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COPE Members bring specific (anonymised) publication ethics issues to the COPE Forum for discussion and advice. The advice from the COPE Forum meetings is specific to the particular case under consideration and may not necessarily be applicable to similar cases either past or future. The advice is given by the Forum participants (COPE Council and COPE Members from across all regions and disciplines).

COPE Members may submit a case for consideration.

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Showing 621–640 of 643 results
  • Case


    A manuscript submitted to journal X was remarkably similar to a paper already published in journal Y. The similarities were noticed by one of the peer reviewers for journal X. The paper has been rejected by journal X but the editor has now written to each of the authors asking for an explanation and has told them that if a reasonable explanation is not forthcoming, she will inform the dean of t…
  • Case

    The critical commentary

    We have accepted a systematic review for publication and have commissioned an accompanying commentary. The authors of the commentary noticed that a particular randomised controlled trial was included in the systematic review while a duplicate version of the trial, published in another journal, was excluded because of inadequate randomisation. The authors of the commentary pointed this out in th…
  • Case

    Failing to get consent from an ethics committee

    This case was described to me by an author who is about to submit a paper. He has discovered that a member of his team has produced a lot of fraudulent data for other studies, and has forged consent from ethics committees. This researcher has been reported to the GMC and his case is pending. The problem with the paper about to be submitted to us is that the fraudulent researcher falsely claime…
  • Case

    Redundant publication

    I received a letter from a reader in November 1997, pointing out that a paper published in the BMJ in 1996 was substantially the same as a paper published in another journal in 1994. We have examined both papers and discovered: (1) The papers describe the same cohort. There are the same numbers of patients, recruited in the same year; they have the same range of starting and finishing blood pr…
  • Case

    Unethical research undertaken by a single handed GP

    We have received a paper from a GP testing the hypotheses that because 24,25 cholecalciferol has a similar structure to commercially available statins, it may act as an inhibitor of HMA co-reductase. He screened 350 patients in his practice and identified 77 who had a cholesterol concentration above 6.5 mmol per litre. Thirty-three of them agreed to return for a second test 2 weeks later. They…
  • Case

    Disputed authorship

    Last year, a paper was published with four named authors. The journal concerned then received a letter from another person claiming that they should also have been credited with authorship. That person (Dr M) had been the second author on an abstract with a similar title presented at a conference, on which the authors of the published paper were also named authors. The journal wrote to the firs…
  • Case

    Blatant example of duplicate publication?

    A paper was submitted to one journal on 7 March, revised on 20 May, submitted to another journal on 21 March, revised on 29 May, accepted on 2 July and published in December 1997. The content of both papers is identical but each has different reference styles so were clearly intended for two different journals. The submission letter to the first journal clearly states that the material has not…
  • Case

    The tortuous tale of a paper, a letter and an editorial

    Dr A submitted an article to journal X that was published in 1996. Dr B wrote to the editor in January 1997, pointing out an error by Dr A. Shortly afterwards, Dr B submitted a longer editorial to the journal discussing the issue raised by this error in a much wider context. Dr B then withdrew the article and submitted it to journal Y at the end of March, with a covering letter in which he wrot…
  • Case

    The perfect study but no investigational drug

    A paper was submitted that described the use of a non-licensed investigational drug. One of the paper’s reviewers drew attention to the fact that none of the investigators in the study had been supplied with the drug since 1992/3. The drug is produced exclusively by one manufacturer who has operated an extremely restrictive policy regarding availability of the compound. I contacted the clinical…
  • Case

    Not getting consent from an ethics committee

    We had provisionally accepted a randomised controlled trial of an exclusion diet given to young children with a particular condition. The trial design was that one group started the exclusion diet a month before the second group. In other words, both were given the “treatment.” One part of the trial was that children who were thought to have an allergy to a particular food were rechallenged wit…
  • Case

    Double plagiarism

    A researcher has written to us to point out that a paper published in a German journal in 1993 was put together almost verbatim from articles published in the BMJ in 1989 and the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992. About three quarters of the material in the article in the German paper comes from these two journals. It may be that the data are original but it seems unlikely. What should we…
  • Case

    Suspected fabrication of data

    A reviewer expressed suspicion that data were manufactured. We wrote to the authors saying that our reviewer would like to see the original data. The author replied that this research was carried out in the USA. We then wrote back suggesting that his co-workers in the US would probably be delighted that this work was being submitted for publication and would happily send over the data but that…
  • Case

    The fraudulent letter

    A journal published a letter from a student only to discover that it was not written by him. The editor has written to him and his dean apologising, and the journal is publishing a piece saying that the letter was not written by the student. It seems most likely that the piece was written by one of his fellow students. Should we encourage the dean to hold a full investigation? … Letters t…
  • Case

    Informed consent

    A group of researchers are conducting a study of whether women aged 65 to 69 years will accept screening for breast cancer. They plan to invite these women for screening in the same way as they invite younger women for screening but will not know that they are part of a research study. The authors want advice on whether journals would be willing to publish their results, despite the fact that t…
  • Case

    A commentary on a piece of (unethical) research

    We have received a paper in which the authors have exposed a group of babies to physiologically unnatural circumstances. These circumstances do however arise quite regularly in some peoples’ lives. None of the babies had anything wrong with them, but some of them were siblings of babies who had died. Some of the babies showed physiological changes in the unnatural circumstances, which raised th…
  • Case

    The reviewer writes comments that he doesn’t want the author to see

    A reviewer has written to complain that a review he sent to us on which he wrote “In confidence—not for transmission to author” was transmitted in part to the author. He had made some rather derogatory remarks which had been edited out by the editor before he had sent back the comments to the author. The review that remained was critical but unremarkable. (1) Is it acceptable for review…
  • Case

    False memory syndrome

    A doctor has submitted an account of how his daughter falsely accused him of having abused her as a child. His daughter is another British doctor. We would like to publish the account as part of a package of articles on false memory syndrome. The questions we are considering are: (1) Can it ever be right to publish something that describes the intimacies of a family conflict, to illustrate a s…
  • Case

    Attempted redundant publication?

    Seven authors sent us a paper on hospital infections in children. We sent the paper to two reviewers, one of whom sent back a detailed comparison between the paper submitted to us and a paper published in another journal in 1996. The reviewer’s comments were: “Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that the study and its results have been published previously, comments with some further…
  • Case

    Patient consent and non-consent

    We published an article that contained a detailed account of a woman’s obstetric and psychiatric history. The information had been obtained from a court judgement and is published in Family Law Reports. The article had been written by two people who had never met the patient in question. The patient’s consent was not sought because the information was on the public record. We subsequentl…
  • Case

    Living unrelated (commercial) organ transplant

    A paper submitted for publication describes a series of children with renal failure who had had kidneys transplanted from commercially acquired donors. The authors of the paper had not carried out the transplants. Indeed, they had been carried out in another country. The authors simply reported what happened to the patients after they returned. The paper, while not of high priority for publicat…