This paper aims to stimulate discussion about how editors should respond to emails from whistle blowers. We encourage journal editors and publishers to comment (whether or not they are COPE members), and also welcome comments from researchers/authors and academic institutions.
Anonymous whistle blowing is not a new phenomenon. There are many legitimate reasons for individuals to wish to remain anonymous including fear of a loss of position (especially for more junior participants in a research or clinical project) should their name come to light. More recently, however, a new phenomenon has arisen – that of individuals using the anonymity provided by the web to provide tip offs on a range of issues relating to publication ethics. This document suggests how editors should respond. We welcome feedback on it. We may post the responses on our website and may revise the document in response
Request for guidance from COPE
There are now many hundreds or possibly even thousands of anonymous email requests that have been sent to editors insisting that they investigate a case of alleged plagiarism within their journal, which usually are claimed to have been detected via the use of anti-plagiarism software. Other emails have alleged figure manipulation. The pattern of the cases is not clear; they range across many different types of journals and publishers; cases may be very old or more recent. Whistle blowers may copy COPE council or staff on the emails. A link to the readout from software is sometimes provided; often information is only provided for abstracts. COPE has been asked to provide guidance for journal editors on how to handle these cases.
About this resource
Written by COPE Council
Version 1 January 2013
How to cite this
COPE Council. COPE Discussion Document. Responding to anonymous whistleblowers, January 2013
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