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COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. August 2016 (Vol. 4, Issue 8)

Case of the month: Data anonymity

Case #16-05

An editor was concerned about patient information in the paper and queried the authors. The authors responded that the data were collected from routine samples and so consent was never obtained. The patients were lost to follow-up, and there was no ethics committee approval as it involved the study of existing data, but they did discuss with the institutional review board who said it was exempt. Should the editor publish this without patient consent? Are there other issues that raise concerns?
Discussion and advice from the Forum

Letter from the chair: Making complex decisions

There are lots of possible ways of making decisions among a diverse group. You can just legislate from on top on how to handle specific issues or, at the other extreme, leave everyone to make their own decisions. Or you can try to have a consensus—a moderated middle way—arrived at through thoughtful discussion and debate.

All of these ways have their advantages and disadvantages—by consensus is not the shortest way to make a decision—and organisations have to think carefully about what works best for them. For operational decisions, smaller groups clearly make the fastest decisions. On the other hand, since COPE began, the organisation has, regardless of who is involved in it, taken the view that the best way to debate the really complex ethics issues that our members have to handle is to discuss them among the widest group possible. Hence our member Forums have consistently been the most important place where discussions on publication ethics happen.

Our recent Forum in London was a great example of this process, with some really tricky issues being debated in a professional, constructive way by a diverse group of editors and publishers.  All of the cases are brought by specific members—usually editors—to the Forum and are discussed between all the participants of the Forum. The case notes reflect the discussion that took place. In accordance with our process, the advice from the Forum participants is provided back to the member who brought the specific case to the Forum for them to consider when handling the case further. The final decision on handling any specific case lies with the member editor and/or publisher who brought the case for discussion. Time and again this process has been the best way of making sure advice that is given is as good as it can be, given what information we have in front of us at the time.

Our seminars are another way for COPE’s members to get together, and our North American Seminar ( just a week later, with a record attendance of 97 people, provided education in a more traditional format. A full report will come next month.

We are committed at COPE to providing continuous education and support for our members and that's reflected in our strategic plan, also in this newsletter. As with everything we do, we welcome comment and feedback.
Ginny Barbour, COPE Chair

In the news

COPE in the news

See COPE Secretary, Charon Pierson's article on “Avoiding ethics pitfalls in publishing: a perspective from COPE” 
Avoiding ethics pitfalls

Brexit: implications for European research and international collaborations

Six leading scientists give perspectives on UK science after Brexit

Loss of overseas researchers and students, and Horizon 2020 funding in the UK
UK research post-Brexit

Academics feel blight of Brexit—from cancer research to peat projects

Academics tell us how the EU referendum has already damaged or delayed their work
Research projects on hold

UK research head urges UK to seize Brexit opportunity

Newly created UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) body
Positive outcome for research

Other news

Impact factors

A simple proposal for the publication of journal citation distributions
Identifying quality of papers

Impact is not just a “factor”: seeing the different facets of research resonance

Visibility before citations
Early indication of resonance

Where you publish, not what, "decides historians’ fate"

Dundee academics face redundancy at end of assessment process as university is looking to save £250,000 from the budget of its School of Humanities as part of a £5 million cost cutting drive, and several members of the history department have been told that they are at risk of redundancy
Where not what you publish

Pressure to publish and why

Inadequate training of researchers, the pressures and incentives to publish in certain outlets, and the demands and expectations of journal editors and reviewers
Influences on research integrity

Research fraud: the temptation to lie and the challenges of regulation

Good summary of recent cases of research misconduct
Temptation to fabricate data

When is research not research?

Quality assurance or improvement: a perennial headache for editors to ensure that it is not avoidance of ethics review for bureaucratic reasons
Avoiding ethics review

We need to talk about the bad science being funded

The issue of false positive findings
Good science loses out

Why drug trials need to respect vulnerability

India’s experience shows a wider notion of vulnerability is needed to protect human rights
Protecting vulnerability across borders

Proceedings of the 4th World Conference on Research Integrity

From Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. 31 May-3 June 2015
WCRI 2015 Proceedings

Chinese regulators take aim at academic misconduct

Six types of academic misconduct identified, including plagiarism, fraud, falsification, inappropriate authorship, providing false information and dealing in papers
Chinese action against misconduct

Can you help? call for editors and researchers

HRA/EQUATOR brief survey on research publication and dissemination

Commissioned by the Health Research Authority (HRA), who has tasked the EQUATOR Network with carrying a out a call for comments to inform future HRA policies on research reporting and dissemination. The project aims to increase the transparency and completeness of future published research. You can help by completing a short online survey

Survey for journal editors: request from European FP7 project ANIMPACT

Researchers at the University of Sheffield and University of Porto our aiming to map current principles and practices of peer-reviewed scientific journals publishing results from animal studies. You can help by completing the online questionnaire

COPE Forum: August report

We were delighted to hold a face to face meeting of the COPE Forum at the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE) Nurses Conference, at the Royal College of Nursing, 20 Cavendish Square, London, on Wednesday 3 August 2016. The Forum was very well attended, with an audience of nearly 80, made up of not only the INANE delegates but other members of COPE who came to the London venue for discussion of cases submitted by COPE members. The Forum was hosted by COPE Secretary Charon Pierson and COPE co-Vice-Chair Geri Pearson. Other council members in attendance were Zoe Mullan and Elizabeth Moylan. There was a lively discussion of the seven cases presented. The full details and links to the cases and discussions can be found below.

COPE co-Vice-Chair Geri Pearson (left) and COPE Secretary Charon Pierson (right) hosting the COPE Forum in London.

Advice on new cases

COPE's Strategic Plan: 2016-2018

Following consultation with COPE Council and feedback from members, we are committed to delivering on 5 strategic priorities in the next 2 years. The strategic priorities are outlined in full in COPE's Strategic Plan.

COPE's Strategic Plan 2016-2018