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COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. March 2015 (Vol. 3, Issue 3)

Letter from the Chair

In addition to the normal round up of topics, this month’s newsletter also highlights a new development in thinking about authorship—a topic that we know is one of the top issues that editors have to deal with and which leads to much anxiety among authors. Authorship is also the topic of this month’s case. The new initiative, Project CRediT (, comes from a long tradition of thinking about contributions to papers, and is aimed at increasing transparency and attribution of effort.

Another highlighted topic is a guideline to standardize the citation of bioresources in journal articles (CoBRA).

What these initiatives have in common are an attempt to provide structure and clarity of attribution in the data around published articles. As articles and collaborations become more complex, such initiatives will become increasingly important in the reporting of articles and ultimately ensuring how much reliance can be placed on them.

If you have any items for COPE Digest, would like to contribute items or have other suggestions, as always, please get in touch (contact us here), and please do forward COPE Digest to your colleagues.

Case of the month

Every month we will be highlighting a publication ethics case that has been brought to the COPE Forum, Ask COPE session or a query posted to COPE council by one of our 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 about. We welcome comments and further discussion about the cases and will provide summaries in future issues.

Misattributed authorship and unauthorized use of data (case #13-17)

A journal was contacted by the director of a research laboratory claiming that the documents and data used in a published article were collected at his research laboratory and used without his knowledge and permission. The director also claimed that the co-authors were listed without their knowledge. Read the full case details, along with the discussion and advice here:


Report from the COPE Education Committee

Project CRediT: an ongoing effort to standardize Contributor Role Taxonomy

Project CRediT ( is an ongoing effort to standardize a contributor role taxonomy to facilitate transparent disclosure of authorship and contributorship practices in scholarly writing. The taxonomy has now been released and a link to the data dictionary can be found here: An explanation of the process and a list of the 14 category taxonomy has been published in Nature ( Contributorship roles proposed by Project CRediT are not defined and limited in the same way as the author role in the ICMJE guidelines. A glance at the taxonomy quickly shows that these new contributor roles are more comprehensive; for example, the term “software” is defined as “programming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components”. Such non-traditional roles rarely receive recognition in published literature. This new contributor taxonomy aims to change this. Additional goals of the project moving forward into the implementation phase are to collect role metadata and deposit it with CrossRef and ORCID, making it possible for research contributions to be recognized and credited appropriately. It is also hoped that better attribution of effort will reduce author disputes and promote cross disciplinary collaboration in science.

In the news

Developing a guideline to standardize the citation of bioresources in journal articles (CoBRA)

Standard citation scheme to improve the quality of bioresource reporting and allow their traceability in scientific publications

Publication and the law

US Federal Court, citing freedom of speech, allows journal Diabetes to publish Expressions of Concern about validity of data in four papers (two rulings so far)

Citation manipulation stopped

Thammasat International Journal of Science and Technology stops asking authors to stack citations following Retraction Watch post

The internet’s hidden science factory

Cyber guinea pigs provide a steady stream of data to academic research

Retraction due to unreliable data followed by misconduct investigation

University of Texas at Austin conducted a confidential investigation and shared the conclusion that scientific misconduct had occurred, but provided no further detail of the nature of the misconduct

Danish court clears a prominent scientist of research misconduct

It overturns the judgement of the government agency in charge of investigating scientific fraud

Journal of Neuroscience retracts paper and bans authors from publishing for 2 years

Institutional investigation found no intent to deceive and that the mistakes did not undermine the overall conclusion of the paper

Robot journalism

A checklist for human editors. And a short scary step for scientific papers.......

HIV scientist pleads guilty to fraud in Iowa federal court

And faces up to 10 years in prison for faking data involving a study of an HIV vaccine

What's been happening at COPE

New COPE guidelines: Sharing of information among editors

COPE has published new guidance on 'Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct'. These guidelines have been issued following a COPE Discussion Forum (4 September 2013) and Discussion Document (February 2014) on the subject. It was  initiated in the wake of a number of high profile cases of research misconduct in which the sharing of information between the relevant editors-in-chief (EiCs) was crucial to the final settlement of the cases. Download PDF (136 KB) © 2015 COPE. 

New COPE discussion document: Addressing ethics complaints from complainants who submit multiple issues

A new discussion document from COPE on 'Addressing ethics complaints from complainants who submit multiple issues' has now been published and can be read here: or downloaded from our website ( This guidance has been drafted following discussion at the COPE Forum (4 December 2013), in view of the complexities inherent in investigation of complaints from anonymous 'whistle blowers' and, specifically, in response to requests from our members. COPE welcomes feedback on this document and we encourage journal editors and publishers to comment (whether or not they are COPE members).

A companion discussion document 'How to respond to anonymous whistle blowers' can be read here:

Register now for the COPE European Seminar 2015

There is still time to register for the COPE European Seminar 2015 in Brussels, Belgium, on 16-17 April 2015.

The theme of this year's European seminar is “Weighed and measured: how metrics shape publication (mis)behaviour”. Editors, publishers, authors and all those interested in publication ethics are welcome to attend. The full programme is now available. In addition to the all day seminar on Friday 17 April, COPE is holding a half-day Workshop on Thursday 16 April (2.30-4.30pm) with discussion of ethical cases.

The seminar will include invited talks, a panel discussion and interactive workshops.

The seminar is free for COPE members and £300 for non-members. For more information and to register, see the COPE website

New COPE members

We welcome a new publisher, Copernicus Publications, to COPE.