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In the news: April Digest

Research and Publication Integrity

Plagiarism detectors are good in assuring that true plagiarism is detected and that original papers are not flagged incorrectly.  “Horsefeathers!” asserts Debora Weber-Wulff. Buyer beware and it still takes a person to assess flagged articles.

Mark Israel makes important arguments that there are benefits, and in some cases it may be appropriate circumstances in which self-plagiarism in varying journals, countries and languages may increase access to research for people who are not Anglophonic.  He provides advice on considerations when you might re-use text.

A tongue-in-cheek powerpoint  by Nicolas Rougier entitled: Ten Simple Rules for Scientific Fraud & Misconduct.

The Criminal Code of Montenegro now recognizes plagiarism as a criminal offence. The law also includes penalties for other types of breaches of academic integrity.

Springer Nature used artificial intelligence to generate (author?) a prototypic book that is an overview of the latest research on lithium-ion batteries. Does COPE need a new guideline on this new type of authorship?

In 2012, the UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity recommends that UK research institutions should provide a named point of contact to receive concerns about research integrity and required annual research integrity reports. A study by E Wager in PeerJPreprints notes that 6 years later, 55% of UK universities published an email address for their office for research integrity and the same number had published at least 1 annual statement by 2018.

A Scientific Integrity Consortium  of 4 US and 3 Canadian government agencies, 11 professional societies, 6 universities and 3 nonprofit scientific organizations developed a set of 2 Scientific Integrity Principles with 9 best practices to achieve them.


A Holmes and S Hardy continue their deep dive to describe the effect of gender, assessed in about 80% of the time for both reviewers and authors using on naming order in journals and the peer review and editorial processes in order to encourage diversity within the Regional Studies Association.

On International Women’s Day (March 8, 2019), Susan Spilka contributed an article to the Scholarly Kitchen describing results from her work an organization she founded called the “Workplace Equity Project.  She is helping to lead efforts to implement efforts to move publishing organizations to action to achieve inclusive and equitable workplaces.

American Geophysical Union launches The Ethics Equity Center to better understand challenges around diversity, equity, and inclusion to “ensure that the silence around these issues fades away, and those who have felt marginalized or abandoned will feel comfortable, excited, and proud to make AGU their scientific home, creating new paths highlighted by those once missing voices.” Wow.

“How can the global scholarly communications community address economic and infrastructure imbalances that prevent researchers from the Global South from achieving equality?” This was the over arching question at a February 2019 meeeting of Researcher 2 Reader conference.

Peer Review

Publons has partnered with Hindawi Limited to improve and speed up the peer review process with the Publons Reviewer Connect with Hindawi’s reviewer search service to support editors with accurate peer review suggestions. They envision this will make peer review more reliable and reduce reviewer work load by using the Publons Reviewer Availability feature as well.

A systematic view of scales for assessing the quality of a peer review report failed to find a well described, validated published instrument.  However, these results can inform efforts to develop such a tool for biomedical research.

ReimagineReview is a platform to aggregate peer review research and has been developed with funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Wellcome Trust to:  1) Raise awareness of new possibilities among researchers and funders; 2)Grow a community of practitioners who can share support, inspiration, and resources; 3) Encourage rigor and transparency in reporting the results of trials and experiments so that we  can learn as much from them as possible—and as fast as possible

Streamlining Publication

TRANsparency in Scholarly Publishing for Open Scholarship Evolution, is a grassroots initiative to build a crowdsourced database of journal policies. It seeks to make it easy for various participants in research, such as investigators, librarians, funders, institutions, journal editors and more to have a single source for knowing about journal policies that may influence their decision on where to submit their work.

The ORCID in Repositories Task Force developed draft recommendations for repository platform developers, to ensure a consistent base level of support for ORCID across different platforms. The final recommendations after public comment are now available. COPE participated on the Task Force.

The theme for ISMTE’s annual scholarship essay is “How can editorial offices create proactive polices that make handling publication matters smoother?”. The submission deadline is May 31, 2019.

Journalism’s World Impact Tracker

Altmetric and Nature will build a ‘change the world impact tracker’ – an innovative digital platform to track and curate the real-world impact of news stories which will go beyond traditional reader numbers -  after being awarded funding by Google Digital News Innovation Fund..

Predatory (Spoofy) Journals

In an opinion piece, Aamir Raoof Memom of Pakistan explores alternative terms for “predatory publications” after a thorough review of the topic. The author recommends two resources for researchers to determine the legitimacy of a journal: the WAME’s “Open Access Journal Quality Indicators” available at and Think-Check-Submit at Memom urges the scientifice community to pick a future route—to help low-quality journals to improve, to support the scientific communities in non-mainstream science communities particularly from the global south, and to distinguish between low quality and “dodgy, fraudulent, pseudo, questionable, sham, illegitmate”, parodical and, my favorite, spoofy, journals.

The US Federal Trade Commission fined OMICS Group, iMedPub LLC and Srinubabu Gedela who runs these companies with a summary judgement of $50 million for deceptive business practices along with injunctions against those activities that made money.

This was also covered in Retraction Watch, with the full judgement reported.

In a topic that will dominate the news for some time to come, multiple publications about Plan S were submitted this month from various sources. A few of note:

Institute for Scientific Information (Clarivate) has a 24 page free monograph, The Plan S footprint: Implications for the scholarly publishing landscape. It includes data about the distribution of papers published world wide and in smaller units of signators of Plan S. 

Robert-Jan Smits, the open-access envoy for the European Commission is leaving the position for another position discusses the priorities for his replacement: sign up more funders to Plan S, appoint people to “spread the Plan S gospel” in regional locations, update the guidance document in light of the feedback after the public comments and continue to make the case for Plan S.

This whitepaper describes 14 possible solutions that publishers might use in response to Plan S, with a close look at the 4 that the authors felt to be the most likely to be used.

“The whole point of Plan S was to disrupt the status quo and transform the world of scholarly publishing.” An open access advocate and activist, Jon Tennant blogs that essentially the open access ship has sailed. He believes that science under the control of mega-corporations, institutions and individuals of power is not the way forward to allow science to help make the world a better place and solve our problems. 

The Society Publishers Accelerating Open access and Plan S (SPA-OPS) project has an online discussion document for Society Publishers to help them with transition strategies and business models to help them be Plan S compliant.

COPE Council member Nancy Chescheir

Read April 2019 Digest newsletter with a farewell and reflections from Chris Graf and Geri Pearson in their last letter as COPE co-Chairs. Also the latest ideas that have been sent in, growing the story of Jo our fictional research integrity officer, in her first year in post. Get dates in the diary for COPE events in 2019, particularly our European Seminar, and keep abreast of news & events in #PublicationEthics