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COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. January 2017 (Vol. 5, Issue 1)

Case of the month: The role of the lead author

The role of the lead author (case #16-20)

An author continues to provide new editorial as well as substantial content comments on consecutive versions of a paper, and currently disagrees with the content of the final version of the paper. The other eight authors have approved the final version of the paper prepared and circulated by the lead author. The lead wants to resolve the situation by suggesting to any authors who do not agree with him that they are removed from the authorship list and acknowledged for any key contributions. Is this handling by the lead author appropriate? What is the role and responsibilities of a lead author more generally?
Discussion and advice from the Forum

Letter from the Chair

At the beginning of 2017, our newsletter reflects our priorities. At the end of 2016 I reflected on the many challenges we saw and the need to respond. This month, I’d like to reflect on our approach.

As the newsletter highlights every month, we provide a constant source of advice, distilled from discussions among our membership on cases (this month on authorship) and on specific topics (this month on the ever-thorny issue of conflicts of interest) at our regular forums. This advice and the way it is provided reinforces our methodology and our ethos: we are a membership organisation of editors, working collectively (as shown in our calls for comments on working documents) to improve publication and, by extension, research ethics across academia. It complements the other advice we provide, via a variety of mechanisms, and as the new Croatian flowcharts emphasise, in a wide variety of languages.

Since we are a membership organisation, it is critical that our priorities reflect the priorities of our membership. Last year we published our strategy and later this month we are publishing the report from the membership survey that provided critical input into that survey. We took this survey very seriously and in reporting it we also aim to show how seriously we take transparency in how we work.

Finally, as we look ahead to 2017, the 20th anniversary of COPE and the seminar planned for that time, it is worth reflecting on the bigger picture that COPE seeks to influence. When it was first founded, it is hard to imagine that it would grow to more than 11,000 members, nor perhaps that the issues we work on would prove so intractable. As we have come to realise, these issues provoke strong feelings and in many cases become personal. We see our role as not only helping provide specific guidance but also to be part of the increasing need for professionalism in publishing. By working across the whole range of publishing models and specialties, we provide a unique collaboration in an area where collaboration is needed more than ever. It’s not possible to do this without the hard work of the many COPE council members and trustees and our skilled staff, and as we start a new year, I’d like to personally thank them all.

Finally, we will be reshaping the newsletter over the next few months and welcome feedback on it. At this time, I’d also like to thank our editor, Professor Margaret Rees, who has expertly overseen this newsletter for many editions and is now stepping down. Margaret is a former COPE Trustee and Council Member and also served as COPE co-secretary from 2011 to 2014. Her enthusiasm and expert insight will be much missed.

With best wishes for 2017 from all at COPE
Ginny Barbour, COPE Chair

Customising the message of Think.Check.Submit. for an audience

Report from the COPE Education Committee

The Think.Check.Submit. campaign provides critical information to help authors make important decisions about submitting work for publication and avoiding unreliable journals. The education of researchers is a critical part of the implementation plan (Dobson, 2016) and the focus of the second year of the campaign. Researchers from developing countries or countries where English is not the primary language may be particularly vulnerable to solicitations from untrustworthy journals. Education, including face to face workshops, posters, videos, podcasts and trusted websites, is the heart of the effort to help potential authors find reliable outlets for their work. COPE, as a member of the original Think.Check.Submit. campaign, has disseminated the message in presentations around the world. All of COPE’s presentations are customised to specific audiences; an example of one slide in a presentation recently given to an audience of nurse researchers in South Korea is below. The organisation of nurse editors, collectively known as INANE, vet and maintain, in collaboration with Nurse Author & Editor (, a curated list of nursing journals that meet the quality standards of COPE. By customising the message of Think.Check.Submit. to familiar discipline specific journals, the audience could quickly find the answers to the questions posed by the Think.Check.Submit. campaign. Customised educational outreach tells audiences that they are important and that such a huge international campaign is very relevant to their needs. With a little additional research about the audience, message customisation is easy to do.  
Dobson H. Think.Check.Submit.: the campaign helping researchers navigate the scholarly communication landscape. Insights 2016;29:228–232. DOI:

In the news

Think.Check.Submit. campaign helps researchers

Make informed choices about publications and avoid deceptive or ‘predatory’ publishers
Think Check Submit to avoid predatory publishers

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research: public consultation

The Code has been revised and an invitation issued for comments about the draft documents
Draft review Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Publisher of fake science expanding into Ottawa

OMICS International has taken over two major Canadian publishers of science journals in the last year
Canadian journals under OMICS

Research integrity inquiry launched

The UK Science and Technology Committee are undertaking an inquiry on the issues raised in the document POSTnote. It welcomes written submissions
Comment on issues in the POSTnote

Progress report on The Concordat to support research integrity

Response from institutions to the 5 commitments of The Concordat 4 years on
Impact and experience of the concordat for research integrity

AfRE merge with ARMA

Association for Research Ethics (AfRE) is amalgamating with Association for Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) to provide expert advice on research ethics in the UK
AfRe ARMA merge

Latest developments in social science research

Social science research methods across a wide range of disciplines and sectors
Report from ESRC Research Methods Festival

How academia, Google Scholar and predatory publishers help feed academic fake news

Can academia offer expertise as a solution to fake news while the scholarly world itself is increasingly filled with false and misleading findings?
Feeding fake news

Colleges boost junk journals in India

A study indicates that a lack of institutional oversight is driving publication in predatory journals
Predatory journals boost in India

Updated ICMJE recommendations

Updates include a comment on retractions followed by republication
ICMJE recommendations updated

Universities ‘uncertain’ about lecture-capture copyright

Who is responsible for the copyright issues in lecture content?
Copyright and intellectual property policy on lecture capital evolving

Controversial website that lists 'predatory' publishers shuts down

The creator of the website has unpublished his blog but couldn't give reasons why
Website that blacklists publishers unpublished

COPE Forum: Register today

COPE will host two forums on Friday 3 February 2-17, at 8am and 4pm (GMT). It will be held by webinar and is open to COPE members. Taking part in the Forum allows members to contribute to, as well as learn from, the cases being discussed. We present the same cases at both forum to allow more of our membership to attend. Register now as the Forum is limited to 100 attendees.
Deadline to register: Thursday 2 February


Forum discussion topic: Disclosed conflicts of interest

Disclosure of conflicts of interest is essential to preserving the integrity of published research. Though previous COPE guidelines have addressed the editor's role in administering undisclosed conflicts of interest, less attention has been paid to the appropriate means of handling financial or nonfinancial conflicts of interest that are fully disclosed at the outset of the review process for papers or post-publication commentaries.

This will be discussed at the start of the next COPE Forum on Friday 3 February.

More details and to leave comments


China Seminar 2017: Programme

Free for COPE members

The programme for COPE's 1st China Seminar can be downloaded from the COPE website. A Chinese version is also available. The seminar is being held in collaboration with ISMTE (International Society of Managing and Technical Editors), on Sunday 26 March 2017 in Beijing, China.

The theme of this year's seminar is “The pillars of publication ethics”, with plenary talks covering the topics authorship, peer review and plagiarism. Editors, publishers, authors and all those interested in publication ethics are welcome to attend.

The seminar will include invited talks from local and international speakers, as well as an interactive cases workshop, and will be conducted primarily in English. Chinese translations of associated guidelines/materials will be available.

More information and to register


New guidance: Consent for Publishing Medical Case Reports

Our new guidance, Best Practices for Ensuring Consent for Publishing Medical Case Reports, is now available. In February 2016 we published a discussion document, inviting members to add their comments. These comments have been used to help develop the guidance document.

Journals' best practices for ensuring consent for publishing medical case reports

Comments please: Patient consent, anonymisation and registries

The International Rhuematology Editors' Group would like to receive comments from wider specialty communities on their 'Framework for editors when requesting patient consent for publication in small cohort studies'. Comments and suggestions from all participating editors are invited to bring unique views of this topic from their own national experiences. 
Find out more and leave your comments

Croatian flowcharts

Now translated into Croatian in collaboration with EASE, COPE flowcharts help editors implement advice in suspected misconduct cases. Our thanks to Anna Marusic and Igor Vlakovic for their translation work. The Croatian flowcharts can be downloaded from the COPE flowcharts page.


Save the date! COPE European seminar 2017

COPE's European Seminar 2017 will be on Thursday, 25 May 2017, in London - 20 Cavendish Square, RCN, London W1G 0RN. Join us to celebrate 20 years of COPE, with a special programme reflecting on changing times in publication ethics.

The programme will be posted shortly. Save the date! 


COPE Digest editors

Editor-in-Chief: Dr Virginia Barbour

Editor: Professor Margaret Rees, MA, DPhil, FRCOG, Reader Emeritus in Reproductive Medicine, University of Oxford; Visiting Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow; Adjunct Associate Professor, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University; Editor-in-Chief of Maturitas