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  • Case
    On-going

    Dispute arising from peer review of a rejected comment and published correction

    2019
    In 2016, group A published manuscript X in our journal. In early 2017, group B submitted a comment critical of the published manuscript. Following peer review, in accordance with the journal’s then active policy, the comment was rejected from further consideration. The policy allowed for the author of the original article to be one of the peer reviewers of the comment. The lead author of…
  • Case
    On-going

    Reviewer requesting addition of multiple citations of their own work

    2019
    A handling editor noticed a reviewer report where the reviewer instructed the author to cite multiple publications by the same reviewer in their manuscript. The handling editor noted a similar instance involving this reviewer from the past and requested the editorial office to look into his reviewing history. This uncovered a concerning pattern of behaviour where the reviewer habitually asked a…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Peer reviewer contacted by author

    2018
    In a single blind peer review process, a reviewer gave an author detailed suggestions about improvements in the statistical analysis. The author was asked to revise and resubmit the paper to address these and other reviewers' suggestions. The author, unaware of the reviewer’s identity, subsequently approached the reviewer as a respected colleague at a professional meeting to discuss the manuscr…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Editor and reviewers requiring authors to cite their own work

    2018
    A staff member in our editorial office noticed a decision letter where a handling editor instructed an author to cite an article published by the handling editor. The staff member wondered if this had happened before and reviewed recent decision letters by that editor. This revealed a concerning pattern of behaviour—the handling editor’s decision letters (including reviewers’ comments) asked au…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Lead author of a research paper disagrees with content of a linked editorial

    2017
    The author of an accepted research paper (that showed some benefits for a controversial treatment) contacted the journal shortly prior to publication of the paper. It is the policy of our journal not to share commissioned editorials with authors ahead of time. This author had, however, received a copy of the journal press release in preparation for a press briefing. The press release quoted sta…
  • Case
    On-going

    Editor found guilty of research misconduct

    2017
    A journal appointed a new editor-in-chief to their journal. He had previously been on the editorial board of the journal for 10 years and the editorial registrar for 5 years. During the handover period, it came to the journal’s attention that he was due to appear in front of a tribunal for research fraud. By agreement with the journal, he stepped down until the outcome of the tribunal, and the…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Is it plagiarism to use text verbatim from a manuscript review?

    2017
    A commentary was reviewed by journal A and rejected. The paper was then submitted and accepted at journal B. Journal B published the commentary. After publication, a reviewer from journal A wrote to journal B with a complaint of plagiarism. Text from his/her review was used in the commentary published in journal B Question(s) for the COPE Forum• How should the editor of jo…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Case histories and post publication debate

    2016
    A letter to the editor from reader A was received by our 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. We believe this case raises at least two interesting questions. Firstly, the patient, or in this case the patient's relatives, could possibly suffer an addition…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Author requests permission to publish review comments

    2016
    An author submitted a Forum manuscript critiquing an article published in the journal six years previously. The Forum manuscript was reviewed by three reviewers who all recommended rejection, and was evaluated by an associate editor and a senior editor, who rejected the manuscript on the grounds that the reviewers were unconvinced by the critique and felt that it did not really advance the subj…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Author of rejected paper publicly names and criticises peer reviewer

    2016
    The first author of a paper rejected by our journal publicly identified one of the four peer reviewers for the paper by name. She did this during a media interview conducted after the paper was published by another journal. The first author implied in that interview and subsequently on Twitter that the paper was rejected because of that person's review and also claimed the reviewer did not reve…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Author requests for certain experts not to be included in the editorial process

    2016
    A prospective author contacted the editorial office of a medical journal to request that an intended submission was not reviewed or consulted on by experts involved in a number of published guidelines on the topic of the paper. The author named some of these experts, which included members of the journal’s editorial board (including editor A). The author justified this request by explain…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Reviewer concerns about transparency of peer review process

    2016
    Our journal uses an internally transparent process where throughout the editor or peer review process, authors, editors and reviewers are all aware of the identities of who is involved. Reviewers are also told—when initially solicited to do a peer review—that they will be named on the final article manuscript as a reviewer. Prior to publication, the pre-print version of a text is sent to review…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Reviewer requests to be added as an author after publication

    2015
    A paper was submitted to our journal. The associate editor assigned to the paper immediately assigned a reviewer who he knew was well qualified to give a good review, as they had worked with the authors before. The editor did think it odd that the reviewer was not an author on this particular paper, given the close collaboration. However, when invited, the reviewer (R1), did not flag up any con…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Possible breach of reviewer confidentiality

    2014
    Soon after rejecting a paper—after it underwent peer review but before discussion at the manuscript meeting—the author wrote to tell me that he was asked questions “about the manuscript” at a presentation at a national meeting. The author stated: “A member of the audience addressed questions to me from a copy of the manuscript, and not from the talk I gave. I had to ask him to say nothing furth…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Online posting of confidential draft by peer reviewer

    2013
    Shortly before publication, I received an email from the authors of a systematic review telling me that a version of the paper as first submitted to the journal for peer review had appeared on the website of a campaign group based in the USA. It was clear that the version of the document posted on the website was the same as the version supplied to the journal's peer reviewers. Further investig…
  • Case
    On-going

    Two reviewer reports contain a significant amount of verbatim textual overlap

    2013
    Two of four reviewer reports received by the editor-in-chief of a journal contained a significant amount of verbatim textual overlap. Although of the same native (not English) language, the two reviewers are affiliated to institutions in different countries. The reports were submitted to the journal within 5 days of each other. Both reviewers suggested rejection of the submission. Separa…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Ethical obligation to find reviewers

    2013
    An associate editor handling a paper for this journal reported to the editor-in-chief that he had not yet been able to recruit a single reviewer—all those who have been contacted had declined or not responded. The paper is in scope for the journal, it seems of reasonably quality from a brief read and the associate editor is appropriate; but this is a small and specialised field, and finding exp…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Department notification regarding sensitive topic

    2012
    An essay was submitted to a specialty medical journal. In the essay, the author described an ethical dilemma—involving patient care—encountered while in medical school. The manuscript received favourable reviews, although the reviewers expressed concern about the author’s career if the essay was published. The editor called the author to discuss the ramifications of publication, and then the au…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Complaint regarding letters to the editor

    2012
    Our journal routinely sends letters commenting on published articles to the authors of those articles. This gives the authors an opportunity to respond to any criticisms. The letters and the responses are then considered together and we make a decision on which ones to publish. If a letter is not selected for publication, our usual practice is to send the author's response to the person…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Anonymity versus author transparency

    2012
    An editor invited an author to submit a paper to his journal. Colleagues of the author suggested “unsubmission” because it could be damaging to the author’s career. The editor contacted the publisher and requested that the paper be withdrawn. The editor then contacted the author asking if he would consider publishing the paper anonymously (ie, with no identifying names). The editor did not cons…

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