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.
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 26 February 2018: Expressions of concern
How should journals use expressions of concern? They are “used to raise awareness to a possible problem in an article”. They are a relatively new, rare, and non-standardized type of editorial notice compared to corrections or retractions and “considerable differences in policy and practice remain between journals”. Journals are grappling with when expressions of concern are appropriate and what happens if the concerns are later found not to be valid.
COPE Forum 10 June 2015: Prior publication and theses
Research higher degree theses have traditionally been seen as part of the scholarly communications chain, and have been made available by university libraries in print and, latterly, online via institutional repositories. The issue we seek to address is whether or not work already publicly available in a thesis (whether in print or online, although the concern is primarily around online) is seen as “prior publication” by journals and rejected for that reason. The perception drives behaviour so that, where students/supervisors have a choice, they will decline open access or seek a lengthy embargo because they fear publishers will refuse to publish work that has arisen from the thesis.
COPE Forum 23 September 2014: Standard retraction form
Hervé Maisonneuve, Université de Lyon, France, suggested “a standard retraction form” as the topic for discussion at this Forum. A copy of the form can be downloaded here. Retractions are often used as a proxy for publication quality. Retractions have been studied with cohorts of various sizes over differing time periods. Time after time these studies have pointed out that there is often no clearly stated reason for retraction and when given these reasons are often lacking in detail.