Discussion documents

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.

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COPE Discussion Documents

If you have any comments, please email the Executive Officer, Natalie Ridgeway.

Preprints. March 2018

    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: 

    Summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments [PDF, 144KB]

      COPE Forum 30 April 2018: Preprints: continuing the conversation

      Preprint platforms have been common in physics and mathematics but the preprint landscape is changing rapidly with new platforms emerging across various disciplines. This raises opportunities for discussion across communities and for all those involved: preprint platforms, journals, authors, funders and institutions.

      COPE has facilitated this discussion previously via an earlier forum discussion and with respect to per review. To continue the conversation, COPE has developed a new ‘Preprints’ discussion document that sets out some of the benefits and challenges associated with the posting of preprints.

      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.

      Summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog [PDF, 332KB]

        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.

        Summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog [PDF,190KB]

          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 December 2012: Citation manipulation

            The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Citation manipulation’. The issue of self citation has been discussed in a number of places before. The focus here is on a form of citation manipulation that qualifies as coercion, where an editor or others affiliated with a journal pressure an author to add citations from that journal for the implied purpose of increasing citation rates and, by extension, journal impact factor. 

            Summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog [PDF, 66KB]

              COPE Forum 11 September 2012: Publishing offensive material

              The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘Publishing offensive material’. Specifically, what constitutes bad taste, indecency or obscenity? How do you deal with expletives (as part of interviews or transcripts)? Where is the line between censorship and freedom of expression?

                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?

                Summary of the discussion at the COPE Forum and of the comments on the COPE blog [PDF, 49KB]