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COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. April 2017 (Vol. 5, Issue 4)

Case of the month: Case histories and post publication debate

Case #16-19

A letter to the editor from reader A was received by a journal concerning a published case history from author B. Reader A questioned the choice of treatment and author B's conclusion regarding the reason why the patient died. The editor asked the Forum if it is justifiable, ethically, to let readers speculate on the patient's diagnosis, the choice of treatment, etc?
Discussion and advice from the Forum

Letter from the COPE co-Vice-Chairs

Chris Graf

Geri PearsonCOPE is in the midst of a busy time. Trustees and Council members are broadly placed across the globe, and all are dealing with publication ethics issues in their various roles. COPE continues to grow and expand in its mission to support editors and publishers as they deal with publication ethics issues, misconduct and education. We urge you to review the COPE website for more detailed information about activities.

Please note the many news items following this letter. They come from a range of organizations, disciplines, countries and concern various topics. They are reflective of the increasing complexity of publication ethics in the world.

We participated in an extremely successful collaborative effort with the ISMTE 2017 Asian-Pacific Conference in Beijing in March. A report on the COPE seminar, "The pillars of publication ethics", can be found below. The seminar marks the continuing commitment of COPE to provide resources and a supportive publication ethics presence in Asia.

We are eagerly anticipating the European Seminar, 25 May, in London. Join us to celebrate 20 years of COPE with a special programme "The changing face and future of publication ethics." There are still some spaces left, so do register!

If you would like to be more involved in COPE, why not apply for a position on COPE Council? We are currently seeking nominations (see below). The closing date for applications is: 28 April 2017.

Geri Pearson and Chris Graf, COPE co-Vice-Chairs

In the news

Mixing politics and journal publications

Turkey's research agency, TÜBİTAK, told journals to remove from their editorial and review boards any academics who have been dismissed or suspended from their institutions.
Turkish editorial boards culled

COPE statement on Authorship and politics

NAS recommends independent board to address detrimental research practices

In "Fostering integrity in research", the National Academy of Science (NAS) calls for an independent board to "serve as a neutral resource [to help] the research enterprise response to challenges"
New body to tackle misconduct

Social science profession ethics

The social scientists should develop their own research ethic based within their own profession and on confidentiality
Professional ethics for social sciences

Conflicts of interest?

Potential financial conflicts of interest among physician editorial board members of orthopaedic surgery journals
Editorial boards' potential financial conflict of interest

You should know if you're buying a lemon...

Journals’ reputations should be tied to their practices regarding transparency, and reviewers should demand it
Quality uncertainty erodes trust

Ethical problems with citations

Three specific problems with the ethics of citation
3 citation problems

Gender bias in peer reviewing?

In a study of over 41,000 articles, 73% of reviewers appointed by male editors were also men and 33% of reviewers appointed by women were women
Peer review gender disparity

Report on "Fake Research" 

Official data showing 30 allegations of research misconduct between 2012 and 2015 in the UK is likely underreported
Underestimated research misconduct

RRI - what is it and is it political?

LSE policy tool, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), is meant to “shape the direction and purpose of science, technology, and innovation as a means to achieve public value beyond the pre-eminent goal of economic growth”
Responsible research and innovation

Reproducibility issues

Rigor mortis: how sloppy science creates worthless cures, crushes hope, and wastes billions 
Reproducibility blues

A proposal to promote data sharing

“Data author” - responsible for the integrity of a data set but not for the scientific or clinical conclusions of the analyses drawn from the data set
Data sharing incentive

Preprints encouraged by NIH

NIH encourages preprints to "speed dissemination and enhance the rigor of [investigators] work", and allows investigators to cite these interim research products
NIH encourages preprints

Indigenous South Africa's San people issue ethics code for research

Much-studied San people issued a request that researchers submit research proposals to a review panel of San community members
Guidelines for researchers

Open research platform to speed dissemination of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded research

Gates Open Research will allow their funded investigators to publish quickly via an open access model
Gates Open Research

Self plagiarism in health sciences research: a way forward?

Agreement on 3 points could further agreements about text recycling
Text recycling

Learning by doing

Intuitive research ethics training for novices
Intuitive ethics training

Open to comments: American Geophysical Union task force on scientific ethics

AGU believes the earth and space science community should be a safe and welcoming environment for individuals of all backgrounds
AGU ethics policy

Google scholar not to be sneezed at

Google Scholar is a “serious alternative to Web of Science” particularly in the social sciences and humanities 
Google Scholar

COPE European seminar: Register today

Join us to celebrate 20 years of COPE at our 2017 European Seminar, with a special programme reflecting on changing times in publication ethics.

COPE's European Seminar 2017 will be on Thursday, 25 May 2017, in London - 20 Cavendish Square, RCN, London W1G 0RN. 

Free for COPE members, £300 for non-members.

Register now

Vacancies on COPE council

Due to three council members coming to the end of their first term on council, we are seeking nominations for three new candidates. We are specially seeking candidates from Mainland Europe, Scandinavia and South America, and from the social sciences/humanities areas.

The closing date for applications is: 28 April 2017

Read more about the role of COPE Council members and the application process.

China Seminar report

COPE China Seminar at the ISMTE 2017 Asian-Pacific Conference

Report from Trevor Lane and Helena Wang, COPE Council

If the world’s published research were a building in progress, then its structural integrity would balance on the three ethical pillars of research publishing—honest authorship (both attribution and behaviour), sound peer review, and prevention of plagiarism. These were the three themes of the first COPE China Seminar, which was held at the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center on Sunday, 26 March 2017, in conjunction with the 2017 ISMTE Asian-Pacific Conference.

Titled “The Pillars of Publication Ethics”, the one-day event was attended by more than 120 delegates working in research, education, publishing and related services. Chris Graf, COPE Co-Vice Chair, opened the seminar by introducing COPE and its free website resources including Chinese translations. He urged the audience to “spread the word” and work together, and with COPE, to maintain the integrity of the world’s research record. 

COPE Treasurer Deborah Poff and Council Member Helena Wang chaired the session on authorship. Siu-wai Leung (University of Macau, China) spoke on how the responsibility to clearly define authorship is shared by journals, editors, research institutions, national bodies, and editorial services. Mark Israel (Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services) called for putting authorship guidelines into practice and gave some practical recommendations for journals.

The session on peer review, chaired by Chris Graf and COPE Council Member Jason Hu, began with a presentation by COPE Trustee and COPE Treasurer, Deborah Poff. Citing the value of peer review in knowledge creation, she encouraged recognition of peer review as an academic activity and advocated rewarding peer reviewers. Yongmao Jiang (Publishing Group of the Chinese Medical Association) explained how his group’s journals emphasize integrity and ethics to peer reviewers, and how one journal is using a panel of editors to make final manuscript decisions.

Chaired by Helena Wang and Jason Hu, the final session was about tackling plagiarism. Helen Zhang (Journal of Zhejiang University-SCIENCE A/B & FITEE) categorized plagiarism and its countermeasures into nine types, and Tracey Bretag (International Journal for Educational Integrity and University of South Australia) pointed out that both the extent and intent of plagiarism need to be considered when deciding a response.

A copy of all of the presentations can be found on the COPE website.

Each session ended with lively Q&A participation from both local and international delegates. Audience engagement was also high in the interactive cases workshop that was chaired by Chris Graf and COPE Council Member Trevor Lane. Based on real authorship, peer review, and plagiarism cases discussed at COPE Forum and archived on the COPE website, the six case studies involved audience polls, debate on corrective and preventive actions, and a look at relevant COPE resources and decision-making guidelines.
Read cases with advice

Our inaugural COPE China Seminar was a great success and received positive and encouraging audience feedback. Special thanks go to Linda Gough, COPE Administrator, for the seminar’s smooth running, preparation and organisation, and to Jason Hu for onsite photography and setting up social media accounts. Above all, this event provided a good model for future seminars in China, where we hope to continue spreading the word about COPE and best practices in research publishing.

Reminder: Your feedback needed for.....

New: Discussion document, guidance on best practice for issues around theses publishing. 

We're seeking feedback on this discussion document, particularly from those in the arts, humanities and social sciences fields, where practices might be different to those described in the document. Comments please by 28 April.

Traditionally, theses for higher degrees were published by universities in hard copy only. Now increasingly, these are also archived and may be made freely available via university repositories. They may or may not have associated licenses such as those from Creative Commons which also allow reuse. Questions have arisen at COPE forums and other venues as to whether publication of theses, especially freely available ones, should be considered as “prior publications” when work from a thesis is submitted for publication to a journal. This document sets out some of the issues and suggests principles to consider. We welcome feedback on this discussion document, after which it will be published as a guidance document. We particularly welcome comments from individuals and groups working in the Arts and Humanities, where we recognize there may be different practices and expectations from what is described.

Discussion document: best practice for issues around theses publishing


RePAIR Consensus Guidelines

The RePAIR Consensus Guidelines emerged from the collaborative effort of a working group from the conference entitled Keeping the Pool Clean: Prevention and Management of Misconduct Related Retractions, held on July 20-22, 2016, in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. The COPE Secretary, Charon Pierson, attended the conference and was one of the 20 member working group who participated in the development of these guidelines. The working group has expertise spanning multiple scientific and professional disciplines with representatives from 15 institutions, two US government agencies and five countries.

Researchers, institutions, agencies, and publishers have complementary roles and responsibilities in maintaining the integrity of the research record. The guidelines define the respective responsibilities of key stakeholders when questions arise regarding possible research or publication misconduct and identify barriers to communication as well as potential solutions. We welcome your comments on this document. Please send all comments to Responsible Conduct of Research Coordinator


Your examples please: subverting academic publishing

Following an article in Retraction Watch—compiled by Chris Graf, COPE Co-Vice Chair, Richard Holt, Editor of Diabetic Medicine, Tamara Welschot, Director of Research Integrity at Springer Nature and Matt Hodgkinson, Head of Research Integrity, Hindawi Limited—which warned of companies subverting academic publishing, we have had feedback of similar communication using different methods.

We'd like to understand more about this issue and the different approaches companies are using. To help us, please send examples of companies offering unethical manuscript editing and other publishing services, to ed services feedback by 1 May 2017. We won't be investigating these cases individually at this point, but would like to understand the extent of the problem.

New: Turkish flowcharts

Now translated into Turkish, the COPE flowcharts help editors implement advice in suspected misconduct cases. Our thanks to Professor Dr F Suna Kıraç and Professor Dr Bilgin Timuralp for their translation work. The Turkish flowcharts can be downloaded from the COPE flowcharts page.

COPE Digest editors

Editor-in-Chief: Dr Virginia Barbour

Editors: Deborah Kahn, Publishing Director, Taylor & Francis

             Nancy C Chescheir, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology