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COPE Digest: Publication Ethics in Practice. September 2017 (Vol. 5, Issue 9)

Case of the month: Author of rejected paper publicly names and criticises peer reviewer

Case #16-12

This case raises issues of confidentiality around the peer review process and also conflicts of interest. An author of a rejected paper publicly identified one of the peer reviewers of the paper by name during a media interview after the paper was published by another journal, implying that the paper was rejected because of that person's review. The author also claimed the reviewer did not reveal relevant conflicts of interest. The Forum agreed with the course of action of the editor to resolve the issue and take steps to change the journal processes to avoid a similar situation in future. The Forum also noted that a reviewer being in the same field as the author is not in itself a conflict of interest, but a reason to invite a reviewer. However, it may be helpful to have some clarifying examples in the journal’s guidelines to help reviewers identify conflicts of interest.
Discussion and advice from the Forum

Letter from the COPE co-Chairs

Peer Review Week 2017 gives us both a focus for this month’s Digest and a reason to pause and consider the theme this year: transparency. Transparency in peer review means different things to different people. At COPE, we think it's about encouraging journals to make it clear and obvious to authors and readers how peer review works. There are many ways that the world's journals and researchers use peer review. This diversity means communities can adopt approaches that suit their culture and needs. We embrace that diversity. We ask that journals make it clear to their communities how they use peer review (referred to in our Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing which are currently being updated by COPE, OASPA, DOAJ and WAME).

Among our many activities in Peer Review Week is our COPE webinar on 'Current Issues in Peer Review' on Thursday 14 September at 4pm BST. See below for details on how you can register.

We're also delighted to announce that we have revised our "Ethical guidelines for peer reviewers" and our discussion document on "Who “owns” peer reviews?". We've also developed two new flowcharts, "What to consider when asked to peer review a manuscript" and "How to spot a potential manipulation of the peer review process". Please read on for what's new about these new and revised resources, with links to the documents themselves. 

COPE co-chairs Geri Pearson and Chris Graf

Peer Review Week activities

11-17 September 2017

As part of Peer Review Week, we are running a webinar on current issues in peer review, launching revised guidance and discussion documents, and have produced two new flowcharts to help you in your day to day work. Look out for a peer review blog post from COPE on LSE Impact Blog during the week.

COPE webinar: Current issues in peer review

Join our COPE webinar for discussion of some of the topical issues in peer review that are faced by COPE members.

We will be discussing:

  • What is meant by transparency and openness in peer review?
  • What is the role for peer review surrounding preprints?
  • How could this relate to peer review by journals?
  • What are the main issues in peer review that are brought to COPE for advice?
  • Is there need for further guidance?

Three guest speakers will present their views given their experience in these areas, and there will be an opportunity for questions from attendees. You can email your question in advance or ask questions during the webinar.

The webinar is free, and open to COPE members only.

More information & register


Ethical guidelines for peer reviewers updated

This is a revised version of the guidelines that were produced in 2013. Following our call for feedback, this version includes input from the publication ethics community and from the institutions in the COPE membership pilot.

Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers


Who "owns" peer reviews? Discussion document updated

This is the second version of this discussion document, following a call for feedback and input from institutions.

Who "owns" peer reviews?


New: Peer review flowcharts

What to consider when asked to peer review a manuscript

Peer review flowchart

How to spot potential manipulation of the peer review process coming soon!

Spot manipulation flowchart


 COPE at the Peer Review Congress, 10-12 September, Chicago

COPE is presenting two posters at the International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication.

- An analysis of peer review cases brought to COPE from 1997-2016

- Data sharing policies in scholarly publications: interdisciplinary comparisons. We are continuing this COPE funded research by producing a discussion document on the issues surrounding data sharing policies and this is expected to be ready early next year.

Peer review cases poster


Find out what else is happening during Peer Review Week: Peer Review Week programme



Focus on peer review

Peer reviewers should reveal conflicts of interests: a cautionary set of tales...

The author notes that COPE affirms the importance of peer reviewers to declare any potential conflicts of interest in the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. That guidance has now been updated, as noted elsewhere in this Digest.  

peer reviewers don't disclose COI

Difficulty of recruiting reviewers predicts review scores and editorial decisions at six journals of ecology and evolution
influence of reviewer recruitment

Alice Meadows previews some of the content to be discussed at the panel session on "What transparent peer review means"
transparent peer review

Welte and Grebe argue that “100,000 journals have to die” to fix scholarly publishing and that the classic peer review system is outdated at best
fix the academic peer review system

“The review process is so central to the validation of scholarship that it should not be conducted in the shadows”. An author and reviewer in conversation
a definition of open peer review

Authorship ethics

The still-too-common problem of gift authorship prompts author Trisha Greenhalgh to suggest an academic Hippocratic Oath
hippocratic oath for academics?

Graduate student publication ban proposal

Ethics examined and reasons explained. Seems like a bandaid to a much more important, likely self-inflicted, injury 
should graduates publish?

When is behavioral research a clinical trial?

An open letter from over 2000 researchers to the head of the US NIH in which they argue that new regulations that classifying human behavior studies as clinical trials will create too much red tape.
unnecessary red tape

Preprint servers expanding

Six research communities opened preprint servers at the end of August 2017: Indonesia, library and information science, mind and contempletive practices, nutritional sciences, paleontology, and sport and exercise
new preprint servers

New models of academic publishing needed

“Placing scientific articles behind paywalls is absurd”. The author encourages academics to fix the problems
new frontiers

An author's prior misconduct: should you assume that past actions predict current performance? 

Nature Plants treated a paper by a researcher who had multiple prior retractions just like any other paper
multiple retractions

Corporate funding of research

Corporations now fund a large percentage of biomedical research. What is the impact on journals? Guess where this author thinks we are. “Journals have become tools in corporate battles”
new phase of corporate research?

COPE shortlisted for Sentinel award

COPE is delighted to be shortlisted for the Publons Sentinel Award for outstanding advocacy, innovation or contribution to scholarly peer review.

We're in good company, shortlisted with ORCiD, Irene Hames, Retraction Watch, StatCheck, American Geophysical Union, F1000 Research and Kyle Martin & Gareth Fraser. Read more about their projects.








The winner will be announced on Tuesday 19 September.

See finalists

COPE at APAME 2017, Laos

Dr Trevor Lane, COPE Council Member, gave two presentations at the annual convention of the Asia Pacific Association of Medical Journal Editors (APAME), in Vientiane, Laos, on 18-19 August 2017. Themed “Search and access for reading, writing and citing”, the convention was co-organized by APAME, the University of Health Science Lao PDR, and the libraries of the World Health Organization’s Regional Offices for South East Asia and the Western Pacific.

As a prelude to Peer Review Week 2017, the first COPE talk was on “Publishing ethics: importance of disclosures”, and highlighted the importance of full transparency and specific declarations of all parties as a key feature of best practices in publishing in peer-reviewed journals. The second talk, “Peer review basics”, focused on key issues in the journal peer review process, including its aims, models, ethics, etiquette, logistics, and training.