You are here

COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. July 2016 (Vol. 4, Issue 7)

Case of the month: Author impersonating corresponding author

Case #15-12

An article apparently written by seven authors from two universities was accepted and published after an uneventful peer review process. The jounal received an email from the corresponding author to say that the paper had been submitted without his, or his co-authors, knowledge or permission, claiming that the first author of the article submitted the article under the corresponding author’s name using a fake email account. What actions should the editor take to address these claims?
Discussion and advice from the Forum

Letter from this month's editor

This past month has been busy for COPE Council members and Trustees. COPE held its annual strategy meeting in mid-June with three days of meetings among the Trustee Board, wider Council and the individual subcommittees. We finalised our strategic plan—which will be posted on our website shortly—discussed some of the issues currently impacting on the publication and research ethics landscape and how COPE can best provide advice and guidance; attempted to look into what issues may arise in the future; as well as introduced our newest COPE Council members to COPE. 

The results from the recent Council elections and the successful candidates are announced below. We welcome the new members to Council and look forward to working with them. The expansion of COPE’s leadership group, with increased numbers of elected and co-opted members, is aimed at ensuring that the mission of the charity, setting a standard for publication ethics, is furthered.  Future plans include more global seminars, establishing closer links with institutions, and revising and optimising the complaints process.

There are two major events coming up in August. The first is the COPE North American Seminar “Ethics in peer review” being held in conjunction with ISMTE (International Society of Medical and Technical Editors) in Philadelphia, PA, on August 10. The second is the INANE Conference (International Academy of Nurse Editors) August 1-3, in London. A COPE Forum will be held at the conclusion of this conference, with cases brought by members and, for this forum, will include a discussion around a proposed new simplified version of the Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors. All COPE members are welcome to attend, whether or not they are presenting a case, but please email the COPE Administrator if you plan to attend so that we can plan seating and catering. Unfortunately there are no facilities to join this meeting electronically this time. 

And finally, many congratulations to our Treasurer, Deborah Poff, on her Order of Canada award. Since joining COPE council she has brought the same qualities of excellence and wise counsel to COPE that the Canadian Government have now recognised and which we also benefit from tremendously.

Geri Pearson, COPE Co-Vice Chair

Reproducing COPE resources

Report from the COPE Education Committee

COPE has developed many resources to assist members and the broader community of those interested in research and publication ethics. Flow charts, guidelines, discussion documents and case discussion are all freely available to members and non-members alike. Many of these resources have been translated into other languages and others are translated by members with bilingual skills. We hope for the widest dissemination of our resources because they provide valuable tools for editors and publishers as they make decisions about suspected misconduct in the scholarly record.

That said, it is important to understand how you can ethically use and reproduce our resources. All of COPE’s resources are available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license (for a more comprehensive explanation of the types of creative commons licenses available see What does this license mean to the end user of our resources? There are three major components to consider as defined by this specific license:

  • Attribution – anyone reusing this material must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor such as by a link to the COPE website
  • Non-commercial – the work may not be used for commercial purposes such as selling COPE’s flowcharts in a branded package
  • No Derivative works – the work must be reproduced in its original format (no edits or alterations) and may not be transformed or expanded, such as transforming a COPE guideline into an interactive computer application

Anyone wishing to make another use of COPE materials must contact the COPE Administrator for permission. We specifically ask that anyone wishing to do translations of COPE materials for distribution request permission in this way. We encourage people to use our resources because we strongly believe they are helpful in the decision making process for editors and publishers. But we do want them properly attributed and used responsibly.

In the news

Brexit: implications for European research and international collaborations

EU referendum: implications for UK research

Views on Brexit from Times Higher Education

Researchers reeling as UK votes to leave EU

Future of science uncertain after UK referendum result

Beyond Brexit

COPE in the news

COPE Treasurer, Deborah Poff, is awarded the Order of Canada for her work in universities and for increasing educational opportunities for Aboriginal people
Order of Canada - Deborah Poff

Policy: Boost basic research in China

Focus on improving the quality and integrity of basic research and exposing misconduct
Improve basic research policy

Facebook has a new process for discussing ethics. But is it ethical?

Facebook develops new internal ethics review process following 2014 “emotional contagion study”
Facebook's new ethics process

Are research ethics obsolete in the era of big data?

The uneven landscape of just how much ethical consideration, if any, goes into “big data” research around the world
Ethics of big data

Retract—and replace? JAMA may expand use of this tool

An old version of an article is pulled and replaced by a corrected one.
JAMA retract and replace

Impact of interventions to improve the quality of peer review of biomedical journals: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Of 22 RCTs only 7 published since 2004.  Open peer review improved the quality of the peer review report, did not affect the time peer reviewers spent on the peer review, and decreased the rate of rejection. Blinded peer review did not affect the quality of the peer review report or rejection rate
Read systematic review and meta-analysis

Identifying publishing outlets that follow best practice

Due diligence and associating work with outlets that follow best practice approaches recommended
Best practice publishing

Data don't lie, do they?

Forging a path to find the truth into allegations of misconduct, fabrication or plagiarism

Is there a problem with academic integrity?

UK survey suggests that research misconduct is higher than previously feared
Research misconduct in UK

Science academies blast US government’s planned research ethics reforms

US government’s proposed changes are “marred by omissions and a lack of clarity”.
Academies blast ethics reforms

North American Seminar. Last chance to register!

Ethics in Peer Review

August 10, Philadelphia

COPE's North American Seminar will be held in collaboration with ISMTE (International Society of Managing and Technical Editors). The theme of this year's seminar is “Ethics in peer review”. Editors, publishers, authors and all those interested in publication ethics are welcome to attend.

The seminar includes invited talks, in addition to workshop sessions in the afternoon.
Registration closes July 22, 2016.
Register now

Submit a case: COPE Forum at INANE Conference, 3 August

The next COPE Forum meeting, where we discuss cases submitted by members, is Wednesday 3 August 2016  We are delighted that this will be a face to face meeting at the  International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE) Nurses Conference, at the Royal College of Nursing, 20 Cavendish Square, London. 

The deadline for submission of cases is 20 July. Cases must be anonymised and should be submitted via the website (go to Cases, and then Submit a case). You need to be logged in as a member to do this. We do like those presenting a case to join the meeting (in person or by phone). Submit a case

All members are welcome to attend in person, whether or not they are presenting a case. So that we have an idea of numbers, please can you email the COPE Administrator if you are planning on attending in person. Unfortunately, there are no facillities to join the meeting by webinar for this Forum.

Results of Council election

We are delighted to announce the new members on COPE Council, voted for by COPE members.

We received an unprecedented number of applications for the eight vacancies available. The Nominations Committee thoroughly reviewed all the applications and produced a shortlist of 13 candidates to put forward for election. Voting was then opened to general membership. The new members of Council are: 

  • Michael Wise (COPE, re-elected), Perth, Australia 
  • Iria del Rio, Editorial Director of the Spanish Society of Cardiology, Madrid, Spain
  • Nancy Chescheir, Editor-in-chief of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Washington DC, USA
  • Rachel Safer, Oxford University Press, Boston, USA
  • Jason Hu, Wiley, Shanghai, China
  • David Ginley, co-Editor-in-chief of MRS Energy & Sustainability, Colorado, USA
  • Trevor Lane, Edanz Group, Japan

Note: Deborah Kahn (Editorial Director, Taylor & Francis, UK) applied to be a member of COPE Council and has been elected by the General Membership. However, Deborah will not be taking up her position until an ongoing case involving Taylor & Francis has been resolved.

Strategy retreat

COPE Council convened for a 3 day residential meeting, 14-17 June, to discuss - among other things - COPE's strategic plan for the next 18 months and beyond. Lots of ideas were discussed. We will let our members know of our decisions and plans in more detail over the next few months. Watch this space!

COPE session at EASE, Strasbourg, France

Report from Mirjam Curno and Elizabeth Moylan

COPE attended the 13th conference of the European Association of Science Editors (EASE) in Strasbourg, France, 10–12 June. The theme of the conference was ‘Scientific integrity—editors in the front line’.

COPE Council members Mirjam Curno and Elizabeth Moylan held a workshop discussing the role of COPE with respect to publication ethics. The focus was on how editors could handle issues that occurred post-publication—including compromised peer review—that may result in corrections or retractions. There was a lively discussion on whether the present system was fit for purpose with thoughtful suggestions from the participants. These will be incorporated into a future discussion document on the topic.

Mirjam Curno also chaired a parallel session on handling cases of misconduct. The publisher perspective on this in terms of support and guidance for editors was discussed by Elizabeth Moylan (BioMed Central).We heard from Matt Hodgkinson (PLOS) who gave advice on how editors could act when faced with a public issue. Lex Bouter (VU University of Amsterdam) explained the issues faced by whistleblowers and measures institutions could adopt. We also learnt more about the process of whistleblowing from Christiaan Sterken (University of Brussels, EASE Council Member).

Matt Hodgkinson: dealing with publicity           Christiaan Sterken: whistleblowers

Certainly, publishers, editors, peer reviewers, institutions and researchers all have a collective responsibility to foster best practice with respect to research and publication ethics, and ensure the integrity of the published literature. Thank you to the conference organisers for a stimulating and varied programme.