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Letter from the COPE Chair: December 2019

Dear Readers

December is generally a time when we reflect on the past year and plan for the future. This December letter will follow that format. 2020. It is finally here. I remember many planners and strategic futurists over the past decade capturing 2020 in the titles of their plans, thinking that they were unique in playing on the title as a metaphor for the visual acuity of their future prognostications. To the extent that they predicted continued complexity and uncertainty in all things human, they were not taking too great a leap into the unknown. 

In last year’s December Digest letter, then co-Chairs, Geri Pearson and Chris Graf, quoted from their predecessor Chair, Virginia (Ginny) Barbour (2015) who observed “We need a culture of responsibility for the integrity of the literature. It’s not just the job of editors.” For the past five years, COPE has worked to meet that need in a number of ways. 

Two foci have emerged as critical and necessary to meeting Ginny’s conditions for a culture of responsibility. 

One is a commitment to working more closely with universities to create a seamless process of addressing research and publication ethics in a more integrated manner. This year, COPE closes its pilot project with six universities and research institutes. We are now ready to develop a next step of implementation. In September 2019, COPE partnered our European Seminar with our biannual face to face Board and Council meetings in Leiden, Netherlands. The seminar took advantage of the generosity of Dr Frits Rosendaal, senior professor at Leiden University Medical Center and COPE Council member, who graciously took the lead in the organisation of the programme. Also on the seminar programme was another Leiden scholar, Dr Thed van Leeuwen, from the Centre for Science and Technology Studies. In June, 2020, we will continue this pattern by holding our North American Seminar the day before a small meeting of University Research Integrity Officers, publishers and editors to address issues in research and publication ethics at Ohio State University. One of our goals in moving forward with universities is to align more effectively and efficiently research integrity and the integrity in research publications. 

Our second focus is on complementing our current strong membership with greater diversity among disciplines, interdisciplinary studies, and greater representation in all senses of diversity, including culturally and geographically. 

Not surprisingly, these two critical lenses dominated COPE’s retreat and the development of our new strategic plan which will guide us from 2020- to 2023.

We know that we share a common commitment with universities in meeting complex goals and deliverables, including dealing with issues that are local and issues that are global. Universities are increasingly tasked not only with education and research but with incorporating values and expectations of serving challenging problems, such as, sustainability and global poverty in research, teaching and practice. At the same time, it is necessary to provide the foundation for building on traditional knowledge and practice for each generation of graduates. 

As an organisation with a key directive to address scholarly research and publication ethics, the two clusters of activities around university partnership and diversity and inclusivity in academic research and publication will partially direct COPE’s agenda for the next three years.

We look forward to working in partnership with all of our members and the larger scholarly community in the coming years.

We send you all best wishes for the New Year.

COPE Chair Deborah Poff




In December's Digest we list the top 5 cases visited on our website in 2019 which deal with issues of plagiarism, authorship, predatory publishing and ethical oversight, and we have four new cases to share with you as discussed by #C0PEMembers at the latest forum. Members at the forum began a discussion on 'Artificial Intelligence in decision making' which we summarise and invite you to add your comments. Join us in determining the next steps for our fictional research integrity officer, Jo, who we introduced in March this year. Plus the monthly news roundup and events coming up in 2020.

Read December Digest: Top 5 cases 2019