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Discussion documents

When aspects of publication ethics are particularly fast-moving or controversial COPE cannot always provide detailed guidance. The COPE discussion documents aim to stimulate discussion rather than tell editors what to do. We hope that, by raising the issues, we can contribute to the debate within the scholarly publishing community and work towards agreement or definition of difficult problems.

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  • Discussion documents

    Diversity and inclusivity

    This COPE discussion document begins a process of addressing the wide range of themes, challenges and changes required to establish a more inclusive and diverse scholarly publishing community. COPE welcomes comments which add to the ongoing debate.
  • Discussion documents

    Artificial intelligence (AI) in decision making

    The COPE 'Artificial intelligence (AI) in decision making' discussion document introduces issues to be considered alongside the opportunities AI solutions offer in the publication process, with recommendations on best practices. The use of AI in the publication process is intended to increase the speed of decision making during the review process and reduce the burden on editors, reviewe…
  • Discussion documents

    Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct

    This paper aims to stimulate discussion about the sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct in their journals. This guidance has been drafted following a COPE Discussion Forum, in the wake of a number of high profile cases of research misconduct in which the sharing of information between the relevant editors-in-chief (EiCs) was crucial to the final settlement…
  • Discussion documents

    Predatory publishing

    The COPE predatory publishing discussion document introduces issues, and analyses potential solutions, around predatory publications. COPE welcomes comments which add to this ongoing debate. Common features of the phenomenon include deception and lack of quality controls, and there are a range of warning signs to look for when assessing a journal. Problems for authors, readers, and other…
  • Discussion documents

    Citation manipulation

    The COPE citation manipulation discussion document defines the key issues and existing solutions around unethical citation practices. COPE welcomes comments which add to this ongoing debate. Manipulative citation is characterised by behaviours intended to inflate citation counts for personal gain, such as: excessive self-citation of an authors’ own work, excessive citation to the journal…
  • Discussion documents


    The COPE preprints discussion document addresses how preprints serve research communities, with guidance on navigating the ethical challenges and opportunities presented to journal editors. COPE welcomes comments which add to this ongoing debate. The benefits of preprints are addressed such as accelerating research communication and establishing precedence; giving editors opportunities t…
  • Discussion documents

    Who 'owns' peer reviews? September 2017

    This COPE discussion document introduces issues and guidance around the ownership of peer reviews. Questions discussed include: who has ownership of peer review comments; who gets to determine whether a review can be made public, and if so, which parties would be required to consent to its publication. The document also covers whether the sharing of reviewer comments breaches the confidentialit…
  • Discussion documents

    Best practice in theses publishing. March 2017

    Introduction Traditionally, theses for higher degrees were published by universities in hard copy only. Now increasingly, these are also archived and may be made freely available via university repositories. They may or may not have associated licenses such as those from Creative Commons which also allow reuse. Questions have arisen at COPE forums and other venues…
  • Discussion documents

    Handling competing interests. January 2016

      This COPE discussion document introduces issues around competing interests/conflicts of interest and describes practical issues which might occur when handling cases. COPE welcomes comments which add to the ongoing debate. Competing interests (also known as conflicts of interests - COIs) may arise during research, writing, and publication processes, and can be briefly defined as…
  • Discussion documents

    Addressing ethics complaints from complainants who submit multiple issues

    On occasion a journal may get not one, but a series of complaints from the same source. Complaints may be directed at an author, an editor, or the journal in general. If these complaints turn out to be well founded, investigations should proceed as warranted. However, there are also cases where a complainant makes repeated allegations against a journal, editor, or author that turn out to be bas…
  • Discussion documents


    The COPE authorship discussion document introduces issues and aims to stimulate discussion around authorship. COPE welcomes comments which add to the ongoing debate. Authorship can refer to individuals or groups that create an idea or develop the publication that disseminates that intellectual or creative work; however, appropriately acknowledging roles and contributions is not always a…
  • Discussion documents

    Responding to anonymous whistleblowers, January 2013

    This paper aims to stimulate discussion about how editors should respond to emails from whistle blowers. We encourage journal editors and publishers to comment (whether or not they are COPE members), and also welcome comments from researchers/authors and academic institutions. 
  • Discussion documents

    How should editors respond to plagiarism? April 2011

    Summary This paper aims to stimulate discussion about how editors should respond to plagiarism. Different types of plagiarism are described in terms of their: extent, originality of the copied material, context, referencing, intention, author seniority, and language. Journal responses to plagiarism are also described including: educating authors, contacting authors’ inst…