Two themes dominate the newsletter: data sharing and correcting the scientific record and the long time this may take. Sharing clinical trial data is laudatory, and the ICMJE proposes to require authors to share with others deidentified individual patient data no later than 6 months after publication. However, as Liz Wager points out, the process is costly, and requires considerable time and effort to establish and maintain repositories with well defined anonymisation and managed access procedures. Also, ethics committee approval is required as well as informed consent from study participants. This is especially important as it may be possible that individuals could be re-identified from genetic and genomic data when combined with other information that is publicly available. It is encouraging that leading global health bodies, including academic journals, NGOs, research funders and institutes, have committed to making data on Zika available (eg, Nature, Science, New England Journal of Medicine, BMJ, JAMA, The Lancet) free of charge, as soon as is feasibly possible. Journal signatories provide assurance that doing so will not preclude researchers from subsequently publishing papers in their titles. Data sharing was also the discussion topic of the recent COPE Forum—a full report will appear in next month’s Digest.
With regard to correcting the scientific record, Allison and colleagues describe the hurdles that journal editors and staff members put in the way of researchers wanting to correct the scientific record, including request for payment. A major problem is that ‘editors are often unable or reluctant to take speedy and appropriate action’. As detailed by whistleblower Stefan Franzen, institutions are also reluctant to act. This resulted in Science retracting a 2004 paper on nanoparticles in 2016.
I hope you find the rest of the monthly roundup interesting reading. 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.