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In the news: May 2018 Digest

Conflicts of Interest

An article in discusses a paper published in the BMJ which was widely picked up in the news, but where the peer reviewers had close affiliations with the authors, and wonders if there are wider unexamined conflicts of interest in peer review.

Data and reproducibility

A bumper month for discussions of data and reproducibility.

First of all, a useful article explaining how to determine whether sparse-data bias may have influenced the results of an article one is reading, and what to do if you suspect it is present.

And then the results of a survey, which found high rates of “questionable practices” amongst ecologists and evolutionary biologists, which initiatives such as TOP guidelines and Registered Report formats could help to address.

A discussion of why the sharing of negative results remains uncommon, despite the encouragement and provision of venues for them to be published?

This blog discusses the results of one of the largest surveys of researchers about research data, and concludes that we need to give researchers more incentives, expert support, training, and the infrastructure to make easy and worth their while to share data.

But this provocative column suggests that researchers have the power to change the way that data is shared and used, and don’t need to wait for the system to tell them to

However, in China, the government has recently decreed that all scientific data generated in China must be submitted to government-sanctioned data centers before appearing in publications.

Peer review processes

A wide ranging set of news items about peer review :

A group of authors from Wiley including our co-chair Chris Graf, look at the expectations and experiences of various stakeholders in the peer review process and provide recommendations in each essential area of peer review practice, and provide a practical checklist.

A call for vigilance, as  authors are receiving acceptance letters for papers which have never been submitted to the journal.

An editorial in Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research discusses how the journal will be addressing issues around race and ethnicity when evaluating manuscripts.

A new project using blockchain to solve some of the problems of peer review has been announced by Digial Science, working with Springer Nature, CUP, Taylor & Francis, ORCID and the blockchain startup
with more details on the project in this slideset

Ethical oversight

New research from Mattia Fosci and Rob Johnson suggests that academic reward and incentive cultures hamper efforts to create bridges between business and management researchers and society, and suggests that universities and business schools need to work more proactively to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

Allegations of misconduct

Retraction Watch interviewed the authors of a study which found that authors who have multiple retractions are more likely to reoffend.

A prominent psychologist had to resign as Editor after concerns were raised about his frequent self-citation in the journal and attitudes toward gender and diversity, among other issues.

Cheating amongst students in Russell Group universities has surged by 40% between 2014 and 2017.

And in other news

Two new initiatives are raising the profile of African research

A major new body opened in the UK,  UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) 1 April. It combines all the research councils which support UK science, along with Innovate UK, a government-funded organization designed to help business generate new technology, with the intent to provide a strategic vision and voice for science, boost efficiency, foster interdisciplinary research and navigate a good outcome for science within the Brexit negotiations.

COPE Council members Nancy C Chescheir and Deborah Kahn


Read COPE Digest newsletter for more advice and resources to support your conlicts of interest/competing interests policies and procedures, the case of the month 'Editor as author of a paper', details of our Australia Seminar, new cases from our recent COPE Forum and more.

Read May 2018 Digest: Conflicts of Interest