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
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Best practice in theses publishing. March 2017
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 24 July 2017: Preprints: what are the issues?
Preprints and working papers have been posted and shared for many years. They report research results that have not undergone peer review, although in many cases the authors also submit to a journal (before, after or at the same time as making a preprint available). In the past 5 years, the number of preprint servers and preprints has expanded and new disciplines, notably biology and life sciences, have seen rapid growth in the number of preprints. To date there have been few public discussions around the ethics of making unverified research available in this way and there are a number of issues that arise.
COPE Forum 9 December 2014: Publication ethics issues in the social sciences
The history of research ethics in general and publication ethics more specifically was initially and primarily grounded in the biomedical sciences. As concern over issues of animal care, human participant protection and research integrity developed throughout the latter part of the 20th century, some members of the Social Sciences and Humanities communities raised concerns that the cultures in their particular disciplines differed and that a ‘one model fits all’ was inadequate to evaluate research ethics and publication ethics.
COPE Forum 8 July 2014: Fair play for “researchers”: Can editors and regulators develop a common approach to the need (or lack of need) for ethical review?
There are a number of legitimate and valuable tools for gaining information and evidence for scientific advance and improving health care. These include research, evaluation, audit, and others. There is a real danger that UK “researchers” using tools other than “research”, duly following guidance in UK research regulation stating a lack of need for ethical review, find that journal editors will not consider their manuscript for publication because editors dispute the definition of what needs or does not need ethical review. Many of these issues, of course, also apply to animal ethics approval.
COPE Forum 4 March 2014: Issues related to papers submitted to “discussion” journals
Authors in any subject area have always had a number of potential publications to choose from when they decide that they want to publish their research. As well as subscription journals to pick from, the increasing number of Open Access models has meant that the choices for authors are expanding all the time. A new type of publication that has arisen from the OA movement is the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and Copernicus model of open peer review and “Discussion” journals, examples of which are: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences: Discussions and Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Earth Surface Dynamics: Discussions and Earth Surface Dynamics. This Forum discussion document concerns this model of peer review and publication, but primarily the consequences of the decision of “reject” on papers.
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?