On occasion a journal may get not one, but a series of complaints from the same source. Complaints may be directed at an author, an editor, or the journal in general. If these complaints turn out to be well founded, investigations should proceed as warranted. However, there are also cases where a complainant makes repeated allegations against a journal, editor, or author that turn out to be baseless.
Examples of multiple complaints include:
- Complaints may deal with matters outside the remit of the journal, such as personal complaints against an author or editor.
- Repeated complaints may be trivial or inaccurate allegations about published articles. COPE has seen cases where repeated allegations were made regarding plagiarism, but evidence presented consisted only in relation to common English phrases like “…has been proven to”, “In previous research, we observed that…”. In other cases, complainants list articles with similar titles as incidences of plagiarism; however, the content turns out to be entirely different.
- Complainants may flood discussion threads by repeatedly submitting comments about earlier comments, and will not accept that a certain topic has been closed.
- Finally, editors may receive repeated complaints from researchers who insist that their work should have been cited in a more recently published article.
When the above happens on an incidental basis, editors can deal with such cases by following standard procedures. However, how should they act when the complaints do not stop, get personal, and start being discussed more widely? This document attempts to address possible ways that editors may prevent or address persistent or repeated complaints from a single source, while ensuring that legitimate complaints are dealt with appropriately.