics case that has been brought to COPE by one of its members. Cases will be highlighted for a number of reasons - they may be of broad interest, introduce an important new issue that members may not be aware of, or reflect a topic that COPE is increasingly being asked for advice about. We welcome comments and further discussion about the cases and will provide summaries in future issues.

Journal refuses to correct the record (case #12-34)

What can an editor do when another journal refuses to follow the correct procedures for retraction? An author contacted the editor informing him that a paper he had published in their journal had been published, word for word, in another journal (journal X). The editor followed the appropriate COPE flowchart and contacted the editor of journal X. The editor of journal X said he would publish a retraction in September 2011, but a year later, the paper is still available in an internet search. Is there anything else the editor can do?
Click here to find out what the Forum advised.

Feedback can be provided here