When aspects of publication ethics are particularly fast-moving or controversial COPE cannot always provide detailed guidance. The COPE discussion documents aim to stimulate discussion rather than tell editors what to do. We hope that, by raising the issues, we can contribute to the debate within the scholarly publishing community and work towards agreement or definition of difficult problems.
COPE Discussion Documents
If you have any comments, please email the Executive Officer, Natalie Ridgeway.
Addressing ethics complaints from complainants who submit multiple issues. March 2015
Responding to anonymous whistleblowers, January 2013
Forum Discussion documents
In a new undertaking for the COPE Forum, a specific topic will be discussed at the start of each quarterly COPE Forum meeting. As well as those at the virtual meetings, people unable to take part in the meetings can comment via the COPE website in advance.
COPE Forum 5 November 2018: Predatory Publishing
Predatory publishing is generally defined as for-profit open access journal publication of scholarly articles without the benefit of peer review by experts in the field or the usual editorial oversight of the journals in question. The journals have no standards and no quality control and frequently publish within a very brief period of time while claiming that articles are peer-reviewed. There is confusion between some legitimate open-access peer review journals and predatory open-access journals, and sometimes include legitimate scholars on their editorial masthead. The Forum discussed further issues and possible solutions. This discussion and posts on our website are summarised:
COPE Forum 10 March 2015: Coming back from disgrace
The tragic suicide of Yoshiki Sasai, one of the authors of the retracted STAP stem-cell paper (discussed in the Letter from the Chair in the August 2014 edition of COPE Digest), highlights the fact that, above all, the communication of research is about people and about trust. Some researchers are seemingly able to bounce back from a finding of serious research misconduct. For example, Hwang Woo-suk was last year granted a patent related to stem-cells. However, for other researchers in such a situation it is the end of their careers. Some may argue that that is no bad thing; researchers who commit serious research misconduct have no place in research. Contrast that with the situation when a crime is committed. Most places, when a crime is committed, punishment results, and after some time that person is allowed back into society. Indeed, in some jurisdictions, if the crime was not severe, after some period following expiry of the sentence a “spent conviction” may be recorded. That is, history of the misdeed will be erased
COPE Forum 4 December 2013: How should a journal deal with persistent complainers?
The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘How should a journal deal with persistent complainers?’ Every so often a journal may get not one, but a series of complaints from the same source. These complaints may be directed at an author, an editor, or the journal in general. If these complaints turn out to be well founded, obviously there is a serious problem with the publication. However, we are aware of cases where a complainant continuously comes up with cases that turn out to be baseless. How should editors act when the complaints do not stop, get personal, and start humming around the community?
COPE Forum 4 September 2013: Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct
The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct’. Recent high profile cases of research misconduct have relied upon the sharing of relevant information among the Editors-in-Chief of the journals concerned during the months and years leading up to the final settlement of the cases. However, discussions with publishers suggest that such sharing of information risks accusations and/or legal claims of defamation, since submissions should be handled confidentially, even though the journals concerned might carry a statement on their website saying that manuscripts and related documents may be shared if that is considered necessary to investigate possible misconduct.
COPE Forum 18 June 2012: Electronic Responses to Blogs and Journal Articles
The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Electronic Responses to Blogs and Journal Articles’. Specifically, what are the issues, in terms of publication ethics, surrounding blogs where journals are the target of concerted 'attacks' by the proponents of one particular viewpoint, and are there appropriate guidelines on managing such situations?