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In the news: October 2020

Publication ethics news October 2020

Each month, COPE Council members find and share publication ethics news. This month the news includes articles on changes in the publishing industry, open access, research integrity, and more.

Open access

Springer Nature and the Collaborative Open Access Research and Development group studied usage of open vs non-open access books and found that OA books were dowloaded 10 times more often, and cited 2.4 times more often, than non-OA books.

A systematic search of "vanished" open access journals, using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, discovered 176 open access journals that vanished from the web (2000-2019). This is a problem for scholarly loss and protecting continued access.

The OAPEN Foundation launched a toolkit for researchers and academic book authors to help authors understand OA for books, to increase trust in OA book publishing.   

President Xi Jinping of China has indicated that the Chinese scientific publishing industry will strive to publish more quality and influential English language scholarly journals and enhance global cooperation in upholding academic integrity and open science, in a bid to ensure a healthy Chinese ecosystem for basic research and assessment of scientific works.


The European Association of Science Editors produced a retraction template that can be downloaded to improve the quality of retraction statements. It has tick boxes and space to prompt compliance with COPE retraction guidelines.


The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers announced the winners of the 2020 Awards for Innovation in Publishing. Jus Mundi is a multilingual search engine for international law. WordToEPUB is a free tool to create EPUB publications with built-in accessibility features for use by people with print disabilities.

Diversity and inclusivity

F1000 Research and Wellcome Open Research have instituted a straightforward way for researchers who have transitioned to their true gender identify to have a simple and straightforward way to change their name on prior publications

In an editorial, the LA Times chronicled its history of racism, apologised for it, and vowed to do better.  


A global first as UK seeks to get 100% of all clinical trials registered and their results reported, “In future, the Health Research Authority (HRA) will itself directly register clinical trials based on data submitted during the ethics approval process, which it already centrally archives. All clinical trials will be expected to report their results within 12 months, mirroring the time horizon set out by existing EU rules for drug trials, US legislation, and WHO best practices. In addition, the HRA will require submission of ‘lay summaries’ (ie, summaries of trial results that non-experts can understand).”

Challenges and support in the publishing industry

The Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) convened a  a virtual seminar on "New Directions" to explore 2020's challenges and changes to the scholarly communications and publishing industry. This will be a series of seminars and the kick off seminar is available online.

SSP have also launched the fourth episode in a podcast series for early career publishing professionals. They discuss strategies and programmes their companies have put in place to support staff and employees through the current time of uncertainty in the publishing industry. 

Research integrity

In 2014, China established a social credit system to incentivise personal and business behaviour. Punishments have included "loss of face" components, such as public shaming, announcement on social media or in advance of film screenings, or loss of access to air and high speed rail. This has now been extended to masters level students who commit academic fraud, such as plagiarism.

The Mills have Ayes: A fictional account of real fraud is a lengthy story of paper mills, research fraud, and publications.

COPE Council Member Nancy Chescheir

Read October Digest: Paper mills and new publication ethics cases  Paper mills are the topic of discussion in this month's Digest. We share a recording of the text recycling webinar held in August, and new publication ethics cases from the COPE Forum in September. A new research article 'Data sharing policies in scholarly publications: interdisciplinary comparisons'  is published in Prometheus. Plus the news roundup gathered by COPE Council members.