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Letter from the COPE Chair: November 2020

As we enter the final months of this daunting year that is 2020, I would like to take a moment to look back at our Predatory Publishing discussion document, a year after its publication, to consider whether developments in attitudes or approaches have changed in this arena.

So, some questions for you – has the phenomenon of predatory publishing changed for you? For better or worse?  Do you feel it is a problem that is harmful to your field? Is it impeding any work on your own journals? Are you involved in any new initiatives you’d like us to be aware of? Share your experience on our website.

We have seen an adjustment in terminology, in support of raising awareness around diversity, to pay more sensitive consideration to the use of words which have implications for inclusivity, accessibility, and negative connotations. Cabells redefined their terminology, and now use "journalytics" and "predatory reports" instead of "whitelist" and "blacklist; while Github adopted "allow list" and "deny/exclude list”.

More work has been undertaken to give predatory publishing a functional working definition. A systematic review was published in BMC Medicine in May, authored by Samantha Cukier and colleagues from the Centre for Journalology, Ottawa, with the aim of leading to “the creation of one evidence based tool serving authors from all disciplines.”

Earlier this year, the TOP Factor was launched to assess eight measures of transparency and openness of journals, as a means of establishing integrity and rigour with which journals apply standards and policy to their processes. On similar lines, the Platform for Responsible Editorial Policies (PREP) initiative was launched to record and promote the editorial policies of journals. It offers guidance for publishers and editors, and a reference database for interested parties wishing to look up journals.

The summer also saw a team at Texas Tech University launch the first phase of the STEM Training in Ethics of Publication Practices (STEPP) programme; a 3 year project, supported by the National Science Foundation, to research and develop training on the topic of predatory publishing. Our colleagues at the Think. Check. Submit initiative will be involved in piloting the training modules and making them available to a diverse global audience.

For all of these reasons, we will revisit this issue at the next COPE Forum on 15 December 2020 by discussing ‘Predatory publishing: next steps and where do we go from here?’. Stay tuned for details.

Like many of you, my agenda has been filled with virtual meetings. Dan Kulp, COPE Vice-Chair, and I are COPE representatives to a multi-stakeholder consultative process for a project at the University of Illinois, funded by the Sloan Foundation on “Reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science”.  I also participated in a consultation with industry organisations in an international discussion on predatory publishing hosted by InterAcademy Partnership (IAP). We will update you on the outcomes and any publicly available documents from these sessions.

I also made a COPE presentation to a large group of medical editors on inclusivity and diversity for Wolters Kluwer on 27 October.

And finally, our peer review workshop will be held on Thursday 19 November, at the earlier time of 9.00am GMT (5.00pm AWST, 2.30pm IST) to enable a wider global range of our members to add their insights and experiences to the event. This workshop is now full. Look out for more COPE workshops in 2021.

Wishing you all the best.

COPE Chair Deborah Poff, CM, PhD