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COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. October 2017 (Vol. 5, Issue 10)

Case of the month: Possible conflict of interest

Case #11-04

A journal, attempting to encourage adoption of a uniform standard for the reporting of population genetics data, was considering a proposal from one of the editors of the journal requiring authors to submit their data, including raw data, to his own database. While the intention is laudable, the journal thought there was a clear conflict of interest, and asked what a journal can do to ethically require authors to present their data in particular formats and to make their raw data publicly available?

Discussion and advice from the Forum

Letter from the COPE co-Chairs

The past few weeks have been a busy time for COPE. We expect this to continue in the months ahead. September was marked by two successful events, the Peer Review Congress in Chicago and Peer Review Week. COPE was well represented at the Peer Review Congress, which was a vibrant mix of research presentations, workshops, and learning experiences. COPE participated enthusiastically, and our report is in this month's Digest. At the same time, we introduced two new flowcharts as part of Peer Review Week — 'What to consider when asked to peer review a manuscript' and 'How to spot potential manipulation of the peer review process'. Both add to the resources we provide for our members and the wider community via our website. 

Please join our upcoming COPE Forum, held by webinar on 13 November 2017. Details for registration are on our website. Forums are your arena for discussing pertinent documents and cases involving publication ethics in a safe, professional, and interdisciplinary setting. Pre-registration is required. 

Plans are proceeding well for a COPE delegation to meet with academic and publishing leaders in China in November 2017. COPE will use these meetings to establish the relationships we need to better serve the research and academic communities in China. 

COPE was proud to be named a finalist in the Publons Sentinel Award 2017. We were equally proud to note that the winner was Irene Hames, a former Council Member of COPE. Irene has a myriad of impressive credentials and involvements in scholarly publishing. Congratulations Irene!


Irene Hames, Publons Sentinel Award Winner 2017 


COPE co-chairs Geri Pearson and Chris Graf

Current Issues in Peer Review - webinar report

Listen and watch again:

As part of this year's Peer Review Week celebrations, COPE held a webinar on ‘Current Issues in Peer Review’ which focussed on topical issues in peer review that are faced by COPE members, tying in with Peer Review Week's 2017 transparency theme.

Heather Tierney (COPE Council Member and Managing Editor, Journals and Ethics Policy, American Chemical Society) introduced and moderated the webinar. Alison Taylor (COPE Council Member and Executive Editor at The Optical Society) fielded a thought-provoking question and answer session.

We heard from Tony Ross-Hellauer (Scientific Manager OpenAIRE2020 project, University of Göttingen) who explained some of the problems associated with traditional peer review, and how increasing transparency can help to resolve some of these issues (e.g. tackling bias, lack of accountability, lack of efficiency). Speaking from his own open science perspective, Tony explained his recent research into the meaning of open peer review - it’s a complex term which can encompass different meanings within peer review (e.g. open identities, open crowd-sourcing, open interactions) each attempting to solve different issues in peer review). He called for cross-publisher, cross-journal and cross-research initiatives to investigate what works and what doesn’t. When asked, 41% of attendees have experienced a peer review model where authors and reviewers are not anonymous.

Jessica Polka (Director of ASAPbio) and Sam Hindle (ASAPbio Ambassador) introduced preprints and how they fit into the scholarly publishing landscape. Jessica explained that feedback was a major benefit of preprints. Many journals have developed policies around preprints and 28% of the webinar attendees felt that they did not consider preprints to be prior publications. Some journals are also reserving the right to consider comments made on preprint servers in their own peer review processes. There were questions from the audience regarding whether preprints could ever be retracted. Speakers agreed that for preprints, as for other types of publication, transparency is key and preprints should not be removed without an accompanying explanation.

Elizabeth Moylan (COPE Council Member and Senior Editor for Research Integrity at BMC) shared some of the main issues with respect to peer review which have been brought to COPE over the last 20 years. Some issues within peer review (e.g. with respect to confidentiality and conflicts of interest) have been reoccurring over the years, but others (e.g. manipulation of the peer review process) have been relatively recent with 44% of webinar attendees encountering peer review manipulation. Elizabeth explained some new and updated resources freely available from COPE to help all those who participate in the peer review process as covered in the September issue of COPE Digest.

In reflecting on the perspectives of the speakers and the questions from the audience, there’s a clear need for all stakeholders—journals, editors, peer reviewers and authors—to have trust and willingness to act with transparency and integrity in peer review and for journals to have clear policies and guidelines for their authors, peer reviewers and readers. If you have any suggestions for future guidance with respect to peer review from COPE, we always welcome your feedback by email.


Speaker presentations and recording are now available on the COPE website.


A new open archive of the social sciences to challenge the outdated journal system.
developing SocArXiv

New framework for providing accreditation and support for journals in the Global South released on 20 September 2017  
supporting journals in the global south

In a related post, Siân Harris notes the two major issues are research and equity 
importance of framework

14 key competencies outlined for biomedical journal editors: editor quality and skills (5), publication ethics and integrity (3), and editorial principles and processes (6)
biomedical editor competencies

Core competencies for scientific editors of biomedical journals
consensus statement

Scientific misconduct also includes unethical and biased treatment of people, in a professional setting and while participating in scientific programmes
AGU scientific integrity and professional ethics

Al Gaydar study gets another look. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has deferred publication of an accepted paper as it is based on training a computer to recognize a person’s sexual orientation based on photos the individuals have posted to a social website
Al Gaydar Study

New in peer review: How to Spot Potential Manipulation flowchart

New flowchart to help editors spot potential manipulation of the peer review process. The chart illustrates recognised patterns of behaviour, best practice to minimise peer review manipulation and cases that have been brought to COPE for advice from the Forum.

How to recognise potential manipulation of the peer review process


Data sharing: research

Data sharing policies of journals

COPE funded research, presented as an abstract at the Peer Review Congress, 10-12 September 2017, Chicago.

We will follow-up on this COPE funded research by producing a discussion document on the issues surrounding data sharing policies next year.

Download pdf of poster


Research data: presentation

Sharing data presentation by Iain Hrynaszkiewicz, Head of Data at Springer Nature, at COPE's European Seminar 2017. Iain talks about research data in the context of challenges and opportunities for publication ethics.

Conference reports from US and Japan

Introducing COPE to research administrators, Japan

Dr Trevor Lane, COPE Council Member, gave a seminar on behalf of COPE at the 3rd Annual Conference of the Research Manager and Administrator Network – Japan (RMAN-J) in Tokushima on 30 August 2017. The one-hour talk titled “Essential guide to research and publication ethics for research administrators” introduced the work of COPE and its free website resources to staff of university research offices. The audience was encouraged to use COPE’s resources to promote best practices in all aspects of research publishing among staff and students at universities in Japan. Topics that were covered included redundant and salami publishing, authorship, conflicts of interest, fraudulent and misleading practices, peer review, and ethics related to human and animal research.

Peer Review Congress, Chicago

The Eighth International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication in Chicago brought together over 600 delegates with a range of publishers, editors, funders and researchers in attendance. The Congress had a busy schedule of talks and posters exploring issues not only related to peer review, but involving data sharing, preprints, reporting, research integrity issues, conflicts of interest and ‘spin’. Alice Meadows has shared her seven key Congress takeaways and Hilda Bastian live-blogged from the conference on ‘Common Problems in Peer Review and Scientific Publication’ (day 1), ‘Improving Peer Review and Scientific Publication’ (day 2) and ‘Innovations in Peer Review and Scientific Publication’ (day 3).

COPE was represented in two of the poster sessions. One poster was presented by Elizabeth Moylan with information on the particular issues within peer review which have been brought to COPE over the years and how this can inform COPE guidance. A second poster on data sharing policies of journals was due to be presented by COPE Council member Adrian Ziderman but unfortunately due to hurricane Irma, he was unable to attend. Fortunately, COPE Council member Vivienne Bachelet was able to present the poster on his behalf, showing the interdisciplinary differences in data sharing policies across fields.

At COPE, we continue to promote integrity in research and its publication. Peer review is central to that research publishing process, and relies on all parties having a trust and willingness to act with transparency. 

COPE Forum: Submit a case

Our COPE Forum on Monday 13 November 2017 4-5.30pm (GMT) 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. Register now as the Forum is limited to 100 attendees.

Deadline to submit your case: Monday 30 October

Deadline to register: Friday 10 November 2017


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