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In the news: February Digest


Translation plagiarism is a type of disguised plagiarism which occurs when authorship credit is taken by someone who republishes the work of someone else, but in a different language. The difficulty of identifying this type of plagiarism is explored and the potential damage done by it, in the field of philosophy, examined.

The Russian Academy of Science appointed a commission to address unethical publication practices in Russia. A report from the commission released in January 2020 was described as a "bombshell" leading to retraction of more than 800 papers, published in primarily Russian-language journals. Problems with plagiarism, text-recycling, authorship, and brokered authorship were detailed.


Kasia Repeta, a non-native English speaker, provides a guidepost for all of us who engage in scholarly communications for understanding some of the issues faced by participants who are communicating in their L2 non-native language. She is specifically describing these issues as they relate to scholarly communication in English, although presumably these would be similar for other languages. She outlines tips for those whose native language is not being used, in order to minimise the stress and discomfort of those L2 speakers as well as tips for the L2 speakers. For our increasingly globally interconnected work, she provides some great background and useful ideas.

Data science

Dr. Xiao-Li Meng, Professor of Statistics at Harvard and Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Data Science Review was interviewed by Roger Schonfeld about data science and its growing role in research, education and daily life.

Open access

Marcus Düwell proposes 5 possible pitfalls and problems around open science principles in order to expand the conversation and thinking of this evolving principle of science. He writes that open science principles, and how they will influence universities, funding agencies, researchers, and the public, will take years to fully develop.

A summary of 3 major issues in peer review publications reports on funder-driven demands to increase open access through Plan S and by predicted US executive order to require that NIH funded work be immediately open access. The publications are required to have transformative agreements, increasing efforts to reduce "leakage" of non-open access publications through Sci Hub and Research Gate and similar platforms and Chinese academic publishing activities.

In an open letter to cOAlition S leadership, co-signatories conclude after articulating problems for humanities and social science journals with the extant proposal that "We ask that cOAlition S continues to seek transparent dialogue between all parties – funders, associations, libraries, journal editors, individual researchers, publishers – and for a firm commitment by all, including those now forcing the pace of change, to develop community-appropriate solutions that deliver sustainable, open outcomes for all researchers, whatever their chosen field of enquiry".

Peer review

Hilda Bastian amusingly illustrates 5 research studies about editorial peer review. These studies suggest that the peer review process may increase the likelihood of future research collaborations between reviewers and authors; that the peer review process may not provide a good defence against the influence of conflicts of interests in research; that peer reviewers sign their names more often if they are recommending acceptance of an article; that editors may need to up their game about requiring more discussion of limitations of research to reduce spin; and that peer review processes have been documented as far back as ancient Rome such that all of us may have a lot in common with Cicero.

Nyssa Sibiger and Amber Stubler surveyed 1106 researchers from 46 countries and 14 disciplines about their experiences with peer review. Almost 58% reported receiving at least one unprofessional review. While there was no difference in the likelihood of receiving these types of reviews based on gender, race, and gender identification, white men were the least likely to report questioning their own scientific aptitude or delays in their productivity or scientific advancement after receiving such a review. The authors recommend explicit guidelines for peer review and removal of offending reviewers.

Spurred by their knowledge of papers retracted due to research and publication misconduct, the REAPPRAISED check list is a tool that can be used both before and after publication to assess the integrity and to communicate with journals.

Flaminio Squazzoni argues that peer review needs to be understood as much more than a quality control measure for scholarly journals. He explores the role of peer review in increasing the value of manuscripts. This can occur through revisions for publication in the journal for which the reviews were submitted, or after rejection and revision based on Journal A's reviews, through improvements prior to submission to Journal B, a "value multiplied". As well, social networks between editors, authors and reviewers develop, leading to future collaborations.

Predatory publishing

Maximilian Heimstädt and Leonhard Dobusch  analysed 639 predatory management journals identified through Cabell's blacklist and identify 2 specific threats posed by predatory publishing. First, these journals can be used to legitimise "management ideologies, morally questionable business models or discriminatory HR practices”. Second and on the flip side, they can be used to de-legitimise disciplines. To combat this, the authors urge journal editors to experiment with variations of open peer review, which they define broadly, in order to shine light on the peer review process. Such a step would differentiate legitimate peer review journals from predatory journals, for which such light would likely only illuminate a void.


Hurrah for transparency and integrity! Dr. Frances Arnold, winner of half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, tweeted that her research team had retracted a 2019 paper because "the work has not been reproducible". She wrote, "It is painful to admit, but important to do so. I apologize to all. I was a bit busy when this was submitted and did not do my job well". This type of transparency and commitment to the integrity of the scientific record is, to this editor, awe inspiring.

In other news

The New York Times published an analysis by Dana Goldstein of 8 American History texts used by 8th and 11th grade history courses in Texas and California, comparing the content. The story demonstrates that our students are exposed to sometimes nuanced, or sometimes blatantly different versions of the same historical events.

COPE Council Member Nancy Chescheir


In COPE's February Digest we release the COPE Strategy 2020-2023 and our four strategic priorities introduced by COPE Vice-Chair Daniel Kulp in his February letter. We highlight two cases from the COPE archive that tie into the theme of our next COPE Forum discussion and a survey we’ll be sending to you in March, to find out what COPE members think about editing peer review comments. Upcoming events in 2020 include a March COPE workshop in Melbourne, held in conjunction with ISTME, and our March Forum with advice on new cases submitted by members and the topic discussion, editing of reviewer comments. 

Read February Digest: Editing reviewer comments