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  • Case
    On-going

    Licence for a published scale

    2018
    We have received a number of manuscripts involving a published scale where the scale’s developer is known to comb the literature and ask those who used the scale for research to pay for a retroactive license, sometimes asking for very large sums of money. We have started asking authors on all submissions where the scale is used to provide a copy of the license agreement with the scale’s…
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    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

    Dispute between two authors

    2018
    A manuscript was submitted by author A to our journal. The content of the paper was controversial. We sent this manuscript for peer review by two clinical reviewers. We wrote back to author A requesting major revisions to address the concerns and issues raised by the reviewers. A revised paper was submitted and accepted for publication. Because the article was controversial, mini-comment…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    License for using a published scale

    2018
    A researcher has published a paper in our journal using a scale published in 2008. She wrote to the scale developer in 2014/2015 at least three times (emails are on file) before the start of the project, but the scale developer did not respond despite repeated email reminders. No indication of the need for a license was received. In 2017, when the researcher published the paper using the above…
  • Case
    On-going

    Stolen article

    2017
    At acceptance but before publication, we found article A submitted to journal A was highly similar to article B, published 5 months earlier in conference proceedings in journal B by another publisher. The abstracts were nearly identical, but the author lists and affiliations did not overlap. We asked the authors to explain this and they said article A is their own work, but it was inadvertently…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Ethics of non-active management of a control group

    2017
    An article was submitted involving over 200 pregnant patients with a systemic illness (from 2010 to 2015) who were recruited and assigned to a control group or an active intervention group (of their systemic illness). The control group received routine antenatal care while the intervention group had active surveillance and management of their systemic illness during the pregnancy. There…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Consequence for dual submission

    2017
    An author submitted work to our journal (journal A) which, after two rounds of peer review, was accepted and published. One week after it was published, the editors of journal B contacted our journal stating that this work, with the exact same title, authors and content, had been submitted to journal B and, after receiving an acceptance letter, the author withdrew the paper, informing them that…
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    Case Closed

    Pre-publication in a discussion paper series

    2017
    A submission in the economics field to an interdisciplinary social science journal was accepted, following full external review. Subsequently, the publisher wrote to the author stating that during editorial checks, it had come to their attention that a full manuscript of a paper with the same name was available in a discussion paper series and kindly asked that this version be removed from the…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Service evaluation as research in a controversial area of medicine

    2017
    We received an email from a reader relating to the ethics statement in a research article published in 2011. The article presented data collected at a clinic relating to a controversial area in medicine. The ethics statement in the article indicates that, in accordance with regional guidelines, the research ethics committee deemed that the study was a service evaluation and formal ethical revie…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Authorship issues from disbanded consortium

    2017
    A manuscript was submitted to one of our journals in a special issue. The initial submission included 15 authors with 9 affiliations. The authors were part of a consortium which has now been disbanded. The manuscript was provisionally accepted for publication. At this point, three of the authors requested to be removed from the author list, citing irreconcilable differences with the corr…
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    Case Closed

    Unethical withdrawal after acceptance to maximize the 'impact factor'?

    2017
    We are a publisher with a portfolio of about 25 journals, with journal X being the flagship journal. Journal X has a high impact factor. We also publish a range of other, newer journals,  some of which are ranked highly but most have no impact factor. An author submitted a manuscript to journal Y where it underwent peer review and was accepted after revisions. After acceptance, the autho…
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    Case Closed

    Withdrawal request by an author

    2017
    We received a request by an author who states not to have contributed to an article published in 2015. The author claims that his name was used without his knowledge and that the corresponding author has been retired for several years and can no longer be reached. At the time of submission, we received a copyright transfer signed with the author’s name (we request all authors to sign the form).…
  • Case
    On-going

    Unhelpful institution report

    2017
    An allegation of data fraud was not satisfactorily resolved by correspondence with the authors. We then went to the lead institution and asked for an investigation. Within 10 days we had a report clearing the authors, but interestingly using some of the exact same phrases the authors used in their responses to us. We felt that the report was too superficial and approached the other institution…
  • Case
    Case Closed

    Potential figure manipulation with corresponding author uncontactable

    2017
    A reader contacted the journal to raise concerns about a paper containing a potentially manipulated figure. The editor-in-chief agreed with the assessment that the figure had been manipulated and attempted to contact the corresponding author, without response. Following further contact with the co-authors and institution, it was established that the corresponding author had retired after public…
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    Case Closed

    Authorship dispute unsatisfactorily resolved by institution

    2017
    The journal was contacted with a claim to first authorship of a paper currently published online ahead of print. Print publication was put on hold pending the result of the investigation. The claim to first authorship was based on the claimant stating that they had obtained most results published in the paper during their PhD studies under the supervision of the corresponding author, and contri…
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    Case Closed

    Withdrawing from authorship

    2017
    A journal published a paper that is now under investigation by the host institution for misconduct. All authors signed that they agreed authorship and took responsibility for the content of the paper. After the investigations started, an author asked to be removed from authorship. Questions for the COPE Forum• What should the journal do in this situation? • Should th…
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    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

    Submission of an already published case report

    2017
    A case report was received at the journal. A covering letter was supplied by the two authors stating “Our work has not been published elsewhere and we have been actively involved in the preparation of the paper. No conflict of interest. Not published elsewhere. Patient consent obtained for case report and images to be published”. Originality is very highly graded in the referee’s marking…
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    Case Closed

    Satire in scholarly publishing

    2017
    An intentional satire of a randomised controlled trial was published in a journal. In addition to multiple overt clues that the article was fake in the text, the article ended with a clear and direct statement in the acknowledgments that it was satire. Investigators conducting a systematic review on the topic inadvertently included the satire article in their review as a legitimate manus…

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