Letter from the COPE co-Chairs: March 2019

Early in my academic career I was sent a publication in which my name appeared as a 5th author. The research was legitimate, conducted by a senior colleague, and I had participated in a small part of the research. I had not been involved in the writing of the paper, its final approval, or in signing the copyright agreement.

I went to the faculty member who had written and submitted the paper and he dismissed my concerns about my name being on a publication that I had never seen. He told me to be glad that I had been included and that I now had something to add to my curriculum vitae. Being new, inexperienced, uncertain, and overshadowed by his authority, I let this go. At that time, the publication ethics “rules” about what it means to be an author were less clear than today. I never forgot the experience and share this as we talk about COPE’s Core Practice of Authorship in this month’s Digest. 

The boundaries and rules around authorship have undergone some transformative changes in the past decades. Now the journal I edit requires a signed ICJME author agreement, a clear defined contribution to the manuscript, all author approval and copyright agreement. In spite of the increased clarity for most journals and editors, there remains the room for error, dispute and disagreement. This is evidenced in the cases submitted to COPE’s Facilitation and Integrity subcommittee and in the popularity of the flowcharts COPE offers to help with this. Authorship must always be carefully considered during manuscript planning, especially when power differentials between authors exist and could be manipulated. This month's Digest includes a case discussion that reflects this: 'Inconclusive institutional investigation into authorship dispute' with input into the discussion from Charon Pierson, on behalf of the COPE Education subcommittee, and Anne Walsh of Queensland University of Technology. We hope that you find the COPE resources useful with this important aspect of publication ethics in your own work and, as always, we would be delighted to hear from you if you have any suggestions on other support we can offer in this area.

Additionally, we would like to thank all of you who participated in the recent Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences survey. The results from the survey will be reported on May 3rd at the North American Seminar in Philadelphia which will look at issues around inclusivity and diversity, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, but the issues discussed are relevant to all our members. We hope many of you will consider joining us as we have some exceptional speakers lined up to talk on issues such as authorship violations in philosophy: problems and solutions, and creating a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem in scholarly communications. You will find more information on the speakers and can register here.

Geri Pearson
Chris Graf

COPE co-chairs Geri Pearson and Chris Graf   






Read March 2019 Digest newsletter on the topic of Authorship with a case discussion, news roundup, more details on our Allegations of Misconduct webinar. Get dates in the diary for COPE events in 2019, particularly our North American Seminar and European Seminar, and keep abreast of news & events in #PublicationEthics