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In the news: March 2021

Each month, COPE Council members find and share publication ethics news. This month the news includes articles on predatory publishing, diversity and inclusion, peer review, and more.

Diversity and inclusivity

500 Elsevier journals have started displaying self-reported data of editors' gender with the ultimate goal of helping to increase diversity and inclusivity.

When people change their names for whatever reason, it is usually cumbersome if not impossible to correct their names on prior publications. Often, if a change is possible at all, it is accompanied by public documentation of a "correction" which for trans people who have changed their name, this essentially makes public their status and can result in either an unwillingness to acknowledge their prior work, difficult conversations if they do successfully acknowledge a name change, or stigma and prejudice. Many journals have now adopted policies to allow for anonymous name changes and this article describes the importance of operationalising these policies.

Predatory publishing

A study using the "Beall's list" of predatory journals found that about 3% of studies indexed by Scopus were from predatory journals identified on that list. Indexing work from predatory journals in scientific databases increases the risk of future work being based on poor quality research and inflates author metrics.

An academic dentist assessed all 2812 unsolicited emails received in 2019. Of these 1837 requested some sort of manuscript and 1751 were suspected by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute checklist to be from predatory publishers. Less than half referenced some area of dentistry.

Peer review

In an analysis of two medical journals which use an open peer review process, differences in the quality of peer review for papers submitted prior to and during the pandemic were identified. The review of Covid-19 papers did not emerge as less thorough but there was a shift in the quality criteria used to assess the manuscripts. The author of the study concluded that the review of Covid-19 papers were milder and satisfied with lower standards, such as smaller sample size, fewer requests for additional data, or lack of requests to remove or extend or improve poor quality data. The author raises the question of whether this change, while laudable in some respects as it reflects the ability of the peer review process to adapt to rapidly changing pressures, is a good thing.


While pre-registration of clinical trials in a public registry is standard and required practice, this is less common in non-clinical fields. The author promotes the process and lists available registries (such as, Open Science Framework Registration, As Predicted Platform, Animal Study Registry). Preregistration increases transparency, helps to avoid HARKING (hypothesizing after results known), promotes reproducibility.

Text recycling

A taxonomy for types of text recycling is proposed which considers acceptability of practices, and intended purpose and nature of reusing text. The paper includes an interesting review and critique of existing guidelines on text recycling including COPE’s, showing widely inconsistencies and contradictions in terminology and definitions.

Image manipulation

To address the problem of image manipulation in research, the simple rule, "The image analysis workflow should be fully documented and reproducible" is proposed as a way to promote accountability and transparency by authors. A 3-level self-evaluation of image reproducibility is promoted to avoid simple rule-breaking about images.

Research integrity

Equator Network has launched a Chinese EQUATOR Centre with the aim to foster initiatives to improve research reporting in the health sciences, The Chinese EQUATOR Centre will work following the principles and mission of the EQUATOR Network and enhance its impact throughout China. The centre's work will include a focus on promotion of the quality of complementary and alternative medicine clinical research.

Anna Abalkina’s guest post on the Scholarly Kitchen is a fascinating article shedding light on the level of misconduct in Russia as investigated by RAS Commission and Dissernet. The article includes extensive real-world examples of issues which COPE has covered in recent, and foundational, guidance documents and discussion topics, such as paper mills, plagiarism, predatory publications, fraudulent authorship and peer review issues.

Ethics in international academic publishing

This Chinese language article by Jason Hu, published in Acta Editologica, introduces several of COPE’s core guidance documents, CRediT authorship guidance, key responsibilities of journal editors, and some of the editorial policies and best practices advocated by Taylor & Francis.


Examples of different visual matrices are presented that could be used by journals to illustrate the contributions of co-authors to a published work, or which could be used by an individual in their CV to illustrate their contributions to their listed publications. To be most effective, standardisation of terminology and format would be important. Two examples from the paper are provided for illustrative purposes. 


COPE Council Member Nancy Chescheir