Summary of issue of concern raised to the Facilitation and Integrity subcommittee
An issue of concern was submitted to COPE via the Facilitation and Integrity subcommittee, which facilitates the review of concerns that authors or readers have about COPE member journals. A few years ago, a transgender author had contacted a journal to request an update to the author list in a publication. The article had been published several years before; the author had since transitioned and they wished to have the author line updated to reflect their legal name and prevent the discrepancy in names from outing them as transgender. The author was not satisfied with the journal’s initial response to their request and raised the matter to COPE.
As per its remit, the Facilitation and Integrity subcommittee approached the journal for comments. The journal had indicated to the author that the name was correct at the time of publication, and they did not usually make corrections to the record for name changes happening later. The journal also indicated that they had consulted COPE in relation to the request, and COPE had supported their position and suggested that a note mentioning the name change could be added to the article. The journal offered to issue a publisher’s note outlining the name change and noted that agreement from all co-authors would be sought before the change was implemented.
The author expressed concern about the requirement to obtain approval by the co-authors; they viewed this as inappropriate. Bearing in mind the sensitivity of the request, the Facilitation and Integrity subcommittee recommended that the journal pursue a publisher’s note that mentioned there was a change to the article after publication without specifying the details of the change. The subcommittee also noted that such a notification could proceed without requiring consent from the co-authors.
The journal followed this recommendation and issued a publisher’s note that stated a change was made to the author byline after publication, without specifying the exact details of the name change; the original article record was also updated. The journal informed the co-authors that a change was made without requesting consent or specifying the details of the name change. The journal and COPE also encouraged the author to sign up for an ORCID iD, which would help them to link past and future publications under a single record.
The author was satisfied by the resolution to their request. The Facilitation and Integrity subcommittee acknowledged that COPE Council should further discuss author name changes and develop guidance more inclusive and reflective of the sensitivities of this type of issue than had been recognised in the original advice COPE gave to the journal.
A working group within COPE has since been developing such guidance, bringing in diverse perspectives from publishers, editors, authors, librarians and beyond. We expect to share the COPE guidance regarding author name changes in the coming weeks and look forward to further conversations and feedback on this important topic.
Iraxte Puebla, Facilitation & Integrity Officer, COPE